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    6 More Good Reasons To Vote No On California Prop 37
    By Steve Savage | August 23rd 2012 04:30 AM | 92 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Steve

    Trained as a plant pathologist (Ph.D. UC Davis 1982), I've worked now for >30 years in many aspects of agricultural technology (Colorado State...

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    I’ve posted a blog about why GMO labeling is basically illogical.  If you take the time to read the actual proposition, there are at least six more reasons that proposition 37 on the California ballot this fall is a really bad idea that voters should reject.  

    1.    This is asking for something that is a great deal harder than it sounds.

    Almost all GMO crops are commodity grains.  To understand what labeling these crop ingredients means means, think of a river.  When it rains, little rivulets of water begin to run off of the ground, and then combine into small creeks.  These combine to make streams that eventually combine to make a river. By the time the water is in the river, it is so mixed that you could never know which drop came from where. The commodity grain industry is much like that river.  Many fields are harvested using the same harvesters and grain wagons (see first image above). That grain then goes either to a grower's silo or to a local elevator, which combines the harvest from many farms and fields.  

    The grain is later moved in things like 110-car freight trains or giant barges or ships, which again mix various sources. Along that path, some of the grain is processed into ingredients for human food, while most of it goes to animal feed. 

    a train being loaded with grain from an elevator

    A ship being loaded with grain

    Along this complex, but highly efficient path, there is so much mixing (“co-mingling” in grain-speak) that a question like, “did this come from a GMO or non-GMO field,” is impossible to answer.  In all those steps, keeping GMO and non-GMO grain separate is inefficient (e.g. different harvesting equipment, partially filled trucks, dedicated bins, paperwork…).  That makes it costly.  It would also be very difficult to prevent a little bit of onetype of grain out of the other because a little can be left behind in a harvester, truck, bin, etc.  In theindustry that is known as “adventitious presence.”

    The 0.5% threshold specified in the legal text of prop 37 would be highly problematic from a practical point of view. Considering that biotech traits are used in a very large percentages of the soybean, corn, canola and sugar beet crops, it makes much more sense to allow something that has been expensively segregated to be labeled “non-GMO,”as is already the case. 

    2.    This initiative would create a field day for lawyers.  If this initiative is passed, anyone who wants to can take acompany to court if they think they are selling unlabeled GMO foods.  They don’t need to go to any governmentagency with oversight  - just straight to court.  There don’t have to be any damages in question.  The courts are also allowed to award the accusing party compensation for courtcosts and for the costs of investigating the food in the first place.  Given the practical challenges described above, this initiative would create a thriving litigation industry for exactly the kind of lawyers who wrote this proposition in the first place.

    3.    This initiative would effectively restrict the use of the marketing term, “natural.”

    Any foods which are even minimally processed (e.g. milling of wheat to make flour) cannot be marketed as “natural” under this potential law unless they are either specifically tested for GMO status or come from a highly segregated channel complete with an audit trail and sworn affidavits.  That would even be true for foods made from crops that don’t even have commercial, biotech traits.  Thus, unless a food is certified Organic (specifically exempted in this initiative), it becomes expensive and legally risky to call it “Natural.”  Arguably, the marketing term “natural” is over-used, but the answer to that isn’t to create an uneven playing field through a proposition that is promoted for a completely different reason.

    4.    It will be virtually impossible to fix any unintended consequences of this law.  This initiative is designed to be difficult to change.  It says that if any part is stricken in the courts all the remaining sections are in force.  Even worse, it requires that any changes require a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature –something that is highly unlikely based on the extreme polarization of California politics.  If we pass this initiative, we will likely be stuck with it no matter what expected, or unanticipated problems it creates

    5.    This is another example of the California initiative system being gamed by special interests from out of state.  It is common for special interests to use the Californiainitiative system by paying people to collect signatures and then buying advertisements.  This has nothing to do with the original concept of a grass-roots, citizen-driven process.   In this case the major fundingcame from the notorious food-fear merchant, “Dr.” Mercola, and also from some of the Organic food companies that employ distorted, negative descriptions of non-Organic food topromote their products.  It was also driven by activist lawyers who stand to gain financially.  The initiative is being promoted as a common sense requirement for consumer benefit.  Common sense should actually drive California voters to follow the money.  

