No Future w/o Biotechnology

We should base our regulations and plans on actual risks, not the perceptions of risk. Biotechnology is a lot less radical and a lot less risky in than it is perceived to be. Let’s start with some things that are not problems. You can avoid biotech product if you eat nothing but organic food, but all the rest of us have eaten biotech food, since most of our American corn and soybeans, among other things, are genetically modified. There has never been a case of a documented health problem attributed to biotech food. This is a surprising outcome, given the extreme amount of scrutiny biotech gets. It is likely that biotech is actually SAFER than ordinary products because of all the scrutiny.

Of course, organic food has recently killed at least 30 people and made another 3000 sick, as we saw with the recent e-coli outbreak in Germany attributed to organically grown bean sprouts. The fact is that no food is perfectly safe all the time. You can be sure that if a biotech product had somehow been in contact with this organic product and got infected by it, the biotech would get the blame. We should not “blame” organic food, but recognize that humanity ate organic food for most of our history and our ancestors were not more robustly healthy than we are.

There have been complaints that biotech firms lock farmers into seeds, since they are not allowed to save seeds for next year. This is a meaningless complaint, since it is nothing new in the seed world. Productivity in American corn fields grew fantastically after the introduction of hybrid seeds in the 1930s. Farmers could save seed, but it wouldn’t work. Hybrid seeds are so productive because they have the hybrid vigor. The hybrids are developed to exhibit the best traits from the parent stock. The next generations lose this and may be even poorer performers than the original stock. They may, in fact, exhibit the worst traits of the parents. It is indeed true that farmers using biotech seeds generally agree not to use the seeds again. But if they want to be most productive, they probably would not want to do it. Like those who use hybrid seeds, they can always choose not to use the biotech seeds. They choose to use the better quality seeds because they believe the harvest will improve enough to justify the costs.

Biotech agriculture is becoming more widespread everywhere except Europe. European firms are active in biotechnology, but activists in the Europe resist wider introduction, which is one reason Europeans pay more for their food. Alternative “natural” food is something that only the rich can afford to choose, since it means lower productivity. This might seem like a bold statement, but it approaches a tautology. If the “alternative” is more productive, it becomes the usual method. The poor have often been forced to be organic, since they couldn’t afford other options, but they make the logical choice when they have a choice.

Biotechnology also increases diversity. With traditional agriculture, farmers have to plant one variety, in order to make harvests practical. Biotechnology creates new varieties. You can still keep the old ones if you want, but you have doubled your choices.

Biotechnology is good for the environment, but creating and using plants and animals suited to their environments. They require fewer chemical treatments and less cultivation. This is one reason it increases farm productivity. They farmer needs to spend much less time in the fields spraying or cultivating.

31% of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases come from agriculture. Biotechnology can reduce that by requiring fewer inputs, everything from herbicides, to fertilizers to the fuel for tractors to deliver these things to the field. No till agriculture, which protects soils, conserves moisture and makes it possible for farmers to cultivate much less often, is very much facilitated by biotechnologies. Overall, the introduction of BT Roundup ready crops is estimated to have been the equivalent of taking 6-8 million cars off the road.

Biotechnology is developed by big firms. This is because only well-financed firms can afford the equipment and trained scientists. But an even bigger consideration is the regulatory environment. Governments require extensive testing and field trials. Only a well-financed firm can afford to comply. However, the biotechnology itself benefits small and big farmers. Biotechnology is scale neutral. The small farmer can get as much benefit as the large one and the relative benefit to small holders is often greater, since they often lack the equipment and expertise to take full advantage of traditional farming technologies.

I personally believe that biotechnology is a necessary tool to protect the environment and keep our world reasonably pleasant. We live in a global world. Even people not very knowledgeable about the environment understand that we face the challenges of climate change. Fewer people are aware of the bigger threat of invasive species or the development of native menaces in the face of changing environments. Everything can catch rides on our modern mobility. This includes plants and animals, but also diseases and bugs. Many of our most treasured plants and trees are threatened, including our oaks, maples, beeches … pretty much everything. Natural systems cannot adapt at the pace of change we humans have created. Biotechnology is the best hope we have to save the ecosystems we love and on which we depend. I am unwilling to accept that my oaks will wilt, my maples will be killed by Chinese beetles; my ashes will all succumb to the emerald borer or my hemlocks will be turned into ghosts by woolly adelgids. We can fight back with chemicals and cultivation, but one of the most potent and ecologically benign tools will be biotechnology

I understand the risks of change. But looking around at what we get w/o biotechnology – the food shortages in developing countries, the widespread death of forest species etc, I don’t think we have a good alternative.

There is no alternative w/o risk. We need to be cautious about what we do, but we also need to adapt to rapidly changing realities. World population growth means we need to increase food production. Climate change will make that productivity growth harder. We need to use all the tools we possess and certainly should not refrain from employing the most exciting innovations recently created by human imaginations. We need to deploy biotechnology. We should be circumspect by not timid. The future belongs to the innovative.

Posted by Christine & John at June 16, 2011 9:59 PM
Comment #324570


You are mostly correct here. Overall, biotechnology gives us a good reason to be optimistic. However, we must approach top-down approaches such as this with skepticism. Cane sugar growers in Queensland were certainly optimistic when they imported cane toads from Latin America, but now they regret that decision. The problem is we cannot put the toothpaste back into the tube if we discover a problem, which is why biotech has advanced very cautiously. That said, my only request is that producers label their products accordingly so that the consumer has the ability to choose what he/she desires and that each variety of GMO is studied to make certain it has no ill effect on human health or our ecosystem.

Posted by: Warped Reality at June 16, 2011 11:43 PM
Comment #324596

I’m with Warped Reality is that they should label them. I had a pluot once (plum + apricot). It was interesting. =)

Posted by: Spinny Liberal at June 17, 2011 5:56 PM
Comment #324600

I want to read what’s on the label but I can’t understand what the ingredients are with out a dictionary and an encyclopedia. What would I expect to see on a label if it was a biotech product? Other than: “This is a bio tech product”, of course.

