anonymous asked:

What are considered Gmos? My friend says that they have to be manipulated in a lab, but many biology blogs say that a selectively bred animal or plant is a gmo.

Hey! I can understand your confusion, and I apologize for being one of those people who purposefully muddies the water around the definition of what exactly is a genetically modified organism.

The best description I could find was the one legally defined by the European Union: “An organism is genetically modified if its genetic material has been changed in a way that does not occur under natural conditions through cross-breeding or natural recombination”

These would include things like, in agriculture, introduced resistances to things that crops would normally be susceptible to - either natural pathogens (fungi, parasites, bacteria, viruses, etc), or something like an artificially-created herbicide to facilitate weed management (“Roundup Ready” crops that are resistant to the glyphosate herbicide Roundup). Ideally, it is used to enable more sustainable and efficient farming.

This would also include genetically engineered animals - a phrase that likely sparks fear into the majority of people, but, like in the plants mentioned above, boils down to just the addition of recombinant DNA (essentially a controlled version of DNAs natural reproductive process of genetic recombination) that produces the desired trait. For example, AquAdvantage Salmon that reach adult size faster due to an introduced growth hormone gene being controlled by an ocean pout gene promoter; VERY good news for the fishing industry, and as a result, the environment - since this means less demand on wild-caught sources. Science is so cool, you guys.

On the other hand, you’ve probably heard terms like artificial selection or selective breeding bandied about - and this is essentially the pre-labs, extremely long-game version of GMOs. Not to mention the version that is usually touted as being better since it’s “natural”, as though anything produced in a lab is sent straight from the ninth circle of Hell itself (looking at you, anti-vaxxers)

These are things like most of our basic food crops and domesticated animals, where humans have affected the evolution of the target organism to get the desired trait over hundreds and thousands of years. Such as how the extinct aurochs became more meat-heavy cows, wild teosinte became higher-yield corn, and Brassica became literally everything else, to a point where I wouldn’t even be surprised if dogs had some B. oleracea in them. 

So, artificial selection and GMOs overlap in a lot of ways, but I hope I clarified the subject a little bit better. Enjoy your Brassica oleracea canis

(TW: Vaxxed, bodily functions) In the 2016 propaganda film “Vaxxed”, the founder of CARD cites “GMO products” as one of several autism causes. Now it may seem strange that she added the word “products” instead of just saying GMOs (GMO is a noun all its own, not an adjective to slap on other things) but I think I’ve figured out what she meant: it’s not the GMOs themselves, it’s other things that are produced *by* the GMOs that cause autism. For example, all dogs (not including wolves) are GMOs, and they all produce poop, which makes dog poop a GMO product. According to the makers of Vaxxed, autism is caused by dog poop.

I literally cannot argue against this, this is too factually sound, wow

Ooooh people are raging about GMO free food now. I wonder if they know how, say, a banana would look if it WASN’T GMO. (Short answer for impatient people: not edible)

i have more ideas about mutant worldbuilding and they’re all allegoric. ok what about….. non-mutants pressing for person-first language. “you’re not a mutant, you’re a person with a mutation!!” bad organizations that claim to be pro-mutant but are actually pro-“find a cure for being a mutant.” foodies saying gmos and food dyes cause mutations. “i’m gene-blind! i don’t see you as a mutant!”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the whole “GMOs are bad for you” propaganda is distracting from the real problem with GMOs, which is the economically exploitative business model of Monsanto and other companies which specialize in that field. We’ve been genetically modifying food since before we even began to understand genetics. The entire cultivar of bananas we eat is genetically modified. Every cultivar of apples we eat is genetically modified. Selective breeding and other genetic modification processes to make food larger and tastier are a significant part of agriculture and have been for centuries. All the “but it’s not natural so it’s bad!” people have literally zero understanding of how the food we eat comes to be. Using more modern techniques to do the same things we’ve been doing for centuries is not scary. It’s progress. And modern genetic modification techniques allow us to develop cultivars that are larger, hardier, more resistant to disease and pests, and grow in larger quantities, which (if it weren’t for the economic issues I’m about to discuss) could allow us to feed waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more people without using much more in the way of resources.

