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Tue Aug 26, 2014, 01:32 PM

GMO foods - is the problem the technique or the applications and sales methods?

It's been pointed out many times that GMO foods have never been shown to be harmful to consume, and that humans have tinkered with the genetics of plants and animals for eons using unnatural selection.

So - let us suppose for argument's sake that there is nothing wrong with modifying plant and animal genetics via the insertion of genes.

Here are some objections I have

1. Inserting genes to produce Bt toxins: Organic farmers do use Bt bacteria as needed, aware that overuse of Bt will select for an insect population resistant to Bt. In other words, for organic farmers, Bt is a last ditch effort to handle an overwhelming insect population. By limiting the use of Bt, organic farmers are making an effort to preserve its usefulness. Inserting a gene to produce Bt is the equivalent to dosing every kid with penicillin daily. Sooner or later, the penicillin becomes useless.

2. there is a risk that genetically modified organism will escape into the wild and out produce existing natural species;

http://www.seafoodbusiness.com/articledetail.aspx?id=4295000307

3. There is a general focus on modifying food crops to withstand herbicides and pesticides. The assumption behind this is that we have no alternative methods to produce sufficient food. There is actual research that using so-called organic methods will over the long haul produce as much food as conventional methods, while also using less energy and building up a thicker soil base able to tolerate both droughts and deluges better than fields farmed with conventional methods.


Here is something I find very interesting about GMO crops:

Golden rice: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/03/07/173611461/in-a-grain-of-golden-rice-a-world-of-controversy-over-gmo-foods

If you read the article, the controversy seems to be focused on serving this rice to experimental populations without proper information and consent. The actual product, the Golden Rice, appears to be a life saver.

So, back to my original question: Is there a fundamental problem with GM foods, or is the problem with the way this technique has been applied and/or the products sold to consumers? Up to now, producers have been very reluctant to label GMO products, leading consumers world wide to suspect that something is being hidden from them. What if, say, a cereal box was labelled to note that it was made with GMO oats, modified to produce Omega-3 oils?

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Reply GMO foods - is the problem the technique or the applications and sales methods? (Original post)
hedgehog Aug 2014 OP
arcane1 Aug 2014 #1
rurallib Aug 2014 #2
Chathamization Aug 2014 #3
hedgehog Aug 2014 #4

Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Tue Aug 26, 2014, 01:40 PM

1. A very reasonable post on this topic. It's much appreciated!

 

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Tue Aug 26, 2014, 01:57 PM

2. I take issue with your very first sentence

I don't think I have ever posted on GMO food, but your first sentence is quite a general and broad statement which as far as I know has not been independently corroborated:
'It's been pointed out many times that GMO foods have never been shown to be harmful to consume'

are there independent studies and could you cite such, please? Just because it "has been pointed out" doesn't mean the studies have been done.

Hybridization to me is not quite the same as introducing foreign genes into a species.

I am not a biologist so please enlighten me if you can.

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Response to rurallib (Reply #2)

Tue Aug 26, 2014, 02:19 PM

3. I had a problem with that too, especially since genetic modification can introduce new allergens

GMO soy beans and Brazil-nut allergens. To the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing inherently harmful about GMOs, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are safe to eat. It’s like arguing that plants are safe to eat – well, some are, and some will kill you. It depends on the plant.

This is one of the reasons why I’m not entirely sanguine about new GMO foods being introduced. It’s like if a friend took you on one of those “eat the weeds” tours, and when you asked them if it was safe to eat a particular leaf, they replied “Of course, plants have been proven to be safe for human consumption.” Wouldn’t inspire a lot of confidence, would it?

As to how it compares to other breeding techniques – well, it’s going to introduce some issues that don’t occur elsewhere. Though some of the GMO cheerleaders here have argued it’s all the same, the people who actually work on GMOs say they’re creating organisms they couldn’t create with other methods. On the other hand, my understanding is other methods (which often involve radiating seeds and sifting through the mutations) introduce certain issues no present in GMOs.

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Response to rurallib (Reply #2)

Tue Aug 26, 2014, 02:44 PM

4. My first sentence was an attempt to encapsulate statements that have been made many times here at DU

on threads discussing GMOs. Generally, these posts break down into one side pointing to articles in science journals and the other side pointing to articles in consumer/environmental literature. My OP is an attempt to move the conversation forward with the proposition that inserting genes is a technique that in and of itself is not harmful, but which may be applied in a harmful manner and/or with unintended consequences. Another underlying reason for opposition to GMO foods is the perception that this technique is being used to advance the interests of giant corporations rather than those of the small producer and the consumer. I think the question of who benefits most from GMO foods is a separate discussion from whether or nor humanity should be using this technique.

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