GM Cassava to help Africa's poor.

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

  1. John99 Banned Banned

    ultra is a typical pessimist. finding problems and something wrong.
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You have it backwards. It is the naive proponents of GM manipulations en toto - any of them, anywhere, by anyone - who are running on the fumes of imagination and reality denial, who are waving their hands and claiming fantastic benefits they cannot demonstrate, safety assurances they simply invent out of blue ignorance, imaginary scenes of careful and comprehensively knowledgeable scientists serving humanity and in control of whatever the consequences are of their manipulations, and benign motives that run counter to everything a sensible person knows of human nature in its corporate manifestations.

    I put a quote box around several of your assertions here that are just plain ridiculous - you do not seem to have had second thoughts, even, about any of them.

    The world in which Monsanto's eye on its bottom line has nothing to do with GM cassava in Africa,

    the world in which these manipulations are merely "one gene" whose "effects are well known",

    the world in which fifteen years of unevaluated and trouble-prone deployment of a couple of manipulations which have not yet brought undeniable and inescapable disaster in full bloom assures us of safety across the entire field of endeavor,

    is a fantasy world. It is a fantasy world of hazard free, cost free, politics free technological change - the sort of day dreaming that had us all in flying cars and visiting the moon using nuclear energy that was too cheap to meter, a generation or so back.

    It is quite possible, although you have no data or even much reasoned evidence to back it, that GM cassava will be of net long term benefit to the lower income farmers of Uganda, without causing external harm of significance. It is also possible - and we have examples of similar situations in the past that went wrong on this scale - that the net result of GM cassava introduction will be a worsening of these farmers' poverty, and a further blighting of their lives, in addition to significant harm elsewhere.
    No. The problem is that no one is capable of "demonstrating" anything about the real world effects of the actual GM manipulations being deployed, on anything much: ecology, economics, human health, politics, none of them. They don't have the data base. They don't have the research base. They don't know what they're doing.

    And apparently, they don't know that they don't know. That is dangerous to the point of emergency, with this kind of technology.
    You cannot distinguish contrasts from comparisons? That explains a lot.

    Meanwhile, the Irish potato story is a bit spooky in the fidelity of its parallels at this stage of things - right down to the reason that particular kind of potato was encouraged: it was less poisonous and more nutritious than other varieties. The biggest difference would be the greater care taken and more prudent, better researched approach, in the Irish potato. It had proven its value and benefits, been checked out for problems of all kinds (economic, medical, ecological, agricultural, etc) at gradually increasing smaller scales for generations, before it was adopted as a staple food over such large areas. That may be because it was not pushed by corporate interests, of course.

    You have swallowed whole, without even an attempt at critical analysis, the PR assurances of the head of Monsanto's sponsored research institute - posted them here as hard evidence of factual reality.

    You cannot get any more naive than that.
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  5. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    For once Iceaura, I agree with you.
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  7. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Again, the problem, as always, is anti-GM people like iceaura, making claims of potential disasters, that have no basis in fact. We have seen no disasters. There have been situations when a GM crop or food has been tested, and the results are such that the modification was not released into the field. We do not know what would have happened in those cases if the crop of food was released, but we do know that there have been no disasters.

    I can go further. Not only no disaster, but no problem worth the writing about. No significant ecological problems. No health problems to those eating GM foods. In other words, the whole anti-GM argument is based totally on supposition.

    Sure, GM is not 100% safe. But nothing is 100% safe. The ground we walk on is not 100% safe, as the Japanese have found out, tragically. If the attempt is to make life 100% safe, give up now. It is not possible. The record of GM shows that it is much safer than almost every major human innovation over the past century.

    If you want to argue against the relatively high level of safety of GM, then please use data - not supposition and wildly exaggerated speculation. Use data from reputable sources - not crackpot web sites.
  8. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    "not crackpot web sites" ?? apparantly only you're allowed to do that..
  9. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    Feel free to point out any time I use a web site that you consider to be 'crackpot' and I will try to find one more acceptable.
  10. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    In the beginning, different kinds of manipulation would be regulated differently.

    By different kinds, I mean techniques as well as taxonomic scope.

    There is a lot of bait and switch happening, with the kinds of manipulations that simply speed up ordinary breeding, or cure diseases without risking worse, or the like, run out in front to get favorable regulatory environments, and ten years down the road these things are still wonderful possibilities amid a reality of everyone's complete dependence on something like Roundup Ready soybeans.