Posted by: Weary Willie at June 17, 2011 6:59 PM
Comment #324601

Warped and Spinny

It is very difficult to label biotech, since much of our food has elements of GMOs. You can pretty much assume that almost anything you buy will have some GMO, at least as part of the animal feed or cooking oils. Foods also contain minute particles of the foods that are stored near. A anti-GMO purist may detect such things, as the Germans have at times, holding up whole shipments.

If you want to avoid GMOs, you can buy organically labelled food. In our consumer driven market, I am sure that firms will cater to the timid and market foods specifically labeled to contain no GMOs. Mandating labels, however, doesn’t make any particular sense. All it will do is create jobs for lawyers who will make big bucks suing all those who make some mistakes.

If you avoid GMOs, however, you will also be avoiding its benefits, chief among them is lower price.

Posted by: C&J at June 17, 2011 7:18 PM
Comment #324621

>There has never been a case of a documented health problem attributed to biotech food. This is a surprising outcome, given the extreme amount of scrutiny biotech gets. It is likely that biotech is actually SAFER than ordinary products because of all the scrutiny.

1. Scrutinized by whom?
2. Why is it scrutinized?
3. Without an expansion of the debt ceiling, how much longer will it be scrutinized?
4. Because of budget cuts, how valid has been the scrutiny?
5. Has the scrutiny been as effective as the scrutiny of off-shore oil rigs?

Posted by: Marysdude at June 17, 2011 10:31 PM
Comment #324623


1 Scrutinized by scientists and activist in peer reviewed contexts, as well as by governments in the U.S. and Europe.

2 Why - because people fear new things.

3. This is unrelated. I suppose it will remain studied as long as people are interested.

4. The tests have been done by governments and private organizations. The budget cuts don’t matter.

5. The scrutiny has been as good as that done for almost any other product.

I gather from your comments that you fear these new things.

Posted by: C&J at June 17, 2011 10:47 PM
Comment #324627

From today’s Wash Post we learn that the House Repubs cut millions of dollars from the FDA budget, denying the agency money to implement landmark food safety laws approved by the last Congress.

This reduced funding for food safety inspections as it relates to meat, poultry and some egg products, They also cut $832M from an emergency feeding program for poor mothers, infants and children.

One House repub said the nations food supply was 99.99% safe. CDC say 48M get sick from tainted food yearly. Of those, about 28k are hospitalized and 3k die. Dingell, D-Michigan, said only about 1 percent of imported food is inspected after it arrives in US ports. “The stuff (China) they are exporting to the US I’m not sure I would feed my hogs.” Don Young, R-Alaska, was successful in prohibiting the FDA from approving for sale GMO salmon.

Then there is the research effort to grow meat for human consumption which would alleviate the killing and processing of some 54B living critters yearly that give it up for the pallet.

I believe bio tech will play a major role but, simultaneously, I would like to see some work done on controlling the world’s population. For example, what good has it done re population control, for the US family to hold births to 1.5 or 2, basically unity growth, when the Corpocracy has delivered some 20-30M people from foreign countries to these shores. Is it our job to take the pressure of foreign countries in this regard?

Are foreign countries doing anything to make sure their wooly worms aren’t hooking a free ride to this country? Where is globalisation when you need it?

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at June 17, 2011 11:32 PM
Comment #324629


As you mention, population problems are no longer in America or Europe. We have great population growth among developing countries. I don’t know how to prevent them from doing it. The problem is most acute in many of the places that usually dislike our advice.

Re testing - the food supply is mostly safe, but not completely safe. I do not think it ever will be. GMOs will not change that, although they may improve it a little. As you recall from the above, the recent e-coli deaths in Germany were from organically grown vegetables.

re invasive bugs - the Chinese and others are indeed a problem. They do not live up to our standards. In fact, China is the world’s biggest problem in lots of environmental, food and trade related issues. But they are also a great benefit. What would you do?

Posted by: C&J at June 18, 2011 8:56 AM
Comment #324631

In the RSP agenda/vision for America a call is made to build a fleet of hi-tech, modernized merchant vessels. These ships would transport goods from foreign to US ports and, while en route, would fumigate and perform food safety test/inspection. In war times the fleet could be used to xport US war fighting materials rather than depend on foreign flagged.

Otherwise, try to negotiate that such procedures be carried out by countries shipping to the US. Put a clause in for right of on-site inspection. Those that comply get the business and those that don’t get less business, etc. Don’t know if that would make muster with the WTO but, it sounds good.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at June 18, 2011 10:23 AM
Comment #324647

1. Scrutinized by whom?

Perhaps by the same scientists who are skewing the GW numbers?

Although I agree with much of what C&J have to say; I must admit that I believe GW is nonsense and the only thing man made, is the claims of GW…

I find it interesting that a majority of the world drinks water tainted by human and animal urine and feces; and that a majority would eat anything that doesn’t eat them; and yet we worry about a monstrosity government program called the FDA to protect us. I’m sorry, but I have never found a government employee (military not included) or a government program that works efficiently. Most of what they do is waste. Why don’t we take the millions that are spent on the mating habits of insects and frogs, etc… and use it to support the FDA. Either that, or just shut the FDA down. Can anyone say…broke?

Posted by: Mike at June 18, 2011 7:13 PM
Comment #324651


Your comment about drinking water applies to the non-GMO world. Organic food tends to be most affected.

The studies about the GMOs are peer reviewed. You can study the results and replicate them if you have the expertise.

There is no absolute certainty in the world. Nothing anybody can do can allay the fears of those who believe in conspiracies or will not accept science. GMOs are not significantly different from non-GMO foods in terms of characteristics or safety. If you fear all your food, you can put them on the list too.

Posted by: C&J at June 18, 2011 8:17 PM
Comment #324656
Perhaps by the same scientists who are skewing the GW numbers?

Taking account of post-glacial rebound is not “skewing the numbers” unless you work for the Heartland Institute, which is bed with the fossil-fuel industry. Please take the time to read an actual scientific peer-reviewed journal instead of relying on the mainstream media to mislead you.

Posted by: Warped Reality at June 18, 2011 9:54 PM
Comment #324659

Agree, that bio-agri will improve food production for the masses and in those countries where there is a large population with little arable lands.

