I don’t believe a position that is “anti-GMO” is a tenable one, because most insulin that is synthesised today is derived from a genetically modified organism, usually from E.Coli or yeast (S. cerevisiae). Being anti-GMO in principle would mean protesting medicine for diabetics.

I understand having objections to particular GM crops, say BT corn; I also understand having objections to the industry monopolies possessed by unscrupulous agribusiness firms like like Monsanto. Further, I think it is perfectly reasonable to have objections to unsustainable farming practices that deplete soil and eat up forests, or predatory business practices that take up tracts of indigenous land.

What I don’t understand is being against fruits and vegetables that have received the transgenic equivalent of a vaccination: like the Ringspot-resistant Papaya, or the Sharka-resistant Plum.

It’s the lack of clarity and specificity in this conversation that I find maddening: I think complex questions deserve complex answers, and those aren’t to be found in a consumer boycott, or a sign that reads “hell no GMO.” If you are protesting GM crops, but can’t tell me the names of five, then why are do you feel entitled to speak on behalf of people who work in agriculture and horticulture?
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biodiverseed

If you want to learn about the wide variety of crops available, check out the Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment’s Global GM Crop Database.

#GMOs
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Bill Nye Explains Why He Changed His Mind About GMOs

Bill Nye made waves last March when he changed his views on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) following a visit with Monsanto. Previously he had expressed major concerns about the safety of GMOs. 

For how Bill Nye feels about extraterrestrial life watch the full interview here. 

act.credoaction.com
Sign the petition: Keep GMO salmon out of the U.S.

I just signed a petition urging the FDA to keep GMO salmon out of the US. I think you should, too.

AquaBounty, the company creating the first-ever genetically modified salmon for human consumption, is playing fast and loose with environmental regulations, and we may end up paying the price.The FDA is still considering approval of the company’s dangerous GMO salmon. This could have huge ramifications if we don’t speak up to prevent it.

Fast-casual food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced it has removed all ingredients made with genetically modified organisms from its menu, making good on a two-year-old promise. It’s the latest example of the food industry stripping away ingredients, some more questionable than others, as consumers demand a say in what’s in their dinner.

There is no scientific evidence that GMOs pose a risk to health, as Chipotle founder and co-CEO Steve Ells readily acknowledges. “I don’t think this is about GMOs being harmful or not being harmful to your health,” Ells tells The Salt. “It’s a bigger picture. It’s really part of our food with integrity journey.”

Chipotle Says Adios To GMOs, As Food Industry Strips Away Ingredients

Photos: Meredith Rizzo/NPR; iStockphoto; PepsiCo; iStockphoto; iStockphoto

This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study 

By Julia Belluz on Vox // March 23, 2015 

A highly regarded service that vets new studies for clinicians finds — on average — only 3,000 of 50,000 new journal articles published each year are well-designed and relevant enough to inform patient care. That’s 6 percent.

More often than not, single studies contradict one another — such as the research on foods that cause or prevent cancer. The truth can be found somewhere in the totality of the research, but we report on every study in isolation underneath flip-flopping headlines. (Red wine will add years to your life one week, and kill you quicker the next.)

For a study on whether everything we eat is associated with cancer, academics randomly selected 50 ingredients from recipes in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Most foods had studies behind them claiming both positive and negative results. Researchers cannot always replicate the findings of other researchers, and for various reasons many don’t even try. All told, an estimated 85 percent — or $200 billion [USD] — of annual global spending on research is wasted on badly designed or redundant studies.

This means early  medical research will mostly be wrong until maybe eventually, if we’re lucky, it’s right. More tangibly, only a tiny fraction of new science will lead to anything that’s useful to humans.

Read more


*Think about this is you ever come across a study that tells you GMOs and glyphosate directly cause cancer, autism, alzheimers, and gluten intolerance.  

Scientists call for ban on editing human genome

While the technique has many benefits, such as curing genetic diseases, it can also be used to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence – something ethicists believe should not be done.

The biologists are also concerned that the technique is so easy to use that doctors may push ahead with it before it’s clinically safe to do so, they say in a paper on the subject, which was published in the journal Science.

When the food movement was all about addressing serious health and environmental problems, increasing food security for the vulnerable, and rebuilding community through shared cooking and dining, it was something everybody wanted to be a part of it. As the most highly visible exemplars of the food movement have become entitled shoppers and diners finding ways to signal their superior education, taste, and virtue – it’s just become a boor. The setup to the punchline of a Portlandia sketch.

Coming from that rural-centred background, it’s frustrating to me to see agricultural justice activism co-opted by urban-dwellers who hysterically yell about getting cancer from everything, when they have no connection to, or idea about how food is produced, or who produces it, or even who needs it most. It’s easy for the perpetual consumer to say “hell no GMO!” and talk about the purity of the natural world, or an ethic of noninterference, but I dare them tell the kid halfway around the globe with nutritional deficiencies that amino-acid enriched sweet potatoes should be banned, because they are “unnatural.”

This shouldn’t be about drawing artificial lines between manmade and natural: we gave up the right to complain about that when we domesticated animals and started farming during the Neolithic Revolution, 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. Nothing about the way we live now is “natural,” but paradoxically, that sort of means everything we do is, because we too are evolving biological organisms, and technology–as well as being masters of our own genetic destinies–is a part of our evolutionary trajectory. If there is anything I learned in studying anthropology, it’s that this nature/culture divide is a false dichotomy.