    So let's say that manipulations capable of reproducing themselves in the larger world, of escaping, need heavy regulation.

    As do those capable of destroying the effectiveness of currently effective or valuable tools - antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides, lures and defenses, etc.

    And manipulations using techniques that do not lend themselves to further mobility of the genetics involved, they are less risky.

    And gene swaps within more limited taxons are safer, can be allowed out of the lab with less comprehensive evaluation.

    And doings based on public, published, disinterested research gets preference and leniency, compared with corporate labs however charitably supported.

    And so forth. Not too hard to follow, or elaborate. Armchair stuff.
  12. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

  13. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    "The claims made for promised technological fixes such as GMO's miss a critical point."

    "I have spent time in Africa Modern organic methods there have trebled yields in parts of Ethiopia for example. Even in the west organic yields are now comparable with non-organic yields once soil structure and vitality have been restored."

    ~Minister of State
  14. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Yes, I agree that modern organic methods in Africa have considerably increased yield. What is not said there, of course, is that their traditional methods were so poor that it is really easy to improve yield. Good husbandry, whether organic or conventional will do it.

    In Africa, the use of fertilisers and pesticides are prohibited by the simple fact that they do not have the money to buy them. Thus, they use other methods.
  15. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

    No...Read what he said. "Even in the west organic yields are now comparable with non-organic yields once soil structure and vitality have been restored."

    Don't you think the ministers' speech is examined word-for-word? It just shows how entrenched and inflexible your position is. It's no better than any other fanatic.
  16. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    Nods...all reasonable.
    To that I'd add that if damage to crop-helpful species is shown to be a potential with a technology, then that needs to be carefully investigated in trial fields before things go into widespread production.

    Apparently 85% of the US corn(maize) production is now GM (which I guess means that even non GM crops probably have GM infiltration, because this stuff gets out) and if Bt corn is capable of killing large parts of the base of the food chain when used en masse, as it apparently is being used en masse, then it's a concern.

    BTW, GM genes have turned up in the Mexican land-race corn, even though Mexico, to my knowledge, does not allow the growing of GM corn, or the import of non-sterile GM seeds.

    Why this is a concern? if a virus came along and wiped out the current corn plant,(it happens, has already happened once with bananas and is happening again) it is to the Mexican land-races that we'd go to look for plants with natural immunity.

    In other words, the reservoir of genetic pliability for the US's # 1 staple grain has been invaded with transgenes.
  17. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Not very accurate, Chimpkin.
    You are thinking of the Gros Michel strain of bananas which was mostly destroyed by a fungus (panama Disease) - not a virus. It still exists, and is grown in small amounts, with the aid of heavy doses of fungicide. It is supposed to have been tastier than the current Cavendish strain of bananas we eat.

    This is a poor comparison with GM corn. Bananas of one strain, such as the dominant Cavendish, are all clones. They are genetically identical, which makes them highly vulnerable to new diseases, and the Cavendish is now considered seriously at risk from the Black Sigatoka fungus. Corn or maize is many strains. Even GM corn is not all one strain, and is most definitely not one clone.


    You said :
    "Don't you think the ministers' speech is examined word-for-word? It just shows how entrenched and inflexible your position is. It's no better than any other fanatic."

    Outside of the insult, I do not understand your point. Can you be clearer?

    Overall, in the west where agricultural yields are closer to optimised, agricultural yield is poorer with organic. What is often done, though, dishonestly, is to ignore half the land use in calculating organic yield.

    Organic farming requires the use of organic manures. These come from cattle manure as a by product of grazing, or come from green manures harvested off a piece of land, and composted. When you move manure or green manure from one piece of land to another, you are transferring nutrients. Not a problem if you add fertiliser. But if no fertiliser is added, which is required by organic farming rules, then one piece of land is being 'mined' for nutrients, and progressively gets poorer.

    When this is taken into account, organic farming produces about 40% less produce per hectare as an overall average. Sadly, so many organic advocates fail to take into account the nutrient mining, and make extravagent claims for organic yields.
  18. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    The above is one of the reasons I keep harping on about finding a safe way to turn sewage into crop fertilizer, as well as diverting our biodegradable garbage from dumps to composting centers. We can't keep throwing away our fertilizer like that.

    Note that I said a safe way...we currently don't really have one, considering all the antibiotics, hormones, and drugs in human excreta, not just the pathogens.

    True, I had forgotten that it's a fungus killing the bananas.