At the same time there is a strong move toward locally and/or organically grown animals, fish and vegetables. In my little county of approx 7k there must be 20 or more small growers. Some farms are operating more efficiently by rotating grazing animals over a piece of land. Cattle graze an area followed by sheep and then chickens or something like that.

I read about one fellow that searches for near extinct apple tree species. He has located something like 150 species of apple trees in the Va. Appalachian area growing on old farms or where old orchards existed at one time.

So called organic food products represent about 3% of the market, approx $24B yearly. The USDA reports that there are about 20k natural food stores around the country. While not big numbers it does show that consumers have some choice and more prefer to buy locally each year. It’s nice to have a choice other than ‘made in walmart’.

Here is a url relating the grandeur of the chestnut tree in 1915.

This url cites some of the bio-science techniques being used to recover the chestnut tree.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at June 18, 2011 10:16 PM
Comment #324662


It is great when people want to preserve old species. Nothing stops anybody from doing that. In fact, the greater productivity of biotech and newer tech allows the luxury of such things.

Biotech creates MORE choices and more diversity.

Re chestnuts - I am a member of the American Chestnut Society. I am growing a couple of them on my farms. I believe we are close to restoring chestnuts. Of course it will take a couple hundred years to restore the grandeur.

Posted by: C&J at June 18, 2011 10:41 PM
Comment #324668

You have got to be kidding!!! Bio-engineering our food is good in a pigs eye! Monsanto, Syngenta, ConAgra and their kissing cousins have purchased most of the seed companies that currently exist. That have an unprecedented hold on the seed market that ought to scare the hell out of everyone. They do NOT encourage Diversity by patenting seed and sueing farmers whose crops were inadvertently pollinated by wind blown pollen or insect carried pollen! Or by not allowing farmers to be able to save seed from their crops. The excessive use of herbiceds and pesticides that these new crops require are killing the benifial organisms in the soil, in essesence killing the lands ability to renew itself naturally. There has been a tremdous loss of genetic diversity on our food chain, plant and animal already that we cannot afford to be mono-farming anymore. Take the time to query the endangered farm animal lists that were once common, then do that same query on apple, tomatoe, and any other food you happen to enjoy eating. I promise what you will find should not only shock you but will make you realize the real crisis facing the human race. Roughly 75% of our food diversity has already been lost due to the loss of the small farmers who breed plants that were locally adapted to grow best in a region. Those plantsman are a wealth of skill and knowledge that we need to be tapping before they have died off instead of relying on a technology that is causing greater harm than good. It has been prooven that the pollen from GMO BT corn is toxic to pollinators - guess what you are breathing in that same pollen and eating the meat from the cattle and pigs who are eatting the feed that has the DNA of that un-Natural non-plant product. Gee if nature meant for use or anything else to be eating it, wouldn’t it already be in the food chain? BTW Europe can label their food products - why can’t we?

Posted by: Kathryn at June 19, 2011 9:17 AM
Comment #324670
Natural systems cannot adapt at the pace of change we humans have created.

Doesn’t that pretty much say it all C&J? We continue to use the technologies of these corporations under the guise of productivity but fail to realize that the unintended consequences of these GMO technologies you have mentioned takeaway the ability to naturally adapt. We create the mess then create the bigger mess by fixing the smaller mess and by doing so create another mess and so on.

Regulation, what a joke C&J.

The price fixing scandals should be reason enough to stop the corporate fascism of the GMO companies. Using the tactics of “I gather from your comments that you fear these new things.” only serves to confirm the weakness of your argument. You have failed to mention anything that favors the consumer C&J in your corporatism uber alles defense of the GMO corporations. Do genetically modified tomatoes taste better than natural tomatoes? No they don’t. Does eating the BT pesticides in corn add to the taste or make a person stronger and healthier? Nope. Do the GMO tomatoes increase profits for the seed providers and growers at the expense of nutrition and taste? Yep. Does the BT corn increase profits at the expense of nutrition and taste? Yep. How many bugs are fooled by brown or purple tomatoes?

Lumping all GMO advances into a group, a favorite tactic of these corporations, and calling them good does a disservice to all of us C&J. Is it any wonder we “fear new things” when they serve only the best interest of the corporate fascist and their “productivity”?

Posted by: j2t2 at June 19, 2011 10:32 AM
Comment #324671


Re saving seeds, please read the explanation in the article. Anybody who plants any kind of hybrid seeds cannot save seeds and expect the get a good crop the next year.

Those who want to avoid the trouble of biotech can also avoid the benefits.

Re herbicides and pesticides - GMOs require significantly less of these things. That is one of the big reasons farmers want to plant them. Inputs are lower in all ways, fuel for tractors, time, pesticides and herbicides.

Re diversity - biotech increased diversity. There are more options. Those who want to keep to the old methods can do so. Consider the analogy on NON GMO hybrid corn. Productivity went way up. Farmers can choose to plant or not.

Re “Gee if nature meant for use or anything else to be eating it, wouldn’t it already be in the food chain?” This sort of sounds like “If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings”.

I generally support science. I really cannot justify using GMO in the non-science terms you are proposing.

Posted by: C&J at June 19, 2011 10:40 AM
Comment #324672


You believe global warming is a reality? And you understand that globalization has already introduced thousands of new organisms into place where they did not develop “naturally”?

We are already all in this brave new world. There is no going back to the world of 1492, 1607, 1900, or pick whatever past year you thought was the perfect time.

Re tomatoes etc - they taste the same. You are right. There are advantages to producers and consumers though lower prices and greater availability.

You can avoid biotech foods if you want. Organics are non-biotech. They cost more, because if you avoid productivity advances you also avoid the benefits.

Productivity gains always benefit first the producers. It is nearly a tautology. The same happened with hybrid corn in the 1940s. Later it increases supply.

As you know, I grow trees. I have some genetically superior pines (not biotech). They grow faster and better than the previous generation. I try to sell the wood and pulp for the same price of ordinary trees. Should I estimate how much faster they grow and discount it? Or conversely, should I charge more for the ones that didn’t grow as well? Of course that is silly. Isn’t it? As many people adopt the better genetics, supply of the product increases, which does indeed affect prices to consumers.