    6.    It is worth asking, “why do farmers like these crops so much?” There is a bit ofa spoiled child flavor to statements like, “hey, I’m the consumer so I shouldget any information that I want.” We who actually depend on farmers for something as non-optional as foodshould at least ask, “why are GMO crops so overwhelmingly popular with any group of farmers with who has ever been given the opportunity to grow them?”  Farmers that manage to stay in business in that risk-laden enterprise do so by making rational economic decisions.  Biotech crops are something that has made good business sense for them, and by extension, a less costly and more reliable food supply for consumers.  If this initiative has the disruptive effect on the food system that its writers are hoping, we may discover the downsides of ignoring the interests of people on whom we depend.

     If you are a scientist, you can add your name to a petition against proposition 37 that has been organized by university and foundation researchers.  Its not just industry scientists (like myself), who are opposed to prop 37.  Its people who understand the science and its benefits.

    Credits:

    Corn combine image from bohnsack

    ship image from 62518797@NO4

    Train image from RoyLuck

    Silos image from spiesteleviv

    Comments

    I'm kind of curious about the interstate commerce aspects of this. Wouldn't the federal government have some authority to override this in cases where commodity food and feed grains are being bought/sold across state lines? I think Congress and federal authorities have some power to prevent states from setting up barriers to trade like this.

    Also what about judicial review? Would the VT case regarding mandatory rBGH labeling not be pertinent?

    I know the best way to deal with bad law is to avoid it in the first place, but it seems like this one is ultimately doomed regardless of how the vote goes.

    sdsavage
    As a scientist and not a lawyer I don't know.  I hope you are right. 
    Steve Savage
    Prof. Savage -- thank you for sharing this info. I included some of your thoughts (with attribution, natch) in new chapter on Prop 37 in updated edition of my GMOs book: http://www.amazon.com/The-History-GMOs-Genetically-ebook/dp/B006ISU4HW/ . I am not a scientist -- just a humble English teacher trying to make sense of a complicated issue. Having grown up on a cotton farm, I have always (like most cotton farmers) avoided any food with cottonseed oil in the ingredients list; my research on GMOs caused me to exclude every drop of canola oil and American dairy -- I never have been a milk-drinker but love cheese -- now it's only European cheese for me. I know how hard farmers work, but I also know a bit about the systemic corruption of FDA.

    I wonder how much this shill author was paid by Monsanto to write this article.

    Hank
    Just curious, are all scientists shills for Big Business or just the ones who disagree with your crackpot 'a gene that can't express anything harmful to humans will give me autism' supernatural beliefs?
    sdsavage
    I can tell you.  About a negative$3000.  I spend time on things like this in direct conflict with my consulting business.  This includes many hours of reading and in this case discussions with the lead proponents of Prop 37.  I've been blogging for three years and no ag-related company has paid me a dime to do it.  When I was blogging on one sustainability site I think I once got up to $400 after 200 posts.  I'm not doing this for money.  I'm concerned about how anti-technology forces are undermining the ability of the ag industry to feed the world.  Do you have a problem with that?
    Steve Savage
    Exactly!!!!! Let me see you eat this and feed this to your children and grandchildren. You're right they have infiltrated our food supply without our consent or awareness to make more profits and now that it's in Everything, b/c it would be to difficult to separate it out we should just except it because it's easier for the company (the multi-billion dollar a year companies that you seem to cry for). You say "more reliable food supply" for consumers, there's the first problem you and those companies look at human beings as consumers, not humans, people, or individuals. Those companies need people to consumer more and more for them to profit more and more for their shareholders (which I will go out on a limb and say you are probably vested in). The second, among many of the problems here, is your reference to a "reliable food source" reliable why? b/c it will be on the shelves or in your pantry for years to come, that the company will still be around to sell it??? I consider reliable food, food (real food, fruits, grains, vegetables) that will nourish me and allow my body to function as it was intended to! The food to grow and be sustained as it always has on it's on, relying on the natural process (without being altered and made unnatural). There's also not enough sound, long term research to say these are safe to use. Just like a drug that gets approved and 5 years later recalled after the long term side effects are really predominate??? Then again with all these side effects that come about from these products long term we will be able to keep the pharmaceutical companies in business (good for you too right!)

