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Anti-biotech crowd convinced GMO food is road to extinction

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  • Anti-biotech crowd reacts to comparison of conventional, biotech plant breeding. Wait until they discover biotech widely used in advancing conventional breeding.

My last commentary/blog about tackling the GMO food labeling issue head-on in a ballot initiative apparently touched a few nerves in the anti-biotech crowd. Most did not like the notion that genetically modified covers traditional as well as biotech plant breeding and should be included on any ballot initiative discussing the labeling of some food as genetically modified. It’s all genetically modified in my book.

Here are a few of the comments appearing in the commentary/blog:

“I read 5 outright lies before I got to the fifth paragraph. This is biotech propaganda.”

“Many Americans are fed endless amounts of GM food that barely satisfies them and makes them sicker than all other people in the world, despite more money being spent on health care in the U.S. than in any other place in the world. There is a short term "pre-extinction" gain by GMO agri-business, naturally ending. The End. Who wants to feed Dinosaurs?”

“GMO is in our food supply in huge quantities and is poisoning our farmland and the American people. We should label it so NO ONE BUYS this poison.”

“Your lies will catch up with you, Are you feeding your families foods that have had E. Coli put in them so will not fight off the GM inserts? Hmmm. If a plant refuses to accept Genetic Modification and you have to put a food borne illness in it to confuse its immune system and you say it is not harmful. Stop the Lies. It is all about you folks being so greedy that the people of the world have to suffer.”

"Liars. Liars.”

“Thank you Harry, for your calming words. I think Harry Cline is an idiot, but his ranting lies made me want to cry. Hopefully the majority have more sense.”

“The author is either grossly disinformed (sp?) or a shill for the biotech industry. Either way this diatribe amounts to a severely distorted piece of propaganda intended solely to further the biotech industry's objectives by attempting to blur the line between conventional genetic breeding and the completely unnatural and severely disruptive biotech gene insertion methods.”

“This author obviously works for Monsanto or has drank their GE Kool Aid. Our world's hunger is not for lack of the ability to grow enough food, (we have food surpluses worldwide) it is about getting the food that we have into the mouths of those who need it....it is about tyrannical governments withholding food from their poor to exert control over them.”

“What a total outrage. There is a huge difference between breeding plants and animals and GE. IE you will never find a rat breeding with a tomato and producing a viable offspring. Yet you would have people believe that splicing rat DNA into a tomato is no different than mixing different variates (sp?) of tomatoes.” I love this last one. I can see GMO tomatoes running after tomato harvesters on rat legs squeaking “Wait for me!”

Many took me to task for comparing conventional breeding with biotech-enhanced breeding of GMO crops saying the former is “natural” and the other frankenfood that is killing off society. These folks are really going to flip when they learn that the technology used to develop so-called GMO crops is widely used to enhance conventional or as they call it “naturalized” breeding.

According to an Iowa State University study consumers are willing to pay extra for healthier genetically modified foods using this biotechnology.

This science is called “intragenic modification” and refers to plants that are genetically modified with genes from other plants within their own species.

Genetic markers in plants act like chemical flags indicating a particular generic trait is in a plant. Using genomic information called Marker-Assisted Selection (MAS) like that used in transgenic breeding, plant breeders can dramatically speed classic breeding efforts, according to Dr. Peggy Lemaux, University of California, Berkeley, cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist.

MAS allows plant breeders to screen large populations of plants quickly to select plants with a high likelihood of having a specific trait, even if that trait cannot be easily seen in the plant in the field, like malting quality or disease resistance when the actual pathogen is not present. This is particularly useful because some plants are difficult to traditionally crossbreed for a variety of reasons. For example, there are thousands of types of potatoes, for instance, each having some unique genetic traits. But since they reproduce by using an internal seed or eye of the potato, improving them through crossbreeding with other potatoes is difficult.

This biotechnology is used to identify specific desirable plant DNA without the introduction of infected plants in a traditional breeding program. For no other reason, this biotechnology tool can prevent the unintended spread of plant diseases.

Finding markers without genomic/DNA information is like looking through an encyclopedia that is not alphabetized and has no index.

This element of biotechnology could mean the difference between an undeveloped country feeding its population or millions starving because of grain diseases. Anything that reduces the time it takes to develop new food crops is an incredible scientific advancement, and it has come out of the same technology that has given the world GMO crops.

The difference between intragenic and transgenic is that the former is used to breed like species and the latter is used to transfer genes between different species. I see no difference in using the same technology to develop healthier, higher yielding and more healthy food, regardless of where the positive traits are extracted. The whole issue of breeding rats with tomatoes is simply too bizarre and implausible to even debate.

"What we found was when genes for enhancing the amount of antioxidants and vitamin C in fresh produce were transferred by intragenic methods, consumers are willing to pay 25 percent more than for the plain product (with no enhancements). That is a sizable increase," said Wallace Huffman, Iowa State distinguished professor of economics.

Consumers' acceptance of genetically modified plants is a real turnaround from previous research, according to Huffman.

In 2001, Huffman first researched consumers' willingness to pay for transgenic foods. At that time, he showed that consumers would pay 15 percent less for foods made from or containing farmer traits introduced by transgenic methods, compared with produce that was not genetically modified at all.

It does seem that buying foods made healthier for people through intragenics does not make consumers uneasy, he said.

However, consumers were not willing to pay more if those enhancements were introduced through transgenic methods, he added.

