genetically modifed food

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Groceries in the 2040s | The Future of Food

Short video essay by Adam Dylewski presents ideas about how food and shopping could be like in the future, illustrated using the virtual reality art tool Oculus Quill:

What might a trip to the grocery store be like in the 2040s? This episode looks at how cultured meat, genetically modified produce, augmented reality, vertical farming and automation might transform the future of food. 

Link

Venom Movie Rant

With the announcement today that the upcoming Venom movie starring Tom Hardy will depict the origin of the Venom Symbiote as being a GMO food, I can’t help but feel this direction is both inaccurate to the comics and an affront to genetically modified foods, which are not only healthy but critical in solving starvation around the world.

In the comics, the Symbiote is a living alien outfit from Battleworld granted to Spider-Man, which later bonds to Eddie Brock, a disgraced journalist. Together, the two form Venom, a popular arch-villain for Spider-Man. But Sony spokesperson MacDonald Gargan stated today, “Not only is Spider-Man in use by Marvel right now, but the Battleworld plotline would take years to establish. So we had to get creative. Sam Raimi had the creature fall from space. We wanted a more topical, earthbound idea. In our universe, Venom is the result of genetically modified foods, specifically of blackberries. Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock will dump a few of these blackberries on his morning cereal, and the rest is history.”

GMO industrial representative Ann Weying suggests that this approach is slanderous, “Genetically modified foods are critical. Without genetic modification, many of the foods you eat would be toxic, flavorless, or just plain tiny. We have modified rice to grow in harsher climates, saving millions of lives. We have modified corn from an inedible stalk to a healthy staple of the American diet, and we have modified the common ladybug into the delicious fruit that we call the apple.” This writer agrees on all counts. Not only is the concept for Venom creatively obtuse, but harmful to GMO reputations much as Jaws was to sharks.

Venom movie director Angelo Fortunato feels that the controversy is not justified and that other features of the movie will make the decision clear. Said Fortunato, “It may sound weird at first, but once you hear Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of Venom, you’ll see how his origins inform the character. This will all make Venom a formidable opponent for the true villain of our film, Carnage, a badass strawberry-spawn voiced by Elijah Wood.

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.

Vegans are always complaining about how many animals are slaughtered each year. I kind of find it amazing. We have perfected the art of selective breeding, genetic modification, and safe food production to be able to easily create and harvest so much food. Not just the meat, but the feed produced to feed it. The people involved. It is crazy. 

Like damn. Humanity is amazing. 

Evolving Different Skin Tone

@iamnotoneofthem asked:

I don’t know if this is a question you can answer (with it being more of a biology-related one), but maybe a follower can help! In my fantasy world, a (humanoid) species migrated to a different continent about ten to five thousand years ago. They came from a continent where skin colour varied greatly, resulting in diversity, and the group I’m asking about settled down in a desert. They each live for about 400-500 years. Would their skin colour adapt over twenty-two generations (max.) or not?

I’m pretty sure my dad is wondering why I didn’t go into hard sciences right now, for all I end up researching biology. Anyway! This is a topic I know a little about, so I will attempt to at least give you factors to consider.

Your question actually has a lot of layers in it, to the point I can’t really give a solid answer. My instinct is “maybe to no”, but my answer depends, based on how your species actually works.

First is why humans evolved diverse skin tones in the first place: sun protection. Dark skin means less vitamin D and ultraviolet light gets into the skin, which in turn lowers the risk of cancer and vitamin D poisoning (among others, but those are off the top of my head) when you get a lot of sun; this is why you find darker skin in populations in hot regions with minimal tree cover. Meanwhile, light skin lets in a lot of vitamin D, which is an advantage in northern regions that have weaker sun; they have a lower risk of cancer and don’t receive as much vitamin D because of their environment. If your humanoid group doesn’t need sun protection and/or doesn’t rely on vitamin D, then asking if they’ll evolve lighter or darker skin is completely moot.

Second is how evolution works. The basic principle is “evolution favours those who can pass on their genes more easily and more often.” As a result, people who hit age of maturity are favoured, and those who live in their age of maturity for an extended period of time and reproduce frequently are really favoured. You have a very long lived species, here, and we don’t know anything about how long it takes for them to be able to reach maturity and have a second generation (or how many kids they can produce), so ask yourself questions along those lines. Is there anything about their skin tone that would make it they struggle (or thrive) in their environment? Do they blend in better/worse so predators do/don’t find them, feel better/worse so they have/don’t have many children, don’t/do develop cancer so they die young or after a small amount of kids? All of those are valid reasons.