    I appreciate your opinion, however I do not agree with it. I am also grateful for the passion you have for something, I hope you have moments where you can quiet your mind and go outside yourself to connect with something greater then yourself and feel the connection we all have.

    Prof. Savage raises good points. Prop 37 looks to me to be the "Lawyers' Full-Employment Act of 2012."

    sdsavage
     I can tell you the exact number.  Zero.  I have been blogging for over three years, over 200 posts, all without any compensation except for the trivial amounts that come from the sites other than my own where I post (I'd estimate that at $500 for 3 years).  If Monsanto offered me money to write this I wouldn't take it.  Your assumption that I am a "shill"  is highly insulting to me.  You don't even have the nerve to be anything other than "anonymous" in this comment stream, and you are willing to accuse me?  
    Steve Savage
    Anonymous, you just violated the Organic Godwin's law. You lose.

    I don't agree with all aspects of Proposition 37, but I do think we need more labeling going on. I also don't think all GMO is bad, but I think I should be able to pick and choose. I think your articles written regarding Proposition 37 are great because they spark my interest in digging deeper to find out even more about this. Thank you!

    Hank
    As noted, it would be much cheaper and easier to label non-GMO food.  But that would not make a lawyer or an organic soap peddler rich, thus the need for legislation that will penalize products that have done nothing wrong, and exempt it from actual law that prevents companies from being sued when they have done no harm.

    It's a get-rich-quick scheme.  If Monsanto demanded labels for non-GMO food, would you be okay with that?  No, you would insist they are warning labels then, and not informational.
    Actually, I'm in favor of labeling all foods, including *gasp* Organics!

    Hank
    Me too. If Prop 37 were actually truth in ingredients and not just a way to scare people about GMOs, I'd be first in line to vote for it.  But if honesty and transparency were the law, the charlatans at the organic companies behind this would be out of business. Organic food will not be able to pass this ridiculous 0.5% standard, much less the synthetic pesticides on 25% of organic food.  They'd be out of business.
    Quite impressive article with full of information so far! I think if I will share this post into my facebook page though it will be very handy read for many of my friends. Thanks
    http://floraandmuse.com/blog/fun-restaurants-in-houston/

    Within the next 5 to 10 years GMO junk science will be a thing of the past due to no demand. Then Hank. Steve and Cowboy bob will be flipping burgers for a living. You guys are fighting a losing battle only because 95% of Americans are not as smart as you!

    Hank
    A losing battle is not the wrong battle. In ancient times, you were the one sacrificing girls to some mythical entity and believing in voodoo.  Today, voodoo is called organic soap and 'supplements' but, hey, you have a majority, so congratulations on being a crackpot.

    100 years from now people are going to look at the anti-GM cranks like we look at people who leeched and drilled holes in skulls and ridiculed germ theory.
    Gerhard Adam
    I sure hope I'm not supposed to be "Cowboy Bob".  If so, I declare that this thread is dead since this indirectly invoked a reference to the hat.
    Mundus vult decipi
    wow you make everyone who doesn't agree with you seem an ignorant cretin. To me it seems that you think anyone who is anti-GMOs is ignorant and doesnt understand science on the same level that prehistoric people and people of the ark ages. My undergraduate was in biological engineering my doctorate is in medical laboratory science, my oppositions to GMO agriculture are not for safety but rather efficacy and because the corporations involved are not those I wish to support. The fact that i disagree with you does not make me ignorant, I probably know more about the science of creating GMOs than you do.

