The Future of GM Technology...

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by ULTRA, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    Whether you're pro-GM or anti-GM, it's here to stay. There has just been a multi million centre of excellence announced in France with a heavy emphasis on genetic research and development. This means there is going to be even more research and delelopment going forward, and industry is gonna soon be feeding off this major investment.
    Some would see this as a major advancement for crops, medicines and materials science, whilst others will see this as as a worrying new development in a science they simply don't trust.
    Is there no limit to the usefulness of this technology, or have we finally witnessed the coming of age in a brave new science? Have the ehical issues now been debated sufficiently for this science to become mainstream? Perhaps rather than looking at a particular technological breakthrough, we can pull all the threads together into a wider look at the science as a whole.
    Existing resources / debates
    http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=105479
    http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=106799
    http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=106535
    http://lou904718.wordpress.com/cloned-beef-enters-uk-foodchain-gm-cassava-the-new-hope-for-africa/
     
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    What's wrong with "all of the above"?
    It's a fundamental advance - we can hardly expect to have clarified, or even encountered and noticed, all of the important issues yet.
    The devil's in the details.
     
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  5. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    GMO's are being used in all areas of science now. From biofuels to cheese production, hardly any part of industry is left untouched. Focusing on one strain of corn hardly addresses the major impact of GM technology on today's world. And the level of involvement is only set to increase further over time.
     
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  7. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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  8. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    German scientists failed to get a court ruling in thier favour as they tried to patent human stem-cell lines. The stumbling block was that the cells were derived form an embryo that could still have formed into a human feotus. http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110...s - Most recent articles)&utm_content=Twitter
    The research team were disappointed and may still appeal the ruling. They claim that the inability to patent thier cell lines hampers thier research into developing new nerves. Companies developing treatments like this feel that they need patents to protect thier work and enable them to get back thier financial investment.
    Campaigners feel that you shouldn't be able to patent human cells, saying it's unethical. Some countries like Eire have not yet decided thier GM policy, and are likely to refer to European rulings such as this when they decide to take a position.
     
  9. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    They should be trying to find the way to prevent diseases from happening that are genetically controlled instead of trying to increase life spans and screw around with intelligence. There should be some ethics involved here, standards that must be made for all to use.
     
  10. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    Since the beginning of genetic engineering, there has been a battle going on regarding ethics with scientists on both sides of the arguement and protesters and politicians, businessmen and even banks getting involved.Every country has different ethical standards leading to a wide variation in the kind of research allowed. There have been attempts to get universally recognised eithical standards recognised http://blogs.food.gov.uk/science/entry/Universal_Ethical_Code_for_Scientists, but getting everyone to sign up to such agreements is proving difficult.

    IMO that there are more deserving causes than others. Some seem to be frivolous headline-grabbing projects that I think do the industry no good at all. I think they undermine the important life-saving projects, making acceptance of thier benefits harder to sell to the public.
     
  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    12,798
    ?? They are. Currently people are spending billions to develop cures for Alzheimer's, spina bifida, HIV, color blindness etc. based on gene therapy.

    Again, ???

    HIV treatments benefit only a small subset of the population; all people cannot use them. However, all people could use a life extension treatment. That's an argument for, not against, screwing around with intelligence and lifespan.
     
  12. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

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    1,449
    No matter how many lobby groups oppose genetic science, we have entered the era of genetic manipulation and genetic medicine. I feel great about it, and foresee some wonderful new developments over the next few decades.
     
  13. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    As long as Man has been able, he has been trying to live longer and longer. To that end, a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources have gone into every aspect of life from farming techniques to antibiotics to gene therapy. I think it's unrealistic to ask genetic engineers to ignore this area of research when so much is still to be learned. There are obviously ethical concerns around eugenics, and rightly so. Who has the right to discern who is genetically inferior? While GE offers the opportunity to increse intelligence or correct genetic faults, we have been doing this by selecting a specific partner or taking supplements on our own for years before GE ever came about. It's not exactly anything new in this respect.
     
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    24,431
    ?

    How am I an "anti-GM supporter"? That's like saying someone who opposes dredging harbors in Alaska using fission bombs (an actual proposal, back in the early days) is an "anti-nuclear supporter". You want to radiate cancers or put plutonium power cells in satellites or X-ray teeth, that's one thing. Digging a subway tunnel between New York City and Los Angeles using focused nuclear explosions, that's not the same thing.