This process has been going on since the invention of agriculture. It is interesting that some people continue to be surprised after so many thousands of years.

Posted by: C&J at June 19, 2011 10:59 AM
Comment #324680
We are already all in this brave new world. There is no going back to the world of 1492, 1607, 1900, or pick whatever past year you thought was the perfect time.

No we can’t C&J, but that does not mean we give carte blanche approval to these companies to do as they will as long as they can make a buck.

Re tomatoes etc - they taste the same. You are right. There are advantages to producers and consumers though lower prices and greater availability.

No, C&J no they don’t. Try a real tomato sometimes and you will see the taste has been all but modified out of the GM tomatoes. Why do prices on vegetables continue to go up if the GM’s are so good.

You can avoid biotech foods if you want. Organics are non-biotech. They cost more, because if you avoid productivity advances you also avoid the benefits.

Are they really productivity gains if they cause irreversible damage in another area? Just like germs developing resistance to penicillin we get caught in the unintended consequences. Sometimes that is good but not always. To make profit and productivity for the seed companies the only basis for the changes make cost us more in the longer run, C&J.

This process has been going on since the invention of agriculture. It is interesting that some people continue to be surprised after so many thousands of years.

Not surprised C&J, dismayed. You have failed to mention the nutritional quality of the GMO’s. By grouping the gains in agriculture through out the centuries with the consolidation of the seed stock into the hands of a oligopoly you seem to miss the big picture.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 19, 2011 3:27 PM
Comment #324686


Tomatoes taste or not depending on what you like. The ones you buy in most stores are already modified to have thicker skins and to be able to be picked and shipped green. These were NOT GMO changes. Some tomatoes w/o those traits taste better. You can buy those if you want. They just cost more because they are less productive.

In the future, GMO might make it possible to get both the taste and the other characteristics.

Beyond that, tomatoes are very easy to grow. If you wish, you can grow your own to serve whatever taste you want.

The key is choice. GMOs give you more options and more choices. You do NOT have to take them, but you will give up the benefits to some extent. It is your choice.

Re those various things you mention such as germs developing resistance, those are not problems particularly associated with biotech. In fact, GMOs provide additional options to combat those maladies.

Firms do not have carte blanche. GMOs are subject to the same or greater requirements as foods developed through the usual ways (irradiation, mutation etc)

Problems can result from any food production, as we have seen from the recent e-coli deaths in Europe provoked by organic food. The dangers of GMO are comparable or less. After a decade and a half of study, nobody has yet produced a scientifically valid, peer reviewed, reproducible study that has indicated any particular greater hazard to human health or the environment.

Re oligopoly - The world is full of people planting and maintaining heirloom seeds, crops and animals. Many people prefer food grown locally using more traditional methods. If they are willing to buy these things, they will continue to be available on the market. We drove to Antietam yesterday. On the way back we stopped at a farmer’s market where we bought sweetcorn, watermelon & cucumbers grown using traditional methods. There are lots of such opportunities.

If you like the food you are eating, you can continue to use it (sort of like Obama’s promise about keeping your insurance, only true). If many people choose to avoid GMOs, nobody they will not become widespread.

In a free market, firms will seek to meet demand. Already many products are grow and labeled organic. I am sure firms will want to label their products non-GMO if they are.

What opponents of GMOs are really saying is that they do not want GMOs AND they want to prevent other from doing it too. They are willing to pay more for their food AND they want everybody else to pay more too.

I am just advocating more choice and better use of science. As I wrote up top, regulate based on REAL risk, not unfounded perceptions.

Posted by: C&J at June 19, 2011 3:58 PM
Comment #324692

As usual, the corporation is the elephant in the tent here. When it comes to real personal stuff like the food we eat we don’t need any lies, false advertisement, false claims, etc from agri-business.

Just consider the poor judgement applied in using a mainstay food product, corn, to produce ethanol. And, the gov’t subsidized it by something like 20% I believe. Who thought this was a good idea? Agri-business? yes. Gov’t? Yes. The people? NO. And, the Corpocracy is pushing for 20% gas/ethanol mix at the pump which would damage older gasoline driven equipment. But, that’s ok. Most folks don’t mind replacing the older stuff, especially if it’s for the good of the Corpocracy.

Kathyrn mentioned that GMO BT corn has been proven to be toxic to pollinators. First I’ve heard of that. I do know that bees in the Shenandoah Va. area was afflicted with something several years back and they haven’t returned to date. I’ve not seen a single honeybee so far this year.

But, back to my point. IMO, and many others, corporations lost any vestiages of morality with the Regan era of ‘greed is good’. They are out for the buck, period. A big change from the day’s of the Founder’s when corporations were established and operated for the ‘good of society’ and were terminated when they failed in that mission.

Corporations might be better tolerated if properly regulated by gov’t. But, as pointed out in the blurb on ethanol, gov’t and big biz are one and the same, Corpocracy.

IMO, an unregulated Corpocracy, always going for the dollar, will eventually self-destruct and judging from the inequality of haves and have-nots these days I think we are well down that road.

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at June 19, 2011 4:29 PM
Comment #324694


I will also add that there is something that truly terrifies me. I am afraid that all those invasive bugs and plants brought to us from China or Africa. I listed some of the current threats. We cannot win against them w/o developing new defenses. If I lose my oaks, beeches, ash, pine and maple, there really isn’t much left to lose. There currently exist in North America pests that can threaten or destroy our forests.

I read about the loss of the chestnuts. I saw the near demise of the American elm. I walk through ghost forests in of hemlock in the Blue Ridge. I remember their deep green, seemingly eternal beauty. Recently in the hill country in Texas I saw thousands of dead live-oak. They next killer is just waiting one shipment of infected packing material from China. We cannot develop effective counters to such a panoply of threats w/o the help of biotech, IMO.

The die is cast. We cannot go back. If we stop the maladies already released or introduced will overwhelm us. The only safety we can find is in forward motion.

Posted by: C&J at June 19, 2011 4:34 PM
Comment #324696


Further test have shown the BT Corn is NOT toxic to pollinators in ordinary environmental setting. What is toxic to pollinators is the use of pesticides that are used in place of BT Corn.

BT corn is safer to non-targeted insect populations than the alternative, unless your alternative is not to grow corn.