With that in mind, one of my goals here at BiodiverSeed is to change the conversation about GMOs: let’s make it about scientific ethics, about not using poor people as guinea pigs, about food justice, about affordable land access, about protection of biodiversity, and about protecting open-source genetics, instead of debunked studies about GMO corn causing tumours in rats. Let’s centre an agricultural and food justice movement first and foremost on the needs of the people who produce our food, and around the people in the world who need more food.

We can change the conversation if we make a point of being critical, scientifically-literate, and open-minded. We started “playing God” when we invented agriculture, surgery, vaccines, and 3-D printed organs. We’re not about to stop with our food; so let’s make sure that food is healthy and accessible, and doesn’t continue to destroy the integrity of our biomes as we produce it.

More than half (57%) of U.S. adults believe that GM foods are generally unsafe to eat, while 37% say these foods are safe, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Women are more likely than men to view GM foods as unsafe (65% vs. 49%). Opinions also vary by race and ethnicity; blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to say that genetically modified foods are generally unsafe to eat.

Amid debate over labeling GM foods, most Americans believe they’re unsafe

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A study published this week in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology finds that exposure to commonly used pesticides — the herbicides Dicamba, 2,4-D, and glyphosate – may affect the way that bacteria reacts to antibiotics, in a way that leads to increased resistance. It’s the first, Civil Eats reports, to make this connection — typically, pesticides are tested for their potential to kill organisms. But it’s pesticides’ sub-lethal effects that, in this case, appear to be causing the problem: exposure to the chemicals wasn’t enough to kill the e. coli and salmonella bacteria used in the study, but it was enough to make them activate proteins, as a defense mechanism — one which could ultimately make them stronger.

Yet another factor contributing to the superbug crisis.

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Monsanto Lobbyist Claims Roundup Pesticide Is Safe To Drink, Then Runs Away When Reporter Offers Him Some

While being filmed by French cable channel Canal+, GMO advocate Dr. Patrick Moore claimed that the chemical in the company’s Roundup weed killer is safe for humans to consume and “won’t hurt you.”

He then refused to drink it when offered a glass by the interviewing journalist.

A Plea for Culinary Modernism

by Rachel Laudan in Jacobin

As an historian I cannot accept the account of the past implied by Culinary Luddism, a past sharply divided between good and bad, between the sunny rural days of yore and the gray industrial present. My enthusiasm for Luddite kitchen wisdom does not carry over to their history, any more than my response to a stirring political speech inclines me to accept the orator as scholar.

The Luddites’ fable of disaster, of a fall from grace, smacks more of wishful thinking than of digging through archives. It gains credence not from scholarship but from evocative dichotomies: fresh and natural versus processed and preserved; local versus global; slow versus fast: artisanal and traditional versus urban and industrial; healthful versus contaminated and fatty. History shows, I believe, that the Luddites have things back to front.

That food should be fresh and natural has become an article of faith. It comes as something of a shock to realize that this is a latter-day creed. For our ancestors, natural was something quite nasty. Natural often tasted bad.

Fresh meat was rank and tough; fresh milk warm and unmistakably a bodily excretion; fresh fruits (dates and grapes being rare exceptions outside the tropics) were inedibly sour, fresh vegetables bitter. Even today, natural can be a shock when we actually encounter it. When Jacques Pepin offered free-­range chickens to friends, they found “the flesh tough and the flavor too strong,” prompting him to wonder whether they would really like things the way they naturally used to be. Natural was unreliable. Fresh fish began to stink. Fresh milk soured, eggs went rotten.

Everywhere seasons of plenty were followed by seasons of hunger when the days were short. The weather turned cold, or the rain did not fall. Hens stopped laying eggs, cows went dry, fruits and vegetables were not to be found, fish could not be caught in the stormy seas.

Natural was usually indigestible. Grains, which supplied from fifty to ninety percent of the calories in most societies have to be threshed, ground, and cooked to make them edible. Other plants, including the roots and fibers that were the life support of the societies that did not eat grains, are often downright poisonous. Without careful processing green potatoes, stinging taro, and cassava bitter with prussic acid are not just indigestible, but toxic.

Nor did our ancestors’ physiological theories dispose them to the natural. Until about two hundred years ago, from China to Europe, and in Mesoamerica, too, everyone believed that the fires in the belly cooked foodstuffs and turned them into nutrients. That was what digestion was. Cooking foods in effect pre-digested them and made them easier to assimilate. Given a choice, no one would burden the stomach with raw, unprocessed foods.

So to make food tasty, safe, digestible and healthy, our forebears bred, ground, soaked, leached, curdled, fermented, and cooked naturally occurring plants and animals until they were literally beaten into submission.

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*This was a very good piece! If it had gotten into the ecological side of these historical changes, it would have perhaps been better.

I encounter a lot of this ‘luddism’ in the permaculture movement, and struggle with trying to articulate a permacultural praxis that is modern, technological, and accessible.

Whenever I write about GM crops, science advocates criticise my anti-patent stance (which I actually take from reading the works of a futurist!) and my cautious-about-genetic-drift stance; meanwhile, organic advocates vehemently criticise my refusal to condemn genetic engineering wholesale. There is little room for a cautious optimism in that debate. I think there is a third potential position: one where genetic engineering is decentralised, open-source, and accessible.

I’ve been obsessed with biospheres and space travel for as long as I can remember. When I am writing about things like agroforestry, it’s not about returning to an idyllic past: it’s about engineering a better future on this world and others. I think many of the problems of modern agriculture can be better understood as scientific, not neccessarily moral.