The problem with GMOs is, as far as I know, twofold. One, there are patented genes, which should not be legal. This means that if you’re caught growing those particular versions of those crops without licensing them, you’re open to lawsuits from the patent holders. This is even true in cases where seeds from crops on neighboring properties have blown over in the wind or carried over by animals. Two, there are patented crops which are seedless, like many cultivars of different crops modified with old world techniques, that have to be repurchased from the manufacturer every season. These are also subject to the same patent laws and thus if you find a way around the need to repurchase, you are legally liable for damages to the manufacturer.

These are obviously exploitative practices which, while they do very little harm to large farms with substantial income and subsidies, hurt poor farms, especially in poorer countries. And pressure from the major Western powers, particularly the US, has assisted corporations in exploiting those poorer countries. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, Monsanto offered a year of free seeds to Haitian farmers who lost their crops. The next year, they were expected to either pay full price for a new set of seeds or destroy any future crops. This is an unacceptable model.

The bullshit “it’s not natural!” whining about GMOs is actually harmful to prospects of correcting the economic injustices caused by the current way of handling that side of agriculture. By centering the conversation around irrational health scares, we ignore the economic exploitation, and most people never learn that it’s happening. Watch: in a few years, when studies come out proving the harmlessness of GMO crops, the discussion will be more or less laid to rest. People in general in the West, with the power to pressure their governments into legislating away these exploitative practices, will feel like there’s nothing left to fight on the issue, and the discussion will end. We need to focus on the true harm of these corporations before it’s too late.

‘Safer GMOs’ made by US scientists

US scientists say they have taken the first step towards making "safer” GMOs that cannot spread in the wild using synthetic biology.

They have re-written the genetic code of bacteria to use only synthetic chemicals to grow.

The GM bacteria would die if they escaped into nature.

The research, published in Nature, is proof of concept for a new generation of GMOs, including plants, say Harvard and Yale university experts.“

Read more at bbcnews.

Forget bold stripes and mule flats — could the next big fad be super-old wheat?

Consumer interest in healthy grains could sow the seeds for some long-forgotten bread wheats to make a comeback, according to an opinion article released Monday in Trends in Plant Science — presumably the Vogue of botany.

“People are interested in healthy things that are not modified, that are non-GMO,” says Friedrich Longin, a plant breeder at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, who wrote the opinion article with his colleague Tobias Würschum. Increased wheat diversity could bolster food security, the authors argue, while satisfying consumer demand. This is particularly true, Longin says, in the U.S. and Europe, where most diners have enough food and enjoy the luxury of seeking novelty in their dishes.

Nothing Says ‘Hip’ Like Ancient Wheat

Image: An illustration shows spikes of different types of wheat: (1) Polish wheat (2) Club wheat (3) Common bread wheat (4) Poulard wheat (5) Durum wheat (6) Spelt (7) Emmer (8) Einkorn. The Library of Congress/Flickr The Commons

Shit Pagans Say

“Well, I don’t eat GMOs.”

Yes, yes you do. Do you eat corn? Bananas? Apples? Cauliflower? Then you eat genetically modified fruits and vegetables. Most of which were altered to be more consistent in flavor, size, and color.

Some organisms, however, were altered to *better survive* blight and plague, or to be more enriched with necessary vitamins and minerals to sustain human life.

BILLIONS of lives are saved when grain doesn’t rot in the fields or rice contains enough Vitamin A.

I, as the kind of witch I am, must support the alteration of matter in order to preserve life. That is part of magick to me.

I also don’t want to live in a world that echoes Tarsus IV, where the grain being destroyed leads to some asshole deciding who gets food and who doesn’t.

Beyond that, GMOs actually reduce climate change! More food per acre means less agricultural runoff, fewer hours and miles of harvester machines running, and less water usage.

Also, GMOs have increased the carrying capacity – ie people fed – of agriculture, meaning that more people are fed off less land.

Now, what Pagans may mean is that they don’t want to eat food made by a single company that has a patent on life forms and uses it to prevent farmers from planting their own naturally produced seeds. I understand this desire.

But at the same time, Pagans can try to recognize that they have the luxury of shopping like that while over half the world lives on $1 a day and more plentiful food means the literal difference between life and death for them.