Adoption of genetically engineered crops in the U.S.

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Plazma Inferno!, Sep 2, 2016.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Guys - it's not rocket science. It's biology 101: All plants allocate the resources available to them, with various degrees of efficiency, to perform the various functions of being a plant. They do all kinds of stuff with them - for one thing, they grow and establish and defend the mechanical means by which they obtain the resources in the first place. But each thing they do, each expression of code, each function performed and structure grown, costs them some of their limited resources.

    There is no free lunch. A certain amount of the work put into Task A involves energy lost, some of the resources devoted to Task A are permanently sequestered in physical structure and no longer available for other Tasks. Nothing can be in two places at the same time, no machine can be perfectly efficient. Nitrogen unrecoverably put into stems and leaves is nitrogen no longer available to put into corn kernels. Neither is at least some of the energy used to put it there, or recover whatever could be.

    Resources - energy, nutrients - diverted and devoted to the structures and functions of Bt expression, or glyphosate poisoning resistance, or any other damn thing, is thereby made unavailable to put into corn kernels - or stems and leaves, for that matter. From our pov, a yield hit. This is widely known as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    If you divert some of a plant's available resources into new structures and new functions, on top of the old ones, not present before and in addition to and all else being equal and so forth, the old functions are left with less in the way of available resources. This is physical reality. Bt expression and glyphosate resistance are two such structures and functions. So are all of the other currently marketed GMs, as far as I know. A yield hit from this is inevitable - no yield hit would violate the 2nd Law. The only question is how big it is, and whether the other advantages (which might even result in net yield gains, in certain circumstances) make up for it.

    One of the many costs of the current GMO development and marketing is the spread and imposition of the bad side of industrial agriculture incorporated within it - the ecological, economic, and political damage done. This is a common area in which GMO proponents seem oblivious to the objections of critics, and end up accusing them of being anti-science or irrationally against "GMOs".
    Sure you can. It's a whole shelf in the Blaine Walmart. Or so I'm told, by apologists for the current GMO deployments.
    Are you pretending to not understand the argument, or honestly oblivious?

    Let's try an example: One documented method of suicide among farmers ruined by the economic damage of the currently marketed GMOs, is by drinking the chemicals necessarily on hand in current GMO farming - especially (because they work better) the more poisonous and more expensive ones that were not supposed to be needed any more, but turned out to be essential and used in large quantities. Does that count as "killed by GMOs"?
    The risks to humans are ecological, economic, and political, not just medical. And they are quite serious, large, scary risks. They are larger and more serious even than they need to be, because the commercial promulgators of GMOs seem to be oblivious to them - or worse, dismissive.
    That little fairy tale is nothing like what actually happened, of course. And it has little to do with GMOs. You do know that?

    There was a blight, for example, the Irish Potato Famine, that occurred long after the disease-resistant crops had been bred. There were many varieties of potato available, from centuries of farming and breeding and so forth in the northern Andes mountains, some of them blight resistant, but they were unsuited to the needs of the early manifestations of industrial agriculture taking hold in the British Isles at the time. Also, the basic research had not been done, so the threat was unknown.

    When the imprudently rapid - commercially/politically/economically pushed and promoted - expansion of an unfamiliar mode of agriculture crossed paths with one of its (several) key vulnerabilities, all of them unknown, the population of the region that had adopted (been pressured and forced to adopt, actually) this single, dependent, highly productive mode of food production, dropped by half within about five years. Millions starved. Millions emigrated, desperately poor. Fortunately, they had somewhere to emigrate to without war - an unusual, almost unique circumstance in human history. It could have been much worse than mere mass starvation.

    Other examples? The Dust Bowl, Yellow River, and Mexico City region ecological disasters of history, the financial or credit crunch famines of places like Haiti and other post-colonial degradations. There's a fairly long list of these.

    Every known risk - medical, ecological, economic, political - of the current deployment of the currently deployed GMOs has caused disaster in the past. That's why we call them "known risks". The issue we face with them is largely the new scale - from islands to continents.

    The issue we face with the unknown is larger yet.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2016
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Exactly. From a farmer's perspective, he's not as interested in the total grams of phosphorous, nitrogen and CO2 are consumed to produce a gram of corn. He's interested in what the SYSTEM (which includes his soil, his seed, his water and his labor) produces.
    That is definitely a cost of industrial agriculture. It is not a cost unique to GMO agriculture.
    If you want to use such indirect metrics, OK.

    How many farmers commit suicide because they fall into financial ruin by NOT using GMO's? And are you comfortable supporting such a death toll?
    Yes, they are. They are risks - not realities. I am all for testing of GMO's to minimize those risks unique to GMO's.