Re bees - this is very worrying. As you may know, nobody has really identified the cause of hive collapse, but it has been reported all over the world, in places where BT is used and in places where it is not. Some people blame cellular phones, but the science is not yet in.

Honey bees, as you know, are NOT native to North America. They were brought by European settlers. But they are important to many food crops, which are also imports. There are some honey bees that have become wild, but most of the bee keeping is in human hands.

I was recently talking to a forestry guy who also raises bees in Star Tannery, which must be near you. He said that about 30% of his bees disappeared last year, but that he can maintain his hives. Star Tannery is pretty far up the hill and few of his bees stray over corn fields in general.

He thinks the hive collapse is caused by a variety of “bad luck” factor exacerbated by the spread of a virulent type of mite that is affecting the hives.

In any case, bees are in no imminent danger of disappearing and perhaps some sort of biotech can help them fight off those nefarious mites.

Posted by: C&J at June 19, 2011 4:47 PM
Comment #324705

Good info C&J. I’m in Rapp Co. and I’m sure I haven’t seen a single honeybee in 3 years or more. Still, I’ve not heard of any local farmers complaining about pollination. Crops seem bountiful.

Seems if the culprit was a type of mite that would be easily recognized and countered. And, being a problem worldwide, one would think it not too difficult to nail down some common herbicide, etc.

Maybe we should be looking at growing honey in a petri dish and writing off the honeybee as a loss on our taxes. lol

Posted by: Roy Ellis at June 19, 2011 9:38 PM
Comment #324707
I will also add that there is something that truly terrifies me. I am afraid that all those invasive bugs and plants brought to us from China or Africa. I listed some of the current threats. We cannot win against them w/o developing new defenses.

Jeez C&J I guess we should be grateful to the corpocracy for solving the problem it created. This comment is the very reason the agricultural biotech oligopoly needs to be regulated. It also makes the case for growing and buying local foods, doesn’t it?

When a problem like the infiltration of insects from foreign countries is left to be defended by the oligopoly of GM/hybrid seeds manufacturers we can count on several things happening;
1. costs go up for the farmers and consumers.
2. The new defense damages the soil/air/water etc.
3. The invasive bugs develop a resistance to the “new defense” and a newer and more expensive defense is needed and the circle goes on…
The problem really isn’t biotechnology it is the oligopoly that controls biotech.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 19, 2011 10:11 PM
Comment #324713


Some of these invasive were introduced at the behest of government. Almost none of the problem organisms were introduced with a profit motive. Most of the nasty ones caught rides on legitimate trade. I do not think we can close our borders to all foreign commerce or travel.

Once in America, they spread by travel. Every time you drive more than a few dozen miles, you run the risk of carrying along some nasty bug.

Tell me how you can apply effective regulation to this and I will support it.

Re the defenses - you are right that it will be a never ending struggle. We will be able to keep down some bugs, but they will adapt and be replaced by others. And we will adapt to them.

This is they way of all life. We humans have accelerated it.

We have had hybrid seed for nearly a century. They have increased productivity remarkably. The same, I hope & believe, will be GMOs. W/o hybrid seeds and the ability to fix nitrogen about 40% of the earth’s human population would be dead. It is why we Americans spend such a small % of our income on food.

We cannot feed our populations on food grown locally using traditional methods. We have not been able to do that for several generations and we certainly will not be able to do it going forward.

Biotechnology promises to make MORE diversity possible and it can take the place of herbicides and pesticides.

It would be nice - maybe - if we could all live like Hobbits, eating local foods, grown in traditional ways. But those methods will support only around 3-4 billion people. The current earth population is almost 7 billion and is expected to top out at 10 billion. If you can find 3-4 billion people willing to stop eating and then get the various peoples of the developing world to limit their reproduction, maybe we can go back to Hobbit world.

Of course, if you actually study the history of the pre-industrial world, you notice that life was dirty, nasty, brutal and short for most people.

Posted by: C&J at June 19, 2011 11:15 PM
Comment #324738
Tell me how you can apply effective regulation to this and I will support it.

California stops and checks certain vehicles at entry points to the state, seems to work.

We cannot feed our populations on food grown locally using traditional methods. We have not been able to do that for several generations and we certainly will not be able to do it going forward.

So oligopoly was the correct description of the agricultural GM industry after all.

Biotechnology promises to make MORE diversity possible and it can take the place of herbicides and pesticides.

As long as the “cides” in the plant DNA is non invasive to the human body it is a good thing. As long as it doesn’t deplete/harm the soil/water/air it is a good thing. As far as diversity brown and purple tomatoes with the taste “bioteched” out of them don’t impress me.

It would be nice - maybe - if we could all live like Hobbits, eating local foods, grown in traditional ways. But those methods will support only around 3-4 billion people.

Once again that does not mean we give carte blanche to the biotech oligopoly to do anything they wish. Nutrition should be a consideration for the growers. It is not. Many of your comments suggest that hybrid seeds are superior in all ways but not everyone agrees. Heirloom seeds are noted for:

“They often tend to provide a more prolonged yield over a longer growing period and a generally better, tastier crop. They can also be more adaptable to different soil types.”

“With these seeds, there are usually tens of thousands of varieties of each species of plant, compared to just a few varieties of commercial F1 hybrid seeds. which are the main type of seeds most large scale agriculture use these days.
The wide range of heirloom varieties ensure that if there is a crop failure of one particular variety, the other varieties will still prevail.”

Of course, if you actually study the history of the pre-industrial world, you notice that life was dirty, nasty, brutal and short for most people.

For many it still is. We have come a along way but to insinuate it is due to biotechnology is just wrong. Life was dirty, nasty, brutal and short for many different reasons C&J.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 20, 2011 3:29 PM
Comment #324747


California has had and continues to have as many problems with invasives as any other state.

We do try to fight these invaders at our ports. But they still get in. As globalization increases, so will the threats. Most of the people bringing in pests do not know they are doing it.

“So oligopoly was the correct description of the agricultural GM industry after all.”