    OTOH anytime you get into monoculture, you're going to see problems with the crop being susceptible to something-and because it's all so genetically similar, you have a huge food shortage when it strikes.
    Note I said when.
    For a non-food example of this, Georgia was finally gotten off cotton monoculture by a boll weevil invasion...and found that growing other things made them so much more money that they erected a statue of a lady holding aloft a giant boll weevil.
    (the bronze boll weevil has since been stolen by college pranksters)

    As for the bananas, maybe we should get used to eating seeded bananas?

    The main issue with other banana species-why the current banana's so popular-is that other species bruise more easily, requiring a retooling of the entire mass-production system.

    That's the thing with monoculture, it's seductively easy...except you can't turn living things into mass-production components without having serious problems. GMO or no.

    Something else I want you to note:

    According to the following article, published in 1997:

    According to this article on the EPA website:, only about 12% of the US corn crop actually goes to feed people, the rest feeds livestock.

    Meanwhile, our obesity rate has hit 42%:

    So, one of the things used to advocate for GM, is that it is supposed to help feed the starving third-world masses.
    So far, it seems to instead be enhancing the ever-burgeoning American waistline and type 2 diabetes rate instead.
  19. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    I agree with you about human waste. Throwing it away is a waste of a potentially valuable resource. It can, in fact be rendered safe by correct composting - retaining it under conditions that maintain 70C for 3 to 4 months. This is not too difficult and a professional company could do this easily.

    I also agree with you about feeding grain to cattle. Also a waste.

    Your comments about monocultures are, of course, correct to a degree. Humans have learned to use monocultures, and they will continue to be valuable up to a point. It is always worth remembering the potential problems, though.

    I do not claim that GM crops are always used to their best advantage. I would like to see a much greater focus with GM on better nutrition and more food for developing nations. It is sad that this is more dream than reality.

    There are some programs under way. Bt corn for Africa. Low cyanide cassava. Golden rice. These suffer from lack of sufficient finance, and from the fact that the anti-GM movement continues to oppose them at all points. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping with the first problem, to a degree. The anti-GM lobby groups are, tragically, quite effective in influencing third world leaders. This has already led to unnecessary malnutrition where GM foods could have helped (eg. during famine, Zambia turned away American aid corn, because it may have contained GM)
  20. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    Sorry about this, it's really off-topic, but since it came up:

    Not precisely...there are hormones and meds that don't go away that way...sorry to say those need to be neutralized, or they'll build up in the food chain and water.

    I was put on antidepressants at 16, and have been presumably putting prozac, zoloft, paxil, wellbutrin, buspirone, and now topamax into the septic tank when I lived here, this through my pee.
    Now we're on a communal well system out here, hasn't been improved probably since the 70's. I have to wonder if the rest of the neighborhood is now drinking my peed-out antidepressants in their tapwater.

    I can only hope it's helping matters.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    We really do dysfunctionality up right in the trailer park.

    Apparently, it's birth control pills and antidepressants that are of major concern, and I seem to recall reading the antidepressants have an effect on fish-the BC certainly does:
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    What a strange conception of how farming was done for ten thousand years - often many hundreds of years in one place.

    The manure can be planted - nitrogen fixing bacteria in plants, grazing animals on the land itself - and composted or plowed under in place. Less critical in bulk nutrients blow in as dust, come in with the rain, traveling animals, etc. The primary original source is rock, usually many miles away or feet down and brought by various means - but there's nothing forbidden about that, by the "rules".

    The same nutrient cycle that built a hundred feet of rich soil in places in Iowa will supply a large surplus yearly to support people instead of another quarter inch of dirt, if the arrangements are made well.
  22. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    Proper composting, if done well, will also break down hormones and any drug based on organic chemistry, including anti-depressants and birth control pills. It is a digestion process using micro-organisms. It is only incomplete composting that is a problem, and if done professionally, that should not be an issue.


    There is a hell of a difference between primitive subsistence agriculture and commercial organic agriculture. The latter involves sending produce off site, thus exporting nutrients, which are replaced by 'mining' another site. Well, there are a lot of other differences also, which are not very good.

    Rock can, indeed, be a useful source of nutrients, but its breakdown, unless artificially accelerated, is insufficient to compensate for all that stuff sent off site, and ultimately flushed down toilets etc.
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Agriculture has been sending produce off site for thousands of years.

    Ever since the first cities were invented, if not long before.

    Organic agriculture is how almost everybody farmed until the mid twentieth century. It works just fine.

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