    Now, if you are talking about the risks due to industrial agriculture, they are also quite large. They have to be traded against the benefits that higher yields bring. That's just common sense. You could mandate that all food is grown organically and sustainably; a lot of people would then die because food prices would increase. You could tell farmers to do whatever they want, and not worry about issues like groundwater contamination, water table depletion, irrigation water access and antibiotic-resistant pathogens. You would then have very cheap food (at least for a while) but again people would die because of the evolved pathogens and the lack of safe water - and the future yields will suffer as well. (And of course the downstream farmers would also die off.)

    There is a medium that balances those two extremes. It is largely independent of the risks posed by GMO's.
    They were clearly not resistant to that blight. Newer varieties are more resistant, both by simple evolution (existing strains in Ireland survived the Irish blight) and through breeding (seeds that are blight-resistant are sought by farmers.) These reduce losses until Phytophthora evolves again and finds a new way to cause blight.

    The same thing, of course, will happen with GMO's. Today's crop that cuts insect damage by 80% will only be 50% effective in a few years, when several generations of pests evolve resistance to the plant's new defenses.
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    So we are agreed: there is an inherent yield hit built into the currently marketed GMOs.
    It is a direct cost of the current deployment of GMOs. We are not discussing theoretical GMOs in isolated happyland, we are discussing what is being deployed now and how that is being done.
    Most of them would be laid to the GMO side of the ledger, if you intended the word "by".
    1) Risks are realities. That's how casinos make their money.
    2) They are not being tested. It's not even certain we know how to test them or what to test for, entirely.

    We are discussing GMOs in reality, in real life, as currently deployed. Not as one would "favor" them. The question is not whether you are for testing them, but whether you are for deploying them on continental scales without testing them.
    Yes, they were. They were resistant to the blight, and the subsequent breeding of blight resistance into Irish and North American potatoes involved breeding them and from them. They had been bred and planted hundreds of years before by Peruvian farmers.
    And so you agree that the denial of that obvious likelihood by the marketers of GMOs, the basing of their predicted benefits on that not happening and denial of the likelihood of the harm done by that happening, is a bad thing.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2016
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

    No. Go back two posts, when a poster agreed that there are "other advantages which might even result in net yield gains." I'll let you argue with that Iceaura.
    So if a farmer commits suicide because of problems he incurs by cultivating GMO's, his death was caused by GMO's.
    If a farmer commits suicide because of problems he incurs by NOT cultivating GMO's, his death was caused by GMO's.

    If that's the level of argument you are going to attempt, then have a good night.
  8. sculptor Valued Senior Member

  9. coffeetablescience Registered Member

    Seriously, where are you getting this information from. And if you trust your source so well, could you tell me what are likely dates of replacement of the current product, release date date of the next product and its expected replacement date.

    Its a knee jerk reflex, not planned execution. The fact that another variety had to be released is because the first one failed in real life and this was not recognized in the field tests. ot probably, it was and it was ignored. You tell me which is worse?

    Not because iPhone 7 is released.

    Yes but if you continue to use iPhone 6, it does not wither in your hand or stops working after its battery is drained. You have the option to recharge it and use it again. It case of Bt cotton, it was not the same. You could not use the previous seeds and you had to buy the new seeds at a larger cost.

    I never said toxic. There is difference between damaging and toxic. I don't think GMOs are toxic. Do you think they are toxic?
  10. coffeetablescience Registered Member

    There is a difference between the result of breeding and the deliberate silencing of reproduction systems. Banana cultivators do not rely on a single company for their plantations. In case of Bt, you are stuck with one company and one company alone. Its monopolistic, fails on its promises and costs you a bomb.
  11. coffeetablescience Registered Member

    How is this a direct metric?
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    1) Don't put things in quote marks that are not quotes, especially when misrepresenting my posts. It's unethical. Here's the quote, in context - note the differences in language and meaning:
    2) So I am in full agreement with myself throughout. Your confusion is mysterious: Do you understand the concept of the "net gain" from "other advantages" that depend on "certain circumstances", or do I need to explain even more basic concepts than those of introductory plant physiology in a science forum, as if talking to a young and unusually dim ten year old?

    Extra functions engineered into a plant's genome, on top of the existing ones and auxiliary to them, will divert more resources into non-yield structures and behaviors, will lower yield. The only question is by how much. Both Bt expression and glyphosate resistance are such functions, and unless the second Law of Thermodynamics has been repealed recently they impose an inherent yield hit on the crops that carry those GMs. So does every other deployed agricultural GM that I know of.