This does not follow. We are dependent on modern agriculture methods, no matter where you get your seeds or your methods. At some point around 4000 years ago it became impossible to maintain the human population w/o the use of agriculture, i.e. mere hunting and gathering could no longer keep all the people on earth alive. Would you call that oligopoly?

Re “cides” you have them in the biotech plant that are specific to a pest or you have them sprayed on in general.

Beyond that, all fruit and vegetables are full of “cides”. They developed these through natural selection. It worked like biotech, but much slower. Parts of potato plants are poisonous. The tomato is in the nightshade family and parts are also hazardous.

re taste - it depends what you are selecting for. Tomatoes we eat now are bred to have thicker skins and to be picked green so that they can be shipped. You can grow a better tasting tomato. But this is NOT biotech.

BTW - Polish ham tastes better than American ham, IMO. Why? Because in Poland they feed the pigs on slop, which we do not in America. A deer the lives mostly in the woods tastes different than a deer that spends a lot of time in cultivated fields, again depends on diet. We have given up lots of taste for convenience or food safety. Maybe biotech can safely and economically give some of it back.

Re heirloom seeds - nobody says we have to make a choice between biotech and older varieties. We can have all of the above. Biotech will allow the luxury of heirloom plants and animals for those who want them. Productivity creates both wealth and options.

Re life being nasty, brutish and short - I do not credit biotech. It has not been around long enough. But it is entirely due to productivity in general and the application of technologies to our lives. In 1650, it was not possible to provide comfort and food security to most, or even many people.

Posted by: C&J at June 20, 2011 6:09 PM
Comment #324749
California has had and continues to have as many problems with invasives as any other state.

Nope C&J that is wrong. Here is but one example.

“In California, where we are focused on eradicating the
gypsy moth, it has been successfully eradicated 28
times at a total cost of just under $1 million. In contrast,
in the eastern United States,where they have given up on
eradcation and are attempting to control the pest, annual
expenditures have exceeded $35 million.”

Would you call that oligopoly?

No, but just because it wasn’t then doesn’t mean it isn’t now. As you said the ability to create biotech solutions is limited to very big corporations, which means there is little to no competition and as history has proven price fixing and corruption in the industry. No generics for how many years?

While I am sure benefits will come from the new bio-technologies we must ask at what cost. When corporations compete sometimes they lie, cheat and steal C&J. As we have seen a consistent pattern of capitalizing profits and socializing losses since Reagan and the conservative revolution rose to power why should we not protect ourselves against the oligopoly and solyent green solutions to the worlds food problems.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 20, 2011 7:21 PM
Comment #324755


All states try to do these same sorts of things. Virginia has controlled gypsy moths. Some states have eradicated longhorn beetles. New pest come and old ones come back.

For example, in Virginia we don’t allow some nursery stock from California because they have sudden oak death syndrome there.

I would like to fight these things at the borders. But we cannot win that way.

Take a look at this map of the emerald ash border (another Chinese immigrant). This bug is not very mobile on its own. It might advance a mile a year. Looks at how it is distributed. The thing hitches rides on the bottoms of cars and trucks.

I have driven into California several times. I have not knowingly brought anything like this, but the state does not and cannot check all the cars coming in well enough to keep out little bugs. They cannot even check well enough to keep out big bags of drugs or illegal aliens.

Re oligopoly - those that do not want to use the biotech seeds don’t need to use them. There are options.

Posted by: C&J at June 20, 2011 8:49 PM
Comment #324760

Many a time I was stopped by inspectors at the California border C&J. Depending upon the vehicle type and tags I was subject to questions,search or waved through. A few times the border station was closed.

The docks are perhaps a different story. Yes insects gain entry but a proactive eradication program goes a long way to solving the problem. Waiting for the biotech oligarchy to find a means to stop every new insect coming into the country may not be that effective if the money isn’t there for them to do the research.

To give up on eradication programs like some back east have done only exacerbates the problem.

Re oligopoly - those that do not want to use the biotech seeds don’t need to use them. There are options.

But that doesn’t make it less of an oligopoly C&J.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 20, 2011 10:16 PM
Comment #324764


Re invasives - we fight them as best we can. California overland has some advantages in that you have to cross mountains or deserts to get there. Beyond that, the different biomes are not continuous. You can go from the Atlantic to west of the Mississippi and still be in a very similar environment. If the forest bug rides 100 miles from Virginia, he can find a home in Kentucky. That same bug might not make it if he drops off in the Mohave.

All that said, California suffers from invasives, as your website indicates. The geography makes it easier to fight some sorts, but they keep coming.

Re oligopoly - If you have options, whether you call it an oligopoly or not, it doesn’t make much of a difference.

The oligopoly aspect comes from several traits. One is that is costs a lot to develop seeds, but even more important is the regulatory environment. You seen to think they have carte blanche. In fact, getting anything through the patent and regulatory regime is hard and requires deep pockets. Only a few firms can afford it.

However, as I said, you have lots of options. If you don’t want to use biotech, you can avoid it. There are plenty of heirloom seeds. If you want to eat those things or plant them, it is your choice.

I believe that our best hope of overcoming invasives and the quickly spreading diseases is to develop new varieties. These new varieties permit the survival of the older ones. A biotech world is more diverse.

BTW - there are lots of “invasives” that we like. Cows, horses, wheat, apples, honeybees, pigs, and even most of us could be called invasives. These thing are already firmly established. The environment has changed and can never be returned to 1607 conditions. We would not want to return to that, at least not me. We need to go forward.

Posted by: C&J at June 20, 2011 11:22 PM
Comment #324766

C&J no one has really advocated for a return to 1607. We are always going forward even when, at times, we go backward to get there. I just ask that we consider what we want as a nation and whether allowing an oligopoly to determine our agricultural future is in the best interests of our country.

Re california, the east coast is broken into smaller states but that doesn’t mean they cannot work to stop the spread of invasive pests that destroy crops and trees. It is tax money well spent.

Remember the bug that drops off in the Mohave has come from points east and had an interdiction program been active could have been stopped near the Atlantic. Pests coming in from ports on the Pacific have similar biomes throughout California.