    The devil is in the specifics- they are general enough, at this stage. There is no "overall" issue, or at least not one anybody can get a handle on, yet.
     
  15. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    The lesson that I'm applying with GM crops, which may or may not apply exactly, is the one we learned with organic pesticides(the "has carbon in it" meaning not the "grown naturally" meaning).

    It took us 20 years to start seeing the problems with organic pesticides, and so it seems we're going to widely apply GM crops before we figure out what potential problems/drawbacks are real and which are unfounded worries.

    Please don't tell me that they are all unfounded, because neither one of us have sufficient data to say that, nobody does...and that's part of the problem.
    There isn't sufficient monitoring of the crops in the field.

    It's not that I'm against the the technology, what worries me is that we're widely using it, not monitoring it, just blandly accepting it's perfectly safe.

    ...We Americans are really fascinated with new stuff and tend to idealize it, think that it's wonderful . We've done that with radiation (X-rays to tell you what size shoe you need, radioactive soda) pesticides, the internet bubble (in which otherwise sensible people put up money for businesses that were very poorly planned-because those business involved the internet).

    For we Americans especially, I think we're really going to have to have it bite us in the butt really hard before we even look for potential drawbacks.
    -----
    Now growing of pharma in plants in an isolated environment? No problem here, it's isolated.

    GM animals? as far as eco-contamination, no problems, as none of them could likely survive outside of a lab.
    Not so sure I like the ethical implications...OTOH I'm only here due to modern medicine, which was all brought to me due to animal experimentation in part.
    They shouldn't suffer unnecessarily, at least...
     
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    "In this respect" is not what anyone is worried about. The worthiness and human interest in the noble goals are granted by all.

    The prevalence of that argument is my biggest worry in all this. It points to a radically dangerous obliviousness to the situation, among the very people setting out to employ this technology wholesale.

    lessee:

    We've been digging holes for a long time - very beneficial activity. Wells, foundations, root cellars, all good. We've had some problems, even disasters, digging holes, but we've learned - we know what we're doing, digging holes. And when we dig subway tunnels - already a more suspect application of the general "holes are good" approach, right? - sometimes people get killed, as such digging of holes is dangerous. So we can save lives, dig really wonderful subway holes across whole continents even, and get all these benefits, by using focused nuclear explosions.

    It's the same thing we've been doing all along, only without the brutal work and risk of hand digging, and much faster and bigger and easier and greater and more wonderful - right?

    The whole operation has been thoroughly tested in advance - the tunnels sealed completely and cause no geological problems in the test explosions in this one county in Nevada, there maybe were a couple of minor incidents or signs of side effects rumored in other applications but the problems were all handled and we haven't heard of any real trouble from them (the data we are not allowed to look at reveals no problems, as we are told by experts), the technology is well understood according to its advocates, the yammering nay-sayers are just bigoted against nuclear anything (many examples of foolish objections to nuclear anything are available for your amusement), and so forth.

    Do you have any objections to allowing hundreds of construction companies worldwide the use of nuclear explosions for digging cross-continental subway tunnels ?

    Please be specific: the proponents demand that you specify, in advance, exactly what will go wrong and where.

    And keep in mind: digging holes with bombs is far, far simpler - orders of magnitude less complex, physically confined nursery school cause and effect by comparison - than the exponentially reproductive, economically base-nested, and ocean-linked systems being manipulated by every three-man GM operation in Zimbabwe.
     
  17. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    Iceaura, I meant no disrespect when I said you were anti-GM. In fact, we need people, objective people, to be on both sides of this debate for it to remain healthy. As much as the two camps argue and attempt to undermine each other's arguements, they rely on each other to provide due scrutiny and the checks and balances that this technology requires. Maybe anti-GM is too harsh, maybe pro-nature is nearer what you feel you are. In any event, the pro and anti lobbies just get viewed by the wider public as polar opposites. Clearly, there are some that want to see none of it, under any circumstances, ever. This is unrealistic, and does little to further the debate. They just get lumped into the extremist catagory and the pro lobby does thier best to discredit them en masse. Likewise, as Chimpkin points out, the pro lobby has a contingent that just seems to accept it all in an act of blind faith. In any debate, you are likely to get your moderates and your extremists. But only the moderates seem to be seen as "rational" and the extremists get marginalised. I find that if you back up your arguements with facts and figures from reliable sources then the opposition have to take it seriously, or they loose face. It's not just about the debate, it's about how you present your position...
     