    Your disdain for organics is similarly surprising. I buy organics with a grain of salt, assuming they may have SOME pesticide residue, from getting too close to non organic products but if you know they do not use synthetic toxic chemicals on the soil, all residue would be on the exterior (where you could wash it with a bit of bleach and water) rather than trace elements within the plant cells. Also its not as hard as you would make it seem to buy organic and know your food meets your ethical and health standards, I know my farmer, I know my farm, i occasional pick my own fruit, i've volunteered with and without my kids - so they know about how food is grown, and I know their practices, hell i even have stock in the farm. You make it seem as though no food is truly organic so we should just give up on getting food not sprayed or engineered with toxins? Since i will never be able to source 100% organic monoculture large scale food has not been contaminate with GMO s i don't eat/purchase: rice, corn (occasionally i get sweet corn but this farm also provides our fruit and everything else not some monoculture in the midwest), wheat, cereal grains, or commercial pasta, its possible to live without GMOs they aren't some inevitable necessity of life.

    Organic soaps are not voodoo, that is a hateful thing to say. you may be perfectly fine with having your family bathe in soaps with phalates and fragrances (they don't have to label what they use in fragrances so this is how they hide many toxic things, another failure of labeling in this country). I have an endocrine disorder and allergies I can't and won't use these products, so i use organic soap, not the "magic in a bottle" soap or grocery store commercial organic brand (these have as many if not more synthetic ingredients), i know the woman that makes my goat milk and castile soap, she'll give you recipe if you want. Candle and soap making are relaxing and easy and i make my own a lot of the time if i can source ingredients and find time. supplements are also not voodoo, though supplements are completely unregulated, which is also a failure of customer protection. I use spirulina in smoothies occasionally its considered a supplement but its also a good source of protein and i like the taste, other supplements that are VERY helpful to me are folic acid (prevents spinal cord abnormalities in utero and helps pcos sufferers like me), turmeric is wonderful for inflammation, castor oil heat packs greatly reduce pcos symptoms, supplements may be hard to regulate and most are oversold and make outrageous claims but they are certainly not voodoo, just because a doctor didn't prescribe it does NOT mean its scientifically baseless, people did try to make themselves feel better before we had modern pharmacies.

    Science and homeopathy are not mutually exclusive. To have a more productive health care system more people should stop thinking that all medical conclusions are deeply rooted in science and that all natural remedies are nothing but a mixture of charlatans, "voodoo" and placebo affect. There is a middle ground and science can be very faith based, prejudiced, biased, and down right wrong, that is why it is always evolving, science is never 100% accurate.

    Hank
    Science and homeopathy are not mutually exclusive. 
    Let me save you some time. Yes they are.  Unless you are contending science and placebos are not mutually exclusive, because that is what homeopathy is; expensive sugar water.
    MikeCrow
    only because 95% of Americans are not as smart as you!

    That's something to be proud of!
    Never is a long time.
    Whatever the merits of prop. 37, some of these arguments are weak or even very weak.

    - This is asking for something that is a great deal harder than it sounds.
    It can't be that hard, can it? Lots of things happen to commodity grains. They get spoiled. They can get contaminated. They easily get mixed up (not all wheat is equal: depending on the gluten content wheat A is better for bread and wheat B better for cakes & cookies). But the food industry is able to keep the amount of spoiled or contaminated grains in a certain batch under the threshold (at least I hope it's able) and to keep wheat A and B apart. If the Markets demand it, it'll be able to keep GMO and non-GMO grains apart.

    - This initiative would effectively restrict the use of the marketing term, “natural.”
    That would be absolutely great. The term is meaningless. And if the initiative could restrict the use of the marketing term "Improved" too, that would be even better.

    - There is a bit of a spoiled child flavor to statements like, “hey, I’m the consumer so I should get any information that I want.”
    No, there isn't. The childish thing is that you're talking about "any information that I want". This is a slippery slope argument in disguise, about the weakest argument in existence. We're not talking about the dress of the farmer's wife or his political affiliation. We're talking about GMO's, so-called "organic" food etc. There's nothing childish about consumers wanting to know what they're eating, thank you.