So as a supporter of “free markets” you find no problem with supporting certain oligopoly’s as long as productivity is increased? Sounds more like corporate fascism to me C&J, the wrong road for we the people to travel down no matter the gain in productivity. Unintended consequences, or for that matter intended consequences, amount to the same thing, a loss of liberty for the rest of us.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 21, 2011 10:52 AM
Comment #324785


I am not talking about the states; I am talking about the biome.

A three hour drive from anyplace in California will take you across several biomes, each distinct and often inhospitable to plants and animals from the others. A three hour drive from anywhere in Virginia, Ohio etc. will take you to place that are mostly similar. That means that an oak tree chewing bug picked up in Ohio can drop off anywhere on the way to the Atlantic coast and find something to eat. It is a bigger invasive challenge. I am sure California does a good job, but it has natural barriers that east coast states do not.

I am not saying that we should not use the old methods of quarantine and border defense. But we should use all the tools at our disposal. Why eliminate one of the most promising tools? We may soon have a blight resistant American chestnut with the help of biotech. That is worth a lot, but - BTW - it will not make a lot of money for the creators.

The “the oligopoly” all advances are made by relatively small groups, which then spread to larger populations. I don’t see how this would be different from developments in computers, steel, or any other advanced product.

Market forces are still at work. The “oligopoly” is not deploying force to make you take their product or keep others out. There are competing products. You can plant your heirloom tomatoes now and forever, if that is what you want. What you seem to advocate is that we deploy the powers of coercion to stop biotech advances or at least prevent their use.

I understand the position you are taking. I enjoy preservation. I plant and protect some old native species just because. But in the wider world, science should prevail.

You can still use any of the non-biotech if you want. If the biotech products are not useful, they will die out or not be adopted. In other words, if biotech doesn’t deliver the results we want, it will go the way of Edsels, New Coke or peanut flavored bubble gum. The “oligopoly” will just have wasted its money in a failed experiment. Nice of them to foot the bill.

I repeat again the paradox of productivity. The higher productivity of biotech will allow the luxury of preservation of older plant and animal phenotypes if that is what people want. Once the food “base load” is satisfied, people and firms are freer to do other things they want.

Posted by: C&J at June 21, 2011 8:23 PM
Comment #324809

C&J, where is your evidence? Without evidence, you are just producing an advertising bit for Monsanto, etc. What does the evidence say about GMO seeds? How much have they increased productivity? How much has the dependence on pesticides and herbicides been reduced? How does the industries scientific data compare to independent studies?

Compared to other advances in agricultural techniques, have GMOs had comparable productivity increases.

“Nice of them to foot the bill.” The Supreme Court dismissed the class action suit against Monsanto by Bald Eagles and other Raptors.

Posted by: jlw at June 22, 2011 3:37 PM
Comment #324819


It is really very simple. If GMO crops do not increase productivity, nobody will use them. I give people choices. They decide whether or not it is a good deal.

Your challenge of comparing to other techniques indicates a profound misunderstanding of the situation. GMOs do NOT replace other techniques. They merely provide another alternative. Hybrid corn (a non-GMO but also not natural advance) was very effective, but attacked at first in the same way. You cannot save seeds, for example. All the apples you eat are from clones. Most people don’t know that.

I don’t trust people in authority to decide what people think they want. Liberals have trouble with that choice word unless it is applied to abortion.

I am aware of no peer reviewed, duplicatable study that has shown GMOs in general to be harmful. I have never heard of any study, even the BS variety, linking harm to eagles with GMOs.

So the conclusion is this:

-There is no verifiable harm from GMOs
-Farmers adopt GMOs because they think it gives them better results. They save money on pesticides, herbicides and work in the field
-Some people like the status quo and want to make laws against this

I think we should rely on the science. Science finds no harm. In that respect, a GMO apples is exactly like a GMO apple. Those who don’t like such things can avoid them. In doing so they will also avoid the benefits. If you think there are not benefits, that will be an easy price to pay.

Posted by: C&J at June 22, 2011 6:27 PM
Comment #324832

C&J, have you ever heard of any studies, even the BS variety, linking harm to eagles with another product of Monsanto?

Like many corporate products, with genetically engineered plants, we are the guinea pigs.

In the future, corporations will obviously, want to patent genetically modified humans and obviously, they will want their product to be property of the company.

I have no problem envisioning a demand for leasing work units that have been genetically modified and grown to be the best.

Why hire any old butler when you can lease a butler work unit, genetically modified to be a perfect butler, for a comparable price. Who in their right mind would want anyone but a genetically modified security guard work unit.

Posted by: jlw at June 22, 2011 9:32 PM
Comment #324837


We cannot make policy based on science fiction. You would have opposed electricity or airplanes a century ago.

Posted by: C&J at June 22, 2011 10:40 PM
Comment #324852

OK C&J and the rest of the skeptics on the dangers of GMO.
Here is a list of sites to begin your research, these are the home pages, I can only hope you are curious enough to actually read the information enclosed:

This should open your minds a bit to the crisis of GMO - bio engineering without preventing its release into unprotected crops is a major disaster in teh making for us. To say there is no studies on it means that you have not looked into it with some simple queries on google or even using Bing. Talk to your local farmers and hear the real story of the state of your food chain. Go to the Cooperative extension office and take a Master Gardeners Course and learn about healthly soil and plants.

Posted by: Kathryn at June 23, 2011 11:26 AM
Comment #324853

C&J as a scientist you ought to know that e.coli is a product of poor sanitation usually not an ORGANIC Food. IE one of those workers either took a pee in the vegies or forgot to wash his/her hands….

Posted by: Kathryn at June 23, 2011 11:28 AM
Comment #324874

Re your links:
This on ( is an advocacy page. It is like going to Glen Beck to find out what Howard Dean does. The fact that the lead articles start with a shocking video indicated its fundamentally tabloid nature.

Next ( is a derivative of the one above. It is a sales site for books and videos.

This one is ( has lots of “facts” that I already refuted in the text above. Lots of the accusations are just old. We used to worry about such things until more evidence came in to address the issues.

This one is simply a factual assessment of which countries have banned GMOs. It talks about how to test of GMOs ( It doesn’t argue for or against GMOs.

This one ( is a good general discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of GMOs. The biggest threat seems to be that some weeds could become resistant to herbicides, which would make GMOs less advantageous. The concerns are the normal ones you would have with any crop. Good article. It would not make you concerned about GMOs beyond the concern you would have with any crop.