That is the ludicrous, since the technology used for intragenic and transgenic plants are the same. It is absurd because the only reason consumers believe that way is the blatant lies and false information spewed from the anti-biotech thugs.

In an open voter initiative debate over labeling food one way or the other, it seems the time is ripe to take on the anti-biotech crowd on their own terms and truly inform the public about how society has benefited from biotech. This initiative must be labeled for what it is; an attack on one company, Monsanto, and corporate America. It has nothing to do with food safety. They think by labeling certain foods as GMO, they will stop the advancement of biotech. It is far too late for that.

Splitting hairs between the sources of positive traits in plants is a fight the anti-biotech crowd would lose.

It would be an ugly fight, but one where reason and science could prevail. It seems things start in California. It is time the anti-biotech movement is stopped here.

(To read Harry Cline's initial GMO column, please see: Time to take on anti-biotech crowd over GMO labeling)

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 28, 2011

Oh please, genetic modification has delivered only two traits in all this time, after all the billions of dollars invested in research: Bt toxicity and herbicide tolerance, meanwhile the plants it produces are smaller and weaker than non-modified plants, due to poor manganese absorbtion. Meanwhile, herbicides like glyphosate kill off nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which are essential to plant development (it poisons the soil). I like how you also skirt around the issue of superweeds resulted from overuse of glyphosate that choke GM farmers' fields, so they end up paying way more than 10 years ago for weed management. Why don't you stop being an online talking head and start telling the whole story?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 28, 2011

A healthy GE-trait: Golden rice – a GE plant – includes vitamin A to prevent blindness in poor children who eat mainly rice. Anti-GE activists have limited development of the crop and its delivery to needy areas.

If you think GE food is going to hurt you, maybe it's time to recognize agriculture as unnatural, growing only one or two types of plant in a field, seeding them for our own convenience and cutting off all the seeds or fruit! Maybe we should go back to hunting and gathering – there'd be fewer people in the world so the environment would be better for some species.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 5, 2011

Golden rice only contains a precursor to vitamin A, and only people who consume already balanced diets have the metabolic components necessary to produce vitamin A from the precursor. One of these components is adequate fat consumption, which is never met by poor people subsisting on rice. And, the WHO concluded that individuals would need to consume massive amounts of this rice to meet their vitamin A needs anyway.

All golden rice does is attempt to put a band-aid on poor diets, when focus should be put on getting more real food to poor people. Simply giving these people carrot seeds and educating them on how to grow them would do more for them than all the golden rice in the world.

Jan Dietrick (not verified)
on Sep 28, 2011

I wonder why the participants weren't informed by the findings of independent food safety researchers, i.e. scientists who don't take grants from the biotech industry and who are allowed to publish findings that cast doubt about food safety. Genetic engineering, whether transgenic or cisgenic, risks a higher rate of unpredictable mutations. Only one mutation on one gene can have very big consequences on host metabolism. Were the participants told that such genetically manipulated products had been tested following the Cartagena International Protocol on Biosafety? Were they informed enough to make a decision about how long the products should be tested in feeding studies on lab animals before being given to humans? The longest test that has ever been done in mammals is only 90 days and only on some, not nearly all, GMO crops that are already at a high level in the food supply. Within that 90 days, according to Monsanto's own data (data that it took five years of Monsanto losing multiple lawsuits for CRIIGEN to obtain), animals showed toxicity in their liver and kidneys. To put it another way, signs of abnormal changes in cells and tissues of rats that could underlie chronic disease appeared after just 3 months of eating GMO food. No other feeding studies have ever been done, or at least are not being made available to the public. Rather than being concerned and investing in longer studies with results accessible to the public, Monsanto dismissed these effects using faulty theoretical assumptions, such as about differences in the sex of the animals, and released their products with no labeling into the American food system meanwhile spending half a billion dollars to influence the US Congress not to pass a labeling law. However 150 other countries have demanded labeling and longer food safety studies. The biotech industry and researchers like Dr. Huffman are comfortable with the American people serving as blind subjects in a massive food safety experiment where there are no data being collected in part because there is no labeling. If it is such a benefit to consumers, why doesn't the biotech industry want the products labeled?

on Oct 18, 2011

I just think their vision is a bit out of the line. Road to extinction? Where did that come from? The technological improvements will most definitely lead us to more healthy lifestyles, in fact this is one of the reasons why I recently started to use the healthy meals delivered services. This is just another way of supporting the industry. Have some faith people!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 16, 2012

I am a person who loves science and who has kept abreast of new technologies. For me it is a personal choice not to eat GMO's and I go out of my way to buy natural products, only to find out later that it contained GMO's. To me this is false advertising;t GMO manipulation is anything but natural. Nature does not splice unrelated species into plants and the most worrisome of this activity are the viruses and bacteria that are used. With the exception of a rare mutation, most living creatures derive their genetic makeup from their parents, whether it be a plant or an animal. Bacteria and viruses can horizontially transmit their genetic material, meaning that they only need to be in contact with a host to swap genetic material. This has been proven with GMO's, when they found GMO genetic markers when scientists did a gut fauna research study on humans living in the U.K. where GMO's had been banned. And as one person has already commented a Canadian research study has found that GMO's have transmitted from mother to unborn child. It has not been proven or disproven if they can also pass through the blood/brain barrier as well.
The other concern is that anything can be spliced into our food and we won't even know it. Already we are literally eating insecticides; we use to be able to wash the residue off. Tell me why is there research being done on corn genectically spliced with a natural human spermicide by the California biotech company, Epicyte? Who is meant to eat this corn?

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