    - It is worth asking, “why do farmers like these crops so much?”
    I'm old enough the remember the times when farmers really, really liked to spray their crops with massive amounts of pesticides. I'm happy the use of pesticides is much more restricted now, even if farmers liked them a lot.

    Slap a truthful label on GMO-food, non-GMO-food and organic food and let the Markets decide.

    Well Hank, hate to break this to you but they still use leech therapy in hospitals along with numerous more unproven methods/therapies which have never proven scientifically:

    "that as much as 20–50% of conventional care, and virtually all surgery, has not been evaluated by RCTs [randomized clinical trials]. According to Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal, “Only about 15% of medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence… This is partly because only 1% of the articles in medical journals are scientifically sound and partly because many treatments have never been assessed at all.”
    +
    :In addition, a frequently cited report from 1978 by the Office of Technology Assessment found that only an estimated 10–20% of allopathic medical interventions are empirically proven. That figure remains accurate nearly 25 years later.".
    =
    all a money and control game which nobody actually improves their health in using the majority of conventional medical industrialized quack medicine..

    Unfortunately., the same thing is now going on with food sources and GMO quack technology.

    Regarding germ theory, the sky is not falling, germs only take advantage of sick people who lack biochemical elements normally due from years of poor nutrition or eating junk foods laced with GMO. Healthy people do not need to worry about 99.99% of germs in the world.

    Here is a science project for you and your technophiles:

    Take two pots of soil.

    First pot of soil must have good quality soil, rich in organic calcium.

    Second pot will also have good soil but low in calcium salts.

    Plant two seeds in each pot. I recommend that you use cannabis seeds from Holland.

    Add water every few days. Watch plants mature.

    You may find that plant with low calcium salts does not seem to have the same amount of chlorophyll as plant grown in high calcium soil. The plant that has low calcium soil may look more translucent due low chlorophyll.

    You may also notice that more insects and bacteria begin to destroy the plant grown in low calcium soil and the plant in high calcium soil is growing perfectly with no bugs hanging around or bacterial invasions.

    In 4 to 5 months, plant with high calcium soil should be mature and very healthy. If this is the case, please send plant to me for my further observation and analysis..

    I believe the bottom line is that we as american's deserve to know exactly what is in the food we are eating. I won't judge someone for not caring if what they are eating contains GMO's, but I would like to the choice not to eat it. When corporations withhold information about what is in our food, they take away our freedom of choice. Period.

    Hank
    Then why exempt organic foods from disclosing what is in the food you are eating?  This is a money-making scheme, just like organic soap and herbal supplements for pets.  It has nothing to do with honesty about food.

    What you can do, right now, is assume anything you buy that does not say 100% organic has GMOs.  So the choice is already yours.
    GMO should be labeled GMO, non-GMO as non-GMO. When non-GMO label their products, BT companies lobbied saying it gives false impression that GMO food is inferior. There doesn't seem to be a way of getting the truth from GM companies!

    Typo ... Pls read "GM Companies" as "BT companies" ....

    Hank
    So you are saying without a special label for GMs you have no way to know if something has no GMs?  Of course you do. If I drive to the Whole Foods or Trader Joe's 5 minutes from my house right now, lots of stuff will say 'no GMO'.  Why do we need to hand lawyers a billion dollars to do what those companies are already doing?

    If it is just about food awareness, you already have it.  

    Now, what you don't mention is truth from 'organic' companies.  And that is more of a concern because it shows you may be duped by public relations.  There is far more risk from organic food than there is a GMO, at least based on history.
    ..." There is far more risk from organic food than there is a GMO, at least based on history"

    Isn't this a good reason for non-GMO to label their product as non-GMO? Why then BT companies lobby against such labelling when it groups them under the same "risky" category?