I am sick of going through these. I bet you didn’t read them either, or else you probably would not have included the last two mentioned above.

I think you should open your mind a bit re GMOs and pay attention to the science instead of the fear.

Let me say again that if you choose not to use GMOs or if GMOs turn out to be economically unviable, they will not be used. I am just advocating choices.

Re organics – Organics are okay.I applaud those who want to grow them. But productivity is low. You mention the master gardener class. Think of what that means. Gardeners must spend a lot of time and effort in the garden. They enjoy it. But if each farmer had to spend as much time with each plant, we would have to have a lot more farmers and not everybody would enjoy it as much, or enjoy paying the high prices. 200 years ago, all farming was organic and labor intensive. It was not a time most of us would like.

Re eColi – I understand where it comes from. The point is that food supplies always have threats.Organic food is no safer than any other in this respect.

Posted by: C&J at June 23, 2011 6:50 PM
Comment #324881


“IE one of those workers either took a pee in the vegies…”

Any scientist would know that pee is, absent a kidney, or bladder disease, virtually sterile, and has been used as an antiseptic to wash wounds when other sources of water were unavailable.

Also, virtually every plant and animal we eat has been genetically modified. Some for centuries.

What Jack is talking about isn’t news.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at June 23, 2011 8:41 PM
Comment #324882

Hi Rocky

Glad you are back.

Posted by: C&J at June 23, 2011 8:48 PM
Comment #324884

Yes I have read the majority of the info within those links. My background happens to be in the horticulture science field as well as military - electronic and mechical fields. I don’t ” fear monger ” I research before forming my own opinions - I watch trends and patterns. Instead of being bored with the links - I chose a broad spectrum to show what is happening across the agricultural spectrum with differing opinions. If you haven’s read the book ‘Seed of Deception’ you should. Don’t get bogged downed by the references at the end of each chapter - just know that the author did his research and that each document, etc he used does in fact exist.
Economically - Europe will not accept US rice because of inadvertant contamination by GM Rice that was not FDA approved for release and was not adequately isolated from the local farmers in the Arkansas area. There are lawsuits pending and ones settled dealing with the loss of revenue to our farmers.
FDA just approved the release of GM Alfalfa - which will cross pollinate with the wild varieties that currently exist in the US. This will effectively cause them to become extinct in the pure form over time. Unintended consequences? or Greed in the purest form. It has nothing to do with productivity.
Productivity - it has been proven time and time again that extended use of chemical fertilizers, herb/pest will in fact destroy the beneficial organisms in the soil that actually build new soil and release the nutrients needed by plants. Unless you put the organic and mineral matter back into the ground you will destroy the lands ability to grow anything. Organic Methods are more productive per acre than monocropping agro-farming!! Check the farm stats on this over a wide range of crops. Yes I do read these as well!
Flooding of the Miss and Missouri Rivers will have 2 great consequenses: 1 - wash a good portion of the excess chemicals from the soil down stream into the Gulf of Mexico; 2 - renew the soil along the river plain by bringing in silt and organic matter from upstream and the river bottom. Hopefully there won’t be too much heavy metal dropped in the soil along the way - root crops just love to collect that. If people are stupid enough to build in a flood plain, they should expect to see a flood at some time in their life, same goes for those who live in other geograpically unstable zones or weather extreme areas. Know what you are getting into.
You seem to think that people who are concerned about the safety of consumables they have no control over want to live back in the dark ages? Don’t you think we have a right to know what is in out food? That if we don’t want to be eating pest/herb/bacteria DNA that we should be able to have the option to do so without fear of being sued due to cross-pollination issues? That we have a right to have access to the seeds to grow uncontaminated or un-Modified patent free food? What right do these companies have to control out food choices and availability? Since when do they know best what is healthy for me, my kids, grandkids and family? Next time you go to the market - look at how many varieties of each vegetable is in the fresh vegie section. This year I have planted, so far: 2 varieties of cukes, 6 beans, 2 tomatoes, 1 squash, 1 leek, 1 celery, 2 broccoli, 1 brusselsprout, 1 parsley, 2 dill, 2 basil, 2 sage, 2 carrot, 1 head lettuce, +6 salad greens mix, hot peppers and that is just the lower garden. I also have a perenial herb garden that has thyme, sage, chives, oregano, wild strawberry, lemon balm, etc. Then there is the upper garden that has the apple, pear, plum trees, grape vines, rhubarb, chives, various flowering plants to attract pollinators and room for more veggies. This is where the corn, potatoes(typically 3 var.), peas, addition beans, pole beans, squash varieties that need extra room - like banana, speghetti, pumpkins and the mints - peppermint, lemon balm, spearmint and pineapple mint. so just with what I can easily grow on my less than 2acre plot I can eat better and much tastier than any GMO item you can by in the store.

Posted by: Kathryn at June 23, 2011 9:24 PM
Comment #324888


Organic farming can be more productive per acre, but not per unit of input. That is why we don’t do more of it. It is usually also not more productive per acre, BTW, another reason we don’t do more of it.

Organic farming can be a good thing. It just is not sufficient to feed the current population.

Re getting “bogged down in references” that is what I do. I often find that conclusions are not justified by the references or the data. That is what I did with your references. Of course, I will not devote an inordinate amount of time.

Re wild varieties of alfalfa - as you must know, alfalfa is not a native of North America. All the varieties currently present are the result of human introduction and development. To the extent that wild varieties currently exist, they are invasive. They have already cross pollinated with many of the varieties of human developed alfalfa. The “original” variety is probably already near extinct.

In general, I take a reasonable stance toward these things. I do not believe they are a panacea, but GMOs are no different in function than a plant developed through conventional breeding. If they are less productive than the conventional varieties, farmers will not plant them.

People are still free to plant organic crops and I understand your love of variety in vegetables and fruit. Not everybody has the time or inclination. And not every farmer has the skill or the luxury to grow organics.

You have the choice to grow organics. We should allow those who prefer less expensive foods to have the same choice.

Posted by: C&J at June 23, 2011 10:02 PM
Comment #375626

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