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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I can't wait until tomorrow, Unseen. :-)

The justice system will examine claims and counterclaims and compare them to evidence. It's not a perfect system but it's pretty damn good. If Monsanto won, I'll bet they were in the right.

But it all depends on the case. To say that Monsanto sued and won the case is to say nothing at all except that they won. I would hazard to say that if a farmer used their biotechnology without paying for it, then they would lose the case.

However, your example specifically stated that:

"if the pollen from a field planted with Monsanto corn drifts into the field next door producing corn infected with Monsanto genetics, Monsanto effectively owns that corn, and can sue the owner of the next field."

It seems to me that the downwind farmer could sue Monsanto for contaminating his corn. It's also possible that Monsanto would be held responsible for protecting its own technology. If it's a known fact that pollen drifts with the wind and Monsanto does nothing to stop it from cross-pollinating surrounding fields, then who's fault is that, really?

Yes they did. But as the cited article explains:

The patent infringement finding was based solely on the determination that Schmeiser had recognized the cross-contamination, and knowingly went on to collect the crossbred seed, then replant and harvest it the next year.

That is NOT the scenario Unseen described.

Contamination was not the issue. Usurping Monsanto's patent was.

Schmeiser had a contract to grow their seed the year before - and procedures for cleaning his bins to standards they had set, inspected, and approved.  He maintains that either the cross contamination occurred because of cross pollination from a neighbour working for Monsanto the following year, or the aggressive nature of trace amounts of seed left in his bin.

Either way, Monsanto claimed ownership of his crop and took it without paying for the fuel used to plant it or rent for the land on which it was grown.  That is a very dangerous precedent to set.

Business claims, in court, are treated differently than individual citizen claims -- intent is not much of a consideration: results are primary. An individual is allowed consideration for mistakes. Businesses are expected to anticipate and addresses potential problems if they could be foreseen. After all, they specialize in their business. They profit from their business.

Schmeiser's protests were duly noted but lacked weight.

The verdict was not dangerous at all. Monsanto's patent was indeed violated. It was a good decision that I'm sure will go unchallenged in the courts of appeal. Considering that he lost the case, he got off cheap - no punitive damages awarded Monsanto.

Perhaps you should keep reading - Schmeiser filed a counter suit and the issue is far from over.  Monsanto's canola is all over Saskatchewan now because you really can't grow anything else once your neighbour switches to their Round-up Ready brand - cross contamination could cost you your crop with no remuneration for input costs.

Saskatchewan farmers are incredibly frustrated by the situation but feel they have no choice in the matter if they want to remain competitive.  Patenting genetic material is bad all around.

Here is an article that covers the issue more in-depth than Wiki, and  I think it offers a fairly balanced view...

http://www.scq.ubc.ca/rounding-up-the-schmeiser-case-benefit-and-li...

Hi Heather,

Yes, that was an interesting article. It mentioned how GM crops can adversely affect the profitability of organic crop growers. The current rulings mean that Monsanto can't have it all their way. They can protect their intellectual property but they are also liable for damages and losses their product cause.

I really don't care that much about the issue. I'm no farmer. But reading all this material convinces me that Canada's Supreme Court has done an admirable job of upholding existing law.

As it relates to the OP, I see the benefits of Monsanto's technology far outweighing the drawbacks. The world is a LOT better off and better able to feed itself thanks to Monsanto's years of research and investment in this technology. Nobody is making specific claims that it harms human health, are they?

Monsanto's business ethics and accountability, while important, aren't really my focus.

There are several issues here that you seem rather quick to ignore.

First, we don't have legislation to determine Monsanto's obligations/liabilities regarding the impact their product has on the market place or an individual farmer's profits - the regulatory process is lagging while the technology takes off before we even have time to consider the implications.

The biodiversity inherent in the old system of farmers selecting, saving, and trading seeds is rapidly dissipating as seed stocks become not only centralized, but increasingly (by proportion) patented stock.  It's all well and good that samples are being stored somewhere, but that's still centralized rather than being distributed across thousands of farms, with tens of thousands of cross strains, each selected for local conditions.

The ability of local growers to harvest their own seed is central to empowerment of the grower; losing that ability reduces the capacity of the industry to adapt to adversity and leaves us reliant on multinational corporations for our food - I'm not comfortable with that at all.

@Heather,

About your first point . . . I had misread the article. In one paragraph it was discussing the court's ruling. The next paragraph start with this sentence:

"Perhaps more interesting, is the notion that with such a strict level of control over the benefits from its products, biotech companies should in turn also be accountable for the damage, even accidental, caused by their products"

I misconstrued that to be a court ruling, continuing from the prior paragraph. I went back to copy that sentence to refute your first point about legislation and that's when I realized it is NOT part of any court ruling.

So I concede your first point.

As for your second point, as long as farmers can plant the seed they want to plant, I don't see a problem. Are you saying they can't?

There is nothing stopping farmers from gathering and using their own seeds. It's Monsanto's seeds they can't gather and use without license. This is simply the existing law. I see nothing wrong with it. It's not as if Monsanto owns them in perpetuity. I'm not sure what the law is in Canada but their patent will eventually lapse, after they've had ample time to recoup their R&D investments and reap a rewarding profit.

The seeds that most farmers 'want' to plant are the ones they select from their own crop.  The problem is that over time cross  pollination (which use to be a good thing, giving them variation in their own crop from which to select) leads to the introduction of patented genes -> and if you have patented genes in your crop, you are subject to the license required to use those genes.

Secondly, if you opt not to use Monsanto Round-up Ready Canola, but all your neighbours do use it, they will also be using ridiculously high volumes of Round-up throughout the season, killing off your non-Round-up resistant strain on the perimeter of your land.  Over time, concentrations of glysophate will rise in your soil, making non-Monsanto Canola unfeasible.

In the end, the same market factors that lead to toxic assets poisoning the banking system will be determining the genetic variation and asset distribution of the food seed market -> I don't know about you but that doesn't inspire me with confidence in our food chain.

Okay, Heather, I see your point. The article mentioned that cross pollination with Monsanto strains is possible but not yet observed "in the wild". And it also pointed to seeds spilled onto adjoining farmland. It does sound possible to inadvertently grow Monsanto strains but it doesn't sound like a real serious problem or threat but, rather, more of a potential nuisance.

These potential scenarios are much different from the Schmeiser case, in which almost the entire crop came from unlicensed Monsanto seeds. As the article pointed out, it doesn't matter if he was aware of it or not. And it's highly unlikely he wasn't aware. Despite his protests, I think he got caught trying to pull a fast one.

It appears that the article is right: legislation needs to be brought up-to-date and address these potentialities. It's only fair that if Monsanto can use its patents to fatten its wallet, they should also be liable for any problems they cause.

Even without legislation, I'm optimistic that the courts can sift through damage claims against Monsanto if need be and make fair decisions.

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