    Hank
    You miss the point.  Organic companies want to use labels as both a competitive advantage 'look, we are not GMO' and as a disadvantage for their competition, 'look, they are GMO' - why do both?  It makes no sense, until you read how this law is written.  It sets a standard far more onerous that even Europe has - and they are really out there - so the law exempts anyone who pays a fee for an organic sticker from being labeled as GMOs.  Because almost all organic food would not pass if this applied to all food and not just the foods they exempt - which is everyone except their handpicked targets.  

    I do get the point of trying to "scare the consumer" .. to one side or the other. Thats advertising. No one stops the GM food companies from pointing out the negatives of non-GMO foods (you yourself did it couple of posts back). At the end of day, these are two competitors trying to win the consumer. And the two products are different by your own admission. It is only appropriate to flesh out the dfferences on the labels so the consumer can decide for themselves. What is not appropriate is for one side to make the decision for the consumer or try to sweep information under the carpet ("...because the consumers are stupid and get scared easily..."). Why not then, just ban smoking, liquor etc in the name of science (or sell them freely without warnings and regulation saying they are scare tactics)? The consumer has the ultimate right to make informed decision, whether you agree with his/her decision or not. As for lawyers, its the non-GMO food companies that would be more at risk of lawsuits.

    Gerhard Adam
    I reviewed your article again and I still fail to see the problem.  It seems that the issue isn't the use of GMO products, but the reluctance on the part of producers to acknowledge it.  That's what seems disingenuous.

    Consider:
    1.    This is asking for something that is a great deal harder than it sounds.
    Yes, it's complicated, but only if you wish to avoid the GMO label.  If you're content that it doesn't matter, then what possible difference does it make to label your product as possibly containing GMO products?
    2.    This initiative would create a field day for lawyers.
    Again ... only if you wish to avoid the label.
    3.    This initiative would effectively restrict the use of the marketing term, "natural."
    Good.  It's a marketing term and has no fundamental informative meaning if it can't actually be documented to be "natural".
    4.    It will be virtually impossible to fix any unintended consequences of this law.
    That's a problem with all laws and has little to do with GMO foods.  In short, it's purely a political process and subject to how people want their legislature to behave.
    5.    This is another example of the California initiative system being gamed by special interests from out of state.
    Again ... what difference does it make?  The organic food producers that have exempted themselves are not the competitors anyway, since it is highly unlikely that organic consumers would use GMO foods regardless of labeling or otherwise.
    6.    It is worth asking, “why do farmers like these crops so much?”
    Good, then "share the wealth".  Don't be shy about your use and label the products.  Again, this seems more like producers wanting to use GMO foods but being reluctant to tell anyone that that's how the food was produced.  It's about avoidance in acknowledging GMO that is the problem.

    As I've said elsewhere, this "onerous" requirement only becomes onerous when producers want to exempt themselves from such labeling.  If the benefits are as pronounced as claimed, then most producers should be able to put products on the shelf [with labels] that cost significantly less than competitive products.  This should make them eager for such notice.

    Instead we find that everyone is willing to tout the benefits and the science, but when it comes to actually acknowledging it, then suddenly everybody gets shy.

    I've been told before that this is NOT about a fear of lost sales, so I ask again, then what's the problem with labeling the food and stop screwing around with irrelevant details.



    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    As an aside, I consider this statement to be somewhat problematic.
    6.    It is worth asking, “why do farmers like these crops so much?”
    This would never be an acceptable question in most other contexts.  Consider such an argument being advanced because a corporation finds it extremely profitable to exploit child labor in an overseas sweatshop.  Would it be considered reasonable to say that this information shouldn't be available to consumers because the corporation really "likes it"?

    In fact, it seems that this is precisely the attitude which has lead to many of our economic problems.  We're so worried about keeping businesses happy, that we don't let the market decide what succeeds and fails.  We want to "game" the system by either controlling competition, providing governmental supports for businesses that don't work, or withholding information that the consumer needs.