Third, you have to consider how quickly their genes mutate. As a general rule, long lived species are either really adaptable, really simple, or have a lot of advantages against shorter lived species from the gate, just because if they’re not one of the three then they struggle to survive if a major change hits. Really adaptable opens up the possibility they will mutate to fit their environment more quickly, which can either mean “body changes while alive” or “body has ways of making sure offspring get everything good I have,” so evolution happens faster. And having a lot of advantages means there just plain old isn’t much that kills them naturally, but it also means they don’t need to evolve much if at all.

Fourth, desert environments actually favour those who cover up. Take a look at those who live in the Sahara, and you’ll find they are a lot paler than you’d expect for being in the sun all day because their cultural clothing is billowy to trap cool air and make it they don’t get sandblasted in wind.

All that said, five to ten thousand years is actually the blink of an eye in evolutionary standards. The Inuit traveled to Canada’s North from Asia about that long ago, and their skin hasn’t changed at all. However, it is very important to note that their diet is extremely heavy in fish— which means they’re getting all the vitamin D they need through diet instead of their skin, so have had no genetic incentive to get naturally paler. 

So, really, it depends! If they don’t need dark skin as a species because they don’t rely on vitamin D and/or are immune to cancer (long lived species usually are, or at least have quite the resistance— cancer comes from a mutation of a cell’s replicators, and the older you get the more your cells replicate, so the more likely it is they will scramble; cancer is basically another name for ‘broken cell replication that causes them to duplicate way too fast’. Certain lives-over-100 species of whales don’t get cancer, for example, so it’s more than plausible your species doesn’t), then they end up not having any incentive to change their skin tone. Also, if they end up with environmental factors that allow them to sustain whatever skin tone they had previous, such as diet or clothing, then it’s also moot.

But in general, 22 generations really is not that long. We’ve seen some level of extreme change in the past 3 generations, where we are getting significantly taller, but that is mostly medicinal and diet factors (both “we are eating better quality food thanks to genetic modification of food, and we are using growth hormones in food that in turn impact us”). I would say they’re more likely to have changed body shape and height based on environmental factors, but, it’s still really not a long time for anything to happen. There might be some beginnings of noticeable change in the newer generation, but nothing super drastic. 

Of course, if any more biologically inclined followers have input, please feel free to chime in!

~Mod Lesya

How GM Foods Affect Your Body

In a word, negatively. ?What are GM foods? ?Those foods whose DNA is modified to either switch on desired traits or switch off undesired ones and that are injected with poisons to allegedly reduce pesticide use. ??We’ve been told by GM food producers that GM foods are safe, will not adversely affect our health, are being produced to increase production to feed more of the world’s poor, make food bigger and more disease and weather resistant. ??However, let’s examine this a little closer to gain more insight into what GM food producers aren’t telling us.

First, GM food producers typically don’t tell us that genetically engineering foods also has negative implications. ?One is that insects become immune to the injected poison requiring ?the use of more pesticides. ?Now while this may be good for the profits of companies like Monsanto, who is the largest producer of GM foods and also the largest producer of weed killer, it is bad for the environment and more importantly our health. ?After all, pesticides are toxic to the human body. ?Another negative upshot of GM foods is that because they appear as foreign, once ingested, the human body will not metabolize them. ?This triggers a defense response in the body to reject it. ?Moreover, there have been several unintended adverse health risks associated with GM foods such as allergic reactions, viral and bacterial illnesses, birth defects, cancer and degenerative diseases. ?Lastly, no one knows what the potential long-term effects of consuming GM foods will be.

Despite what we are being told, GM foods seem to have more drawbacks than benefits, at least with respect to the health and welfare of consumers. ?Meanwhile, GM foods are being produced, sold and consumed by the unsuspecting consumer at an alarmingly high rate. ?In today’s U.S. market 60% to 70% of processed foods are genetically modified. ?In 2009, in the U.S. alone, there were nearly 171 million acres of GM cotton, soybean and corn crops. ?Even more disturbing is that as a matter of law our right to know what foods are GM foods has not been acknowledged. ?This is problematic when the foods being genetically modified are staple foods in the average American diet. ?Among them are corn, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, soy beans and bananas just to name a few and the list is steadily growing.

Such being the case, as consumers we must make every effort to eat more organically grown food for the good of our health and the environment. ?We must be also be diligent in questioning

  • why no laws exist that require agro-chemical companies to inform consumers of what foods are genetically modified unless there is the threat of an allergic reaction to the product;
  • why GM foods are being developed so quickly and primarily being marketed toward consumers with the highest rate of obesity in the world; and
  • why there are no laws protecting the farmers being pigeon-holed into buying GM seeds.

The questions must be asked.