Hey all,

I haven't visited TA in a while, nor have I posted in such amount of time either, but I have an inquiry that I hope some of you may touch on...

I've noticed that there are quite a few Atheists/Secularists out there who are supportive on Genetically Modified Organisms in food and drink products. I for one, am not. But aside from that, I'd like to know why exactly you're supportive of it. Do you believe in what corporations like Monsanto say? Things like "GMOs allow us to feed the world.." (generally speaking) and what not? Or is it the science behind it?

I'd love to have some interesting conversation about this.

Thanks!

Tags: genetically, gmo, modified, organisms, science

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A little clarification to my first (the first) post in this thread.

 

I said I was generally in favour of GMOs.  I see a lot of discussion about the corporations behind them and that is a different question.

 

I undrestand that developing these things costs money but I am very uncomfortable about some of the practices I have read about, such as making the the plants sterile so new seeds must be bought from the company every year.  That is not suitable for countries where farmers are dirt poor and on the verge of starvation.

 

My attitude to that and global warming is that there is no way a planet populated by short term pleasure seeking creatures often run in democratic countries that are utterly incapable of imposing short term pain on their own citizens for the long term benefit of everyone can ever stop the global warming juggernaut we have unleashed, and that all the money being (IMHO) wasted trying to prevent warming should go instead to managing the consequences.  One way to spend the money would be on GMOs that are publicly developed and can thus be given to the world where they are needed, without having to tie farmers to corpoations that have to recoup their investment.  Seems obvious to me, but I am still a minority in the world.

 

Matt

I can see technology companies queueing up at Congress to lobby against government-produced products that are cheap or free.

Nonetheless, that is what we SHOULD do. Good idea but I doubt it will ever see the light of day.

Agreed that 'if that is where we want to be, we shouldn't start from here', but it is the only solution I see working.  Doesn't mean it will happen, sadly.

 

Maybe we could use some of the funds being lavished un uncompetetive alternative energy to BUY the patents of these GMOs and make them public, rather than set up competeing government research from scratch?

 

Also, of course, the renewables lobby will lobby to the ends of the earth (literally?) to keep their subsidies.

 

Matt

I undrestand that developing these things costs money but I am very uncomfortable about some of the practices I have read about, such as making the the plants sterile so new seeds must be bought from the company every year.  That is not suitable for countries where farmers are dirt poor and on the verge of starvation.

It's not just seeds that large corporations make unduly expensive for poor countries, by making them rebuy seeds year after year, it's also water. Corporations buy up water rights in poor countries and make impoverished people pay dearly for something that ought to be free or almost free.

My attitude to that and global warming is that there is no way a planet populated by short term pleasure seeking creatures often run in democratic countries that are utterly incapable of imposing short term pain on their own citizens for the long term benefit of everyone can ever stop the global warming juggernaut we have unleashed, and that all the money being (IMHO) wasted trying to prevent warming should go instead to managing the consequences.  One way to spend the money would be on GMOs that are publicly developed and can thus be given to the world where they are needed, without having to tie farmers to corpoations that have to recoup their investment.  Seems obvious to me, but I am still a minority in the world.

I think managing consequences is important, since the public is slow to convince that there really is a problem. I myself am not 100% convinced that humankind is the primary problem rather than independent global climate trends which may be cyclic.

Yes, many "protective" practices, particularly in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries, are difficult to square with "a healthy profit". And I definitely think there should be reforms of these practices. Digital products, like software, music and movies provide more common examples of protective practices and how intellectual property is routinely stolen -- with a huge impact on profits. The profit motive drives commerce: industries can be ruined if their products are too easy to steal. Of course, starving Africans probably could care less about software and .MP3s, but the principle is the same.

As for global warming, whether or not the current rise is cyclical, our carbon foot print can only exacerbate matters. And this is one case in which it is unquestionably better to err on the side of caution.

I do believe that Monsanto and Cargill etc. are about cornering the market and control the food supply. They use the cover of feeding the world, yet they produce things like terminator seeds that one can only buy form them and repeatedly because they can't be replanted.  This also brings me to the possible dangers of GMO's to the human genome..

However, if there is no harmful effects to the human genome, I do think some modified GMO's can be of benefit, for example the GMO used to make salmon grow faster.  IF (and that's a BIG "if") they have no harmful effects on the human and IF they can grow them sustainable and environmentally safe, then I'd say OK...

Bottom line, I don't know...  

I think your bottom line is my main concern. We simply don't know. We don't know enough. And with giant companies like Monsanto essentially cornering and controlling this market, its hard to trust it. I, for one, am an advocate for organic foods and whole foods, so my view might be more jaded than others, but its just all fishy (no pun intended) to me and it feels like something is being held back.

I like organictoo, but you simply have to face the fact that in order to have only organic food to comply with your principles, you need to eliminate (a guess) halfthe human population.  If you can achieve that by birth control, great, I'm with you, and maybe we can get rid of the Catholic Church in the process, but by starting with food rather than birth, you would be using death control, and not contolling it the right way!

 

Is 'I don't know' enough of a reason to cause the certain death of hundreds of millions?

Can you point me in the direction of something that shows we have to "eliminate" populations if we use Organic standards? And where it says, clear-cut and dry, independently of Monsanto, that GMO crops will save the world from hunger? 

I tend to see quite the contrary when I look for it: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/impa...

This article http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11069... appears to show that under best conditions, organic produces 5% less than conventional farming, but the difference can be up to 34%.

 

But on top of that, GMOs hold out the prospect on increasing conventional (well, unconventional) yoelds, whereas it seems unlikely (my opinion) that there are major productivity increases to be had from organic.

 

Also, it is (currently) a lot more expensive, and hungry people are poor.  Also, people tend to be hungry where farming is hard, not really wehere you woul expect best-case 5% reductions in output.

 

Matt

 

Full disclosure, I skimmed that article until I found numbers that supported my position.

I don't know if organic farming can scale up to match agri-business in production. Plus, organic foods cost more.

Whether organic or not, a large infrastructure is needed to transport the produce cheaply and efficiently. Here in the Philippines, with narrow, poorly maintained roads, provinces rely on local produce and don't have the selection available in the cities. Even the cities have poor selection compared to the U.S. and they're constantly running out of common items. You never know if they'll have what you need. I doubt they could cobble together a sustainably viable (healthwise) vegetarian diet. Fish, pigs and chickens are really essential here for protein.

U.S. and European companies might grow large but are legally barred from gaining a monopoly or using monopolistic practices. Nonetheless, the larger a company gets, the less I like it. Just because.

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