    BTW... without trying to pick a fight, but how many of these "farmers" are actually farmers [i.e. individuals]?  In short, what I'm getting at is the myth of the "small" farmer benefiting from this.  It is clear by the demographics that something doesn't fit, since over 1 million of the 2 million estimated farms are simply classified as "retirement" or "lifestyle".
    By 1997, a mere 46,000 of the two million farms in this country accounted for 50% of sales of agricultural products (USDA, 1997 Census of Agriculture data).
    http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/demographics.html

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/10/06/337170/food-aging-farmers/?mobile=nc

    This "increase" in small farms seems hard to believe that someone would actually publish this.  People make more money selling junk on e-Bay than they would on a farm with less than $1000 annual sales.  So, I find it hard to believe that these people will benefit from GMO crops, since it is totally implausible that they make enough to pay the licensing fees for the seed.

    Most of the increase is in small operations with annual sales less than $1,000 and where no one enterprise makes up 50 percent of the farm. These new farms tend to be smaller (annual sales less than $1,000), with younger operators, and greater reliance on off-farm income than more established operations.
    http://www.nifa.usda.gov/nea/ag_systems/in_focus/familyfarm_if_overview.html
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    BTW... without trying to pick a fight, but how many of these "farmers" are actually farmers [i.e. individuals]? In short, what I'm getting at is the myth of the "small" farmer benefiting from this.
    A terrific point, at least in America.  There is a pervasive myth that conventional and organic farming promotes of some bucolic guy struggling to live in the big world; the biggest organic companies are tens of billions of dollars, and do both kinds.

    But the big beneficiaries of this science are really only at the high end and low.  Large corporations get benefit from it and the poorest farmers in inhospitable climes do also, but a regular family farm in America does not.  

    The low cost for the seed (to non-farming Americans, that is) is the weird factoid that opponents never seem to address; why aren't they paying to license the seed and prove it harmful?

    Instead, like those Intelligent Design groups, GMO opponents seem to raise a lot of money they use for promoting doubt and never actually do any research of their own.


    "The low cost for the seed (to non-farming Americans, that is) is the weird factoid that opponents never seem to address; why aren't they paying to license the seed and prove it harmful?"

    The implicit assumption that one side has a lock on "science" is questionable. Most mundane things are not easily provable or disprovable. Even in mathematics which is most precise of all, very simple systems have statements that cannot be proved or disproved within that system. That is why such matters should be completely open to scrutiny, and consumer should form their own decision based on their own criteria (whether scientific or not). Hence the labels.

    Gerhard Adam
    ??????
    Krogdahl points out that there's nothing inherently unusual about physiological changes after food consumption, as this happens with non-GM food as well.

    The rats turned out to eat slightly more and grow faster than their GM-free counterparts, as well as being slighty affected in the immune system, but otherwise they seemed to thrive.
    http://sciencenordic.com/growing-fatter-gm-diet
    So, besides allegations, what risks are you claiming?
    In this study we investigated the persistence of GMO probiotics and transgene transfer in the avian GI tract.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC91691/
    Most chemicals are toxic, but establishing toxicity levels is NOT the same as claiming that they are dangerous.  This is how thresholds are established.  For example, most people probably don't realize that Oxygen is toxic, but it is also essential for life, so how would you classify it?  It can send a completely erroneous message without the context being specifically considered.
    The potential side effects of these combined pesticides on human cells are investigated in this work.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jat.2712/abstract
    In short, your research leaves much to be desired, since it either alleges some peripheral finding without any conclusion, or simply indicates that further research should be conducted.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "The rats turned out to eat slightly more and grow faster than their GM-free counterparts, as well as being slighty affected in the immune system, but otherwise they seemed to thrive.
    http://sciencenordic.com/growing-fatter-gm-diet "

    Joe six pack might not care about few extra pounds ... but Jane the model would not want to take the slightest chance of tiniest extra weight ... so the research still matters. This of course goes for non-GMO too if it were the other way around. Eventually this will force everybody to think for themselves and be more responsible towards themselves ... which can be a good thing.

    Gerhard Adam
    Of course, the error in your assumptions is that whatever happens to rats is a good indicator of what will happen to humans.  While rats can certainly be useful test subjects for initial testing, they are NOT human and no matter what conclusion you reach from them isn't confirmed true until it occurs in humans.

