GMO foods - your opinion

Discussion in 'Conversations Forum' started by lorax, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    What do you think? Are GMO foods the saviour of the food supply, the ruin of heritage seed, frankenfood, something in between? I'll be quite specific here - I'm talking about foods that have been specifically manipulated in a lab at the genetic level by inserting genes from other foods or nonfoods, not hybridization or selection processes (which have been in use for thousands of years.)

    I'm curious. Personally, I think that GMO food doesn't have enough long-term scientific testing behind it to really know what impact it's going to have on the biosphere. Besides which, there are so many different cultivars, both natural and hybridized by man, that I question the need to create completely new stuff in laboratories.

    I'm reminded of my grampa's fishato disaster - for those who haven't encountered this thing, it's a potato with fish-antifreeze genes in it, supposedly to help it resist freezing if you don't get the crop in soon enough. Initially he was really enthusiastic about them, since he's a bit absentminded and has lost potatoes to frost before. It rained more than usual the year he planted them, and they all rotted in the field. This would have been bad enough if they were normal spuds, but when they went off they stank like rotting fish. He lost the whole crop and the whole farm smelled like putrid fish for a couple of months. It certainly put him off the whole GMO thing.

    Your thoughts?
     
  2. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    There was a thread on exactly this topic a month or two ago - should still be around, if you can find it!
     
  3. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Here is the other thread.
    http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=35269&highlight=blue+rose

    I don't mind the concept of genetic engineering research, but we (someone, not me actually) have pushed the research into the market place faster than may be reasonable. Many good things could come from this research, but the worst agricultural pest the world will ever know could also appear.

    Part of me is excited about the technology--I really want to see 15 centimetre violets that smell like jasmine, strawberries with lemon/passion fruit essence, or see drought resistant crops developed that can help feed our vast population. I just don't see the safeguards in place and the research seems to be being motivated more by an economic mindset than an environmental or even agricultural one.
     
  4. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I don't - it would just mean the destruction of all the desert wildlife, when it is cleared away to make space for those new drought resistant crops. There'd no longer be any space for Saguaros, etc., etc., etc.

    We've already wrecked all the temperate humid biomes, let's not do it to the rest of the world too.
     
  5. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Though GM foods have potential they also expose us to unintentional consequences. In the past, attempts to manage nature have met with mixed success. One example that comes to mind is the suppression of fires in Yellowstone National Park. It turned out that the fires were necessary for the health of the forest. On an intuitive level I think it's best not be mess with nature.
    This is another area of concern. Profit is the primary motivation for GM foods and patents are put in place to protect those profits. Do we really want our food supplies to be controlled by a small number of patent holders? In some cases, farmers who currently use GM seed are forced to purchase a new supply each year because the seed has been modified to include a suicide gene, making it sterile. In areas of India GM seed is chosen not because it is better adapted to the local conditions but because of heavy marketing by the seed companies. Farmers pay a heavy price not only when they purchase the seed but they also risk crop failure if the conditions are not just right whereas the non-GM seed is more suited to a wider range of conditions. (Things one can learn from watching PBS programs!)
     
  6. Cactus Jack

    Cactus Jack Active Member

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    One big argument for GM crops is that we could better feed the world. Yet in regions where food is short, this often has more to do with corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and the logistical problems of distributing tens of millions of tons of food. I'm not saying the technology shouldn't be developed, but it's not going to be much use producing more food until we've figured out how to get it to everybody.

    But the concerns about superweeds is just fear of shadows. Any new technology carries risks -- if we never did anything because we were afraid of what we might (and just as possibly, might not) be risking, we'd all be living naked in caves.
     
  7. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    A timely article: Seeds of destruction.
     
  8. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    See, that's exactly what makes me quite wary of GMOs, along with grampa's fishato disaster.... It gives me more than a bit of the heebidy-jeebidies to think that a handful of corporations may soon control the entire seedstock for major staple crops.
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    It's just more taking over of the world by purely commercial interests. Science fiction scenarios where the government is a company are coming closer to being reality. We already are having problems resulting from prisons (incarceration of the citizenry one of the favorite activities down here in the Land of the Free) being contracted out, wars like the current adventure in Iraq being undertaken to further enrich defense contractors (George Bush recently observed that the Iraq war was helping the economy) and numerous other examples. Americans when polled say they think corporations have too much control over our lives. There is a basis for that perception.
     
