Why Arent G.M.O. Foods Labeled?

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<http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/why-arent-g-m-o-foods-la beled/?partner=rss&emc=rss>
FEBRUARY 15, 2011, 9:00 PM Why Arent G.M.O. Foods Labeled? By MARK BITTMAN
If you want to avoid sugar, aspartame, trans-fats, MSG, or just about anything else, you read the label. If you want to avoid G.M.O.s genetically modified organisms youre out of luck. Theyre not listed. You could, until now, simply buy organic foods, which by law cant contain more than 5 percent G.M.O.s. Now, however, even that may not work. In the last three weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered (G.E.) foods: alfalfa (which becomes hay), a type of corn grown to produce ethanol), and sugar beets. And the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a super-fast-growing salmon the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last may not be far behind.
Its unlikely that these products potential benefits could possibly outweigh their potential for harm. But even more unbelievable is that the F.D.A.and the U.S.D.A. will not require any of these products, or foods containing them, to be labeled as genetically engineered, because they dont want to suggest or imply that these foods are different. (Labels with half-truths about health benefits appear to be O.K., but thats another story.) They are arguably different, but more important, people are leery of them. Nearly an entire continent its called Europe is so wary that G.E. crops are barely grown there and there are strict bans on imports (that policy is in danger). Furthermore, most foods containing more than 0.9 percent G.M.O.s must be labeled. (cont.)
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As gardeners, most of us have no problem with selective breeding. We're happy to alter a plants genetic makeup through artificial (human assisted) selection.
GMO is artificial selection on steroids. It's really directed change vs. random change.
Opponents say that GMO is unnatural and that selection could NEVER produce the results obtained with GMO.
Seems to me, that's short sighted. Selective breeding might be 1000s or even millions of times slower than GMO but a mutation is a mutation. There is no theoretical limit to what can be accomplished with selective breeding. It's just going to take a longer time.
Compare a wolf to a Great Dane to a Chihuahua. Pretty radical change there. All done by humans in a relatively short amount of time.
That's not to say I'm 100% comfortable with crossing Poison Ivy and Kudzu. We don't want super weeds released into the environment.
Also I'm not comfortable with patents on living organisms but that occurs now with artificial selection, it's not unique to GMO.
As far as labeling GMO foods, I'm not concerned at all. Selected crops aren't labeled as such. If the GMO results in something in the food that wouldn't be there naturally, then the food should be labeled. For example, the extra component could cause an allergy. People should know if they are eating something different. But if GMO just makes the crop bigger or more drought resistant, I can see no need for special labeling.
Just my opinion.
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On 2/20/2011 12:46 PM, snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net wrote:

I agree. Let the wrath of Billy come down upon us ;)
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snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net wrote:

There's a rather fundamental difference between selective breeding and inserting genes from a different species. Corn that makes BT toxin in its pollen, for instance. Not at all the same as Radiator Johnny crossing tomato lines to get a bigger and tastier fruit to pay off his mortgage.
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at home.earthlink.net/~garygarlic Zone 5/4 in upstate New York, 1420' elevation. NY WO G
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As I said, foods with unique components, especially components that might cause a reaction should be labeled that way.
The wikipedia page on transgenic corn is "interesting". After reading that, I don't think the issue of labeling is relevant.
Corn producing BT toxins doesn't sound safe at all. I can't see any justification for allowing that trait into crops.
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On 2/20/2011 1:09 PM, snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net wrote:

Actually, first line of defense for plants is chemical warfare. Think about it.
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That's true but see my comment about poison ivy and kudzu.
The combination would be beneficial to the plant. Humans would have another reason not to go near the plant but it wouldn't be a good thing.
The Wikipedia article raises a number of disturbing things about corn bred to kill insects. Probably most ironic is that if this is used widely, we'll almost certainly get insects that are immune.
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On 2/20/2011 2:51 PM, snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net wrote:

It was years ago, I heard a lecture by Bruce Ames about this - way before genetic modification. He had a couple of examples about plants bred to resist disease but were toxic to people.
Clipped this recent quote.
Some critics] say, "If [BT corn, for example, is] toxic to that insect, it must be toxic to us." But that's an over-simplification. Dr. Bruce Ames at the University of California, for the last 20 years, has been analyzing all kinds of foods, thousands of different samples. He finds that in the foods that we've been eating from the beginning of agriculture, there are many toxic substances, but they're present in very small quantity. A good example to illustrate is the case of the common mushroom that most of us like to have with our steak or gravy. There are two [toxins] present in minute quantity. But if you isolate those, like Dr. Ames has, increase the dosage and incorporate it in the feed of rats, it's a beautiful carcinogen. Why don't we get [cancer from eating these mushrooms]? Simple reason is that we don't eat kilos each day of mushrooms. So dosage really makes the toxin or carcinogen. There's no zero risk in the biological world. ...
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How many lab rats have the mushrooms killed? Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant are members of the "nightshade" family. These all contain solanine a toxin. Going to quit eating them soon? -----
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan <(Amazon.com product link shortened) 583/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid06815576&sr=1-1> (Available at better libraries near you)
BIG ORGANIC * 180
The reason plants produce these compounds (polyphenols) in the first place is to defend themselves against pests and diseases; the more pressure from pathogens, the more polyphenols a plant will produce. These compounds, then, are the products of natural selection and, more specifically, the coevolutionary relationship between plants and the species that prey on them. Who would have guessed that **humans evolved to profit from a diet of these plant pesticides?**
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Common use of Bt corn will lead to insect resistance to the toxin.
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan <(Amazon.com product link shortened) 583/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid06815576&sr=1-1> (Available at better libraries near you)
BIG ORGANIC * p. 180 The reason (theory) plants produce these compounds (polyphenols) in the first place is to defend themselves against pests and diseases; the more pressure from pathogens, the more polyphenols a plant will produce.
**These compounds, then, are the products of natural selection and, more specifically, the coevolutionary relationship between plants and the species that prey on them. Who would have guessed that humans evolved to profit from a diet of these plant pesticides?**
Or that we would invent an agriculture that then deprived us of them? The Davis authors hypothesize that plants being defended by man-made pesticides dont need to work as hard to make their own polyphenol pesticides. Coddled by us and our chemicals, the plants see no reason to invest their sources in mounting a strong defense. (Sort of like European nations during the cold war.)
The point to the above is that organically grown food typically has more polyphenols than non-organically grown crops.
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A free/fair market can't exist without sellers and buyers having the same information. The problems with GMOs are multiple. 1) An antibiotic is attached to the genes that are to be inserted. This allows for identification of GMO cells in a petrie dish. It also allows bacteria to develop a resistance to that antibiotic, making it worthless in the treatment of a bacterial disease.
2) The cauliflower mosaic virus is attached to the genes that are to be inserted. The cauliflower mosaic virus is the activator that turns on the inserted gene. More than 98% of the human genome does not encode protein sequences. Some of these genes are for suppressed evolutionary traits such as gills, some could be dormant diseases. These genes are also susceptible to being activated by the cauliflower mosaic virus.
3) The spliceosome (a complex of specialized RNA and protein subunits) from the host cell may not recognize a protein from the injected genes and attach it to other proteins, thereby creating an allergen. This appears to be the case with GMO potatoes created by Arpad Pusztai at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was tying to modify the lecithin in the potatoes, which he did, but the potatoes gave lab rats lesions in their digestive systems, which lead to death.
4) GMO Bt corn (StarLink) kills monarch butterflies. Round Up Ready crops allow more glyphosate to be used to suppress weeds, but it also severely damages the soil biota, triggers over 40 plant diseases, and endangers human and animal health.
5) GMOs don't produce larger crops.
6) Then there is the matter of a recent recent CBS/NYT poll that found 87 percent of consumers want GMOs them labeled.
Further reading: Against GMOs "Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating" by Jeffrey M. Smith <(Amazon.com product link shortened) />/ dp/0972966587/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid98231203&sr=1-1>
and
For GMOs "Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food" by Nina V. Fedoroff and Nancy Marie Brown <(Amazon.com product link shortened) />/ 030909738X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid98231359&sr=1-1>
(both are available at better libraries near you)
"Mendel in the Kitchen" makes arguments similar to Despen's and gives the historical development of wheat, and corn, which I found to be very informative.
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I'm not sure opinions of the uninformed are all that important.
If you just label something as "GMO" all you are doing is waving a warning flag without any information.
If a product has something in it that could be dangerous it shouldn't be marketed. If it's got peanut genes in it, people should know because some people are allergic to peanuts.
If we labeled all products that humans have fooled around with, I'm pretty sure everything in the store would be labeled.
I don't know how you can assert that you can't use GMO to grow a larger vegetable, fruit, or animal. I assume you can find all kinds of traits that can be transferred cross species. If you can transfer a gene from a pumpkin and grow grapes the size of watermelons, I say go ahead. Of course a label wouldn't be an issue in that case.
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So you are on board with 1 thru 4, good.
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5) By larger crops, I meant higher yield (weight) per unit of surface
area.
Higher yield used to be touted as a reason for GMOs, but GMOs don't bear
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Ah, misunderstanding. If you mean GMOs don't produce larger crops now, I have no reason to disagree.
I think GMOs have very good potential as a means to improve yield and a lot of other desirable characteristics of plants.

I'm not in favor of putting warning labels on things that don't need warning labels. The only difference between GMOs and other "improved" crops is a matter of degree.
As far as the real villain above Thalidomide, recalls by the FDA was never an issue. In the case of Thalidomide, the FDA never approved the drug. The FDA actually did an excellent job.
Some Americans were exposed in the clinical trials but the people affected were mostly outside the US.
Interestingly, Thalidomide is considered a valuable drug, it's just dangerous for pregnant women.
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And you think that, because . . . ? Jump in anytime.

And you know what needs a warning label, how?