  18. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    12,798
    If such a technology had been used with relatively few problems for decades, and all such problems had been addressed, and the controls we had in place were sufficient to prevent misuse - then no, I wouldn't.
     
  19. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    "If such a technology had been used with relatively few problems for decades"
    The problems are varied and widespread...

    "all such problems had been addressed"
    They haven't..

    "the controls we had in place were sufficient to prevent misuse"
    They're not...

    This is exactly why the technology is still so contraversial. If it was as simple as all that, nobody would have any legitamate complaints, but this is simply not the case.
     
  20. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    12,798
    You used a hypothetical (unproven, untried) technology as an example, so it's sorta hard to compare it to anything.

    Let's take a real example - aviation. Aviation is dangerous; hundreds of people die every year from aviation accidents. There are unknown risks; the risks from cosmic radiation are significant and not completely understood. It can be used as a weapon; indeed, terrorists used four airliners to kill three thousand people a while back. It has been used to deliver nuclear weapons and, in military hands, has killed millions. Airplanes can be rented by almost anyone and flown into elementary schools - and no one can stop them.

    Yet it's widely used because it is a useful technology. When we find new problems, we come up with new solutions. The FAA, NTSB and NASA have been working for decades to understand the problems and come up with solutions. That seems like a pretty good example of managing the risks of a potentially deadly technology such that it is a benefit to humanity.
     
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    All your requirements there are far, far better met by the nuclear explosion industry than the GM agribusiness industry.

    And digging tunnels with nukes is far, far more limited and restricted use of much, much simpler technology than the current GM expansion and spread.

    So back to the question: would you support the widespread deployment of nuclear bombs to dig tunnels all over the planet, for the profit of General Electric and Halliburton et al? And if not, why not?
     
  22. ULTRA Realistically Surreal Registered Senior Member

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    If it were me, i'd squirt cyanoacryllate in the firing mechanismm. When it failed to detonate, I'd blame it on radical rabbits...
     
  23. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

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    The nuclear explosion issue is not appropriate as an example. Nuclear weapons are designed to kill people. Full stop.

    As such, I oppose their design, construction, testing and deployment. In the same way I oppose the design, construction, testing and deployment of hand guns to the general population. They are also built for the sole purpose of killing humans, and no other function, and as such should be stopped.

    Nuclear power is not. It is designed, constructed, tested and deployed for the purpose of generating electricity. Diametrically opposite to nuclear weapons in purpose, and so the two should not be lumped together.

    Even this latest problem in Japan, with a tsunami affecting a nuclear power station, is only rated a four in severity - ten times less harmful than Three Mile Island, which was not terribly harmful. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/12/us-japan-quake-nuclear-us-idUSTRE72B2UN20110312

    Opposing nuclear power is like opposing the internal combusion engine because the fuel can be used in a fuel/air bomb in warfare. The former is a useful tool, and the latter is an abomination. Do not get them mixed up.

    GM cannot be compared to nuclear bombs because it is designed, constructed, tested, and deployed for the purpose of improving agricultural efficiency, reduction of pesticides, conservation of soil, increase in nutritive value or lowered toxicity in foods.

    There are potential hazards with GM crops and foods - something that is most realistically appreciated by the scientists who create those GM crops and foods. For this reason, a testing process is in place to ensure that they are at least equivalent to their non GM counterparts, and they do not pose any unacceptable risk. To date, with 16 years field experience, thousands of tests completed, and a billion hectares of GM crops grown around the field in approximately 50 nations, the results are excellent, with not one serious environmental problem, and not a single human who has suffered the slightest health detrement due to the fact that the food eaten was GM.

    It is this record that speaks for itself. Sure, we must continue vigilance, and keep testing going, and sure there is a chance of some problem in the future. But the safety record is better than pretty much any other major innovation in human history.
     

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