    In the hypothetical world of potential, one can imagine GMs that might in theory inherently increase yield - symbiotic structure and function leading to nitrogen fixation in maize, for example. But they do not exist yet.
    That would be a plausible and apparently observed pattern when local agricultural economies are wrecked by the arrival of multinational agribusiness concerns marketing GMOs, yes. Local farmers often face a damned if you do, damned it you don't situation; and their government has often been essentially purchased, or rented, for the occasion.

    Do you find this difficult? Again, the Indian cotton disaster illuminates, one of many examples but less fraught because it did not directly involve food. Google is your friend.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2016
  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

    It's not. They are both indirect metrics; I wanted to compare apples to apples.

    I would much rather use direct metrics, which is why I asked for such examples.
    Of COURSE it is because the iPhone 7 was released. If the iPhone 7 was not released - if somehow the iPhone 6 represented the most capable, most cost effective phone that could ever be built - they would never stop building the 6, and would never change it. But technology (both genetic and electronic) technology moves on.
    You are correct! However, with time it will become less and less capable as new applications no longer support the old hardware, and as new wireless protocols are no longer supported by the old hardware. With time the battery will no longer hold a charge. With time you will not be able to have it repaired due to lack of spare parts. (I have a drawer full of ten year old cellphones to demonstrate this if you would like some examples.) Just as a given GMO (or a given pest-resistant hybrid) will become less effective with time as evolution progresses.
    For a short time, yes. Then it will die, and you will have to buy a new phone. Does that mean the Iphone 6 was a failure?
    Right. And you cannot plant an Iphone 6 and get an Iphone 7 either (or even an Iphone 6.) You have to buy a new phone at larger cost when it fails.
    Nope, they are no more toxic than any other hybrid. (Good to see you agree.)
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That's just the one purchased device: all else being equal, you could simply buy another IPhone 6 or a new battery or whatever and be happy. It's the phone itself, the one in your hand, that screws up or is made obsolescent, not the world around it reacting to its presence by trashing it and everything it resembles.

    The situation with GMOs is much different. Let's fix your misleading analogy:

    How about an IPhone that not only wore out, but damaged the entire continent-wide cellphone transmission system so that nobody else could use any cellphone based on anything resembling its setup.

    And risked unmonitored and unevaluated medical harm to anyone who took a call from it.

    And ruined the local economies of the people manufacturing the thing.

    And occasionally multiplied itself, distributing pieces of its chipset progeny and associated operating code all over the place including into the logic modules of nearby cars and televisions.

    There's your GMO.
    And so marketing any GMO by denial of that fact, or by concealing how rapidly such harm will predictably be done and the consequences of it, is a very bad thing. Reasonable people would oppose doing that.
    Nonsense. GMOs of certain kinds, the ones created by engineered inclusion of phylogenetically distant code, are far, far more likely to be toxic or otherwise medically harmful in unexpected ways than any hybrid created by breeding.

    We have already seen that happen in crude and obvious ways - the famous inclusion of supposedly benign tree nut code in GM soybeans, to fill out the amino acid profile, for example. You can't get anything like that by breeding soybeans - soybean breeders don't have to worry about it.

    Note that it was not caught by the pros who did it and marketed it (they just verified the problem after being alerted by bystanders - it was caught essentially by accident, and the discovery forced the emergency recall of actually distributed product, commercially marketed at retail to the public. Nobody knows how many people, if any, were medically affected - nobody tracked.

    That's how oblivious the pros were, in the 1990s. There is no indication they have learned anything, except to be a bit more wary of allergies - they were talking then as they are talking now, exactly, about GMO risk. Even with allergies they have been slipshod since - the famous recall of Starlink corn was years after the nut-allergy soybeans, and one can find references to papers (behind paywalls) that appear to question the effectiveness of even the minimal allergy screening being done.

    Obliviousness and denial among the pros in charge is a threat. It is, in itself, an indication of high risk. When the pros are saying things like "it is a consensus of science that GMOs are safe", we're in serious danger.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2016
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  15. coffeetablescience Registered Member

    You cannot use an analogy for a literal example. What are you thinking when you say plant an iPhone. Is it the same as planting cotton, brinjal or potatoes?

    Hybrids are not toxic. Breeding does not create toxicity of the soil, water and in animals / humans who consume it. Like Iceaura said, imagine your iPhone replicating itself in a way where it embeds itself/ software into every other electronic device you have creates unstable devices that are all over your house and you do not know what device will suddenly stop working, it could be your heating system, home burgler alarm or probably the ventilator your grand parent is on. To top it off, your iPhone is something you paid upfront for, does not work the way its supposed you, you are left running around seeking help from one technical guy to another and they tell you. 'Its ok, we have a iPhone 100 coming up this fall. Just wait for it, it will solve all your problems, and its technological advancement like never before.'

    That's the state of GMOs right now.

    You would be happy with that?

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