If you read the first four points that I made, you would understand that this is a radically different, and unproved way of breeding.
You recommend a leap of faith, or what?

Until somebody does a feeding trial, we won't know anything. Or we wait to see if any obscure disease has a sudden outbreak. And the source of the misery that afflicted these ladies was learned men.
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Well, because Jimmy Carter said so.
(Just kidding. Bet some of you at least giggled.)
That was my first Google hit.
Here is Wikipedia on the subject:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food#Crop_yields
Which cites some instances of increased yield.
But I made my statement based on my own knowledge of the subject of selection. Some things grow bigger or faster than other things. It's known that growth size and rate are genetically controlled. It makes sense that those genes can be transferred from one organism to another. If other traits can be transferred, why not traits that affect yield.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food#Crop_yields "A 2010 article summarised the results of 49 peer reviewed studies on GM crops worldwide."
This contention was supported by a "meta study" by an
unknown author, Janet E. Carpenter (PO Box 1008, Boylston, Massachusetts, USA), whose work was
underwritten by CropLife International("CropLife International is the global federation representing the plant science industry. We are a network of regional and national associations in 91 countries. Our member companies are committed to supporting sustainable agriculture through innovation in crop protection, plant biotechnology and seed production."), and
published by the Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd. Like other Nature journals, there is no external Editorial Board; editorial decisions are made by an in-house team, although peer review by external expert referees forms a part of the review process..
Do I need to point out that that the above is a house of cards?
I could find no other studies supporting Janet E. Carpenter meta analysis.
I am very disappointed with Wikipedia :O(
However Professor Barney Gordon, of the University of Kansas's department of agronomy is responsible for the report noting GMOs lower yields.

Why indeed. Logic, you know, is only as good as it's premise. Either you are an savant among gardeners and Monsanto has hired an ill informed bunch of recombinant geneticists , or something is missing from your knowledge of selection. Which do you think is more likely?
Why didn't the producers of GMOs do that; create GMOs with higher yields? You would think that would have been a strong economic reason for farmers to convert to GMOs instead of spending more on Round Up and killing what little topsoil that is left.
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Savant I'm not. Savant isn't required.
How do I know that size and yield are genetic traits? Because of the numerous times we've already selected for yield.

The Wikipedia article cites apparent instances for GMO improving yield.
I'm guessing that you are unconditionally opposed to any use of GMO. Is that why you won't concede that GMO _might_ induce a beneficial trait?
Seems like slippery ice to me. Either it can induce change or it can't. I think you're mostly opposed to GMO because you worry that it will induce change. Too much change.
To also hold that it can't induce any beneficial change doesn't seem rational.
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I will concede it might induce a beneficial trait (but so far unproven). I will also concede that it may be harmful for humans to eat (See Arpad Pusztai, and StarLink corn).
Why doesn't it bother you that we are all the guinea pigs here?

Yes, too much change to the environment, and to those who consume GMO products. <http://www.responsibletechnology.org/blog/664 A free/fair market can't exist without sellers and buyers having the same information.
You responded to #5. How about #1. #2, #3, #4, and #6?
The problems with GMOs are multiple. 1) An antibiotic is attached to the genes that are to be inserted. This allows for identification of GMO cells in a petrie dish. It also allows bacteria to develop a resistance to that antibiotic, making it worthless in the treatment of a bacterial disease.
2) The cauliflower mosaic virus is attached to the genes that are to be inserted. The cauliflower mosaic virus is the activator that turns on the inserted gene. More than 98% of the human genome does not encode protein sequences. Some of these genes are for suppressed evolutionary traits such as gills, some could be dormant diseases. These genes are also susceptible to being activated by the cauliflower mosaic virus.
3) The spliceosome (a complex of specialized RNA and protein subunits) from the host cell may not recognize a protein from the injected genes and attach it to other proteins, thereby creating an allergen. This appears to be the case with GMO potatoes created by Arpad Pusztai at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was tying to modify the lecithin in the potatoes, which he did, but the potatoes gave lab rats lesions in their digestive systems, which lead to death.
4) GMO Bt corn (StarLink) kills monarch butterflies. Round Up Ready crops allow more glyphosate to be used to suppress weeds, but it also severely damages the soil biota, triggers over 40 plant diseases, and endangers human and animal health.
5) GMOs don't produce larger crops. (Ignore this for the sake of argument)
6) Then there is the matter of a recent recent CBS/NYT poll that found 87 percent of consumers want GMOs them labeled.
Further reading: Against GMOs "Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating" by Jeffrey M. Smith <(Amazon.com product link shortened) />/ dp/0972966587/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid98231203&sr=1-1>
and
For GMOs "Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food" by Nina V. Fedoroff and Nancy Marie Brown <(Amazon.com product link shortened) />/ 030909738X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid98231359&sr=1-1>
(both are available at better libraries near you)

Why don't you address the rest of the problems, hmmm?
- Billy
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If you eat any product containing cornmeal in the US the chances are over 90% you are eating GMO corn.
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