  10. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Shades of Soylent Green. Scary thought.
     
  11. natureman

    natureman Active Member

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    Sadly this is pretty much America under a Republican administration.

    I'm not against genetic engeneering in plants, but as a libertarian, I'm not always for the Feds and Big Companies. I think plants, for non-food use should be engineered, as they're probably sold for their appearance or smell. But food shouldn't be touched, as we all know how a native strawberry tastes compares to Market X's stuff. Genetic engineering is a very cool thing nonetheless, I haven't done it on plants but simply implanting a Green Florescent Protein into E. coli got me very interested. If plants do eventually come to this, food-plants, markets should definitly by law need to distinguish between gen. en. plants and the 'natural ones'. Although something else people need to realize, Genetic Engineering is the same thing organisms do over time, adapt, but they don't have to wait thousands of years for variations. So, in an odd sense that many will not agree, it's all natural :P
     
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Extinction is also natural but the current human-induced rate is not. GMO would seem to have boundless potential for nightmare scenarios. Already we have the problem of the RoundUp Ready soybean becoming widespread in the soybean supply. The creation of this GMO resulted in the herbicide being sprayed among the plants without concern about it getting on them. This places everyone using soy products in the position of trusting that the chemicals are not leaving undesirable residues in the beans.
     
  13. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    I take a different view. In nature, organisms evolve to adapt to changes in the environment. Over time a mutation will not persist if it didn't give the organism a competitive edge. This natural selection process is lost when an organism is engineered since man has ensured its survival, possibly to the detriment of the environment.

    I'm not totally against genetic engineering. It may have its uses such as creating bacteria to clean up toxic waste. It comes down to a balance between risk and benefit. In the case of food I think the risks outweigh the benefits.
     
  14. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    That would be natural selection vs. artificial selection. The main ecological worry with GMO is the Pandora's Box aspect, the escaping and running wild of completely new combinations that have highly disruptive, previously unseen effects. Just transporting organisms that arose naturally somewhere on the planet to other parts of the planet has resulted in tremendous damage. Now we are talking about giving completely unnatural new entities the opportunity to have their own party.
     
  15. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Grain farmer claims moral victory in seed battle
     
  16. Margaret

    Margaret Active Member 10 Years

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    Really don't like them. I think we need diversity in all things and gmo s seem to push only the "financially viable", there is not enough research into long term effects, I have heard but have not really looked into the facts that they take may need more fertilisers and sometimes more pecticides and finally I worry that our lives are being more and more encroached upon by the transnational chemical and food production companies. I really do not consider myself a luddite just someone who over the years have seen people jump too readily onto the bandwagon and then we all have to deal with the consequences!!
    Margaret
     
  17. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    Unfortunately it's not just "simply implanting". These "engineers" don't have a box of Green Fluorescent Protein genes in the sense that you can have a box of bolts. If you reach into a box of 2" bolts it's pretty easy to make sure you're not inserting a 3" bolt or a 1" bolt, but imagine that these engineers have a box of genes including or even mostly the GFP gene but also including a quantity of non-target genetic material. Then there's the problem of proving that since we know this gene produces GFP, that's all it does.
    If structural engineers took this same approach to building a bridge, they would build a few thousand bridges while blindfolded in a huge lab, sort out the best of the ones that "worked" (didn't fall down) and install those ones!
    I am sure that a huge majority of the people involved in genetic engineering are serious, competent, careful, environmentally conscious human beings who believe in what they are doing. I am equally sure that none of them is going to discover a "magic bullet" that will solve the problems of feeding a planet that is bulging at the seams. I have a much less charitable view of those who manage, promote, and intend to profit from this technology. As a member of the (ever shrinking) agricultural community, I know that the material on the floor of my cow barn is a lot more honest than the published material (they still send it to me) from Monsanto et al.

    Ralph
     
  18. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Nice one!!
     
  19. TheYoungGardener

    TheYoungGardener Member

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    I find those GMO plants fishy, like the five furits on one tree... Now thats just creppy to me...We should just leave plants to grow, not stick our hands into every thing and anything we can!
     
  20. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Not surprising when they contain fish genes . . . ;-)
     

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