    More importantly, consider that the article didn't say the rats arbitrarily get heavier.  It indicated specifically that they ate more.  So, how does this translate into a finding of any sort regarding your examples of Joe six pack or Jane the model?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Until you can legally experiment on humans, rats/animals are the best bet. Why even conduct any experiments then, if you are to go back to "rats are not human" argument?

    Also, the research is not a proof. Can a reseach prove that something is absolutely safe for everyone? Dont you have to experiment on "everyone" to get to that conclusion by your own reasoning? (Hey Jane is not Joe....)

    Research is gathering of statistical data, and everyone is free todetermine where in the data they fall and interpret it in whichever way they feel fit.
    Give that on label, and be done with it. Let Joe or Jane " live or let die " on their own terms.

    Gerhard Adam
    Except you've completely missed the point.  There was absolutely NOTHING indicated to be wrong with the rats, so where do you decide to claim that there is a risk?

    The only thing the study said is that they ate more ... not that they got fatter ... not that it was harmful ... not that anything happened, except that they "thrived".

    So ... where is the issue of safety being raised here?  Let alone escalating to the point of making irresponsible statements like letting Joe or Jane "live or die" on their own terms.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "The only thing the study said is that they ate more ... not that they got fatter ... not that it was harmful ... not that anything happened, except that they "thrived"."

    whoa !!!..

    QUOTE follows
    "
    Rats fattening up

    As part of the project, a group of rats were fed corn which had been genetically modified for pest resistance. Over a period of 90 days they became slightly fatter than the control group of rats fed non-GM corn. The same effect occurred where rats were fed fish which, in turn, had eaten GM corn.
    "

    enuf said

    Gerhard Adam
    Sure ... if you leave out all the relevant parts.

    "...were slightly larger, they ate slightly more...

    "
    ...there's nothing inherently unusual about physiological changes after food consumption..."
    Mundus vult decipi
    At this point I cannot pretend you had read the article before I quoted it verbatim. And you are still misquoting the article!!!

    VERBATIM ... "...they became slightly fatter..."

    And the point here is: slightly fatter is not acceptable to Jane, although Joe may not care

    Gerhard Adam
    Where do you think my quotes come from?  If they ate slightly MORE, then it follows that they would probably be slightly fatter.  That's what comes from eating more food.

    BTW ... let's be clear that this is hardly a peer-reviewed paper so you can't actually quantify what "slightly fatter" even means, let alone using it as a criteria of what might happen in humans.

    The point of the article was to express a concern about gene transfer.  The weight differential didn't seem to be of any consequence to the researchers.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "what might happen in humans"

    So Jane should just eat the GM food and become the human subject ... fantastic ... NOT
    infact, this is another good reason why the ingredients should be labeled

    "The weight differential didn't seem to be of any consequence to the researchers. "
    it would definitely matter to Jane

    Gerhard Adam
    Undoubtedly based on your extensive research and interpretive knowledge of a report that you read in an article.  Yeah ... that's good science.

    You apparently can't understand that eating MORE results in getting FATTER.  That's always been the connection with food.  The paper didn't say that they ate the same, but gained weight.

    So your conclusion is something that you've simply made up.  There was nothing in the paper that indicated the connection you're making.  Now if you have access to the actual research paper and it makes a connection that GM foods results in more calories being retained as fat ... then you'd have something.

    What's so annoying about these posts, is that of all the legitimate questions and concerns that are raised, people pick the goofiest things to pick on GM foods about.  So, apparently your whole premise is that we have to protect models from getting fatter by restricting GM foods.   
    Mundus vult decipi
    why the rats ate more of GM than the non-GM not because the researchers told them to!

    Ususally ... they let the rats eat however much they want to ... since they also want to measure how much makes them feel full....
    So if Jane follows her "usual" with the GM .. she might get fatter. To stay same, she might have to eat lesser of GM and feel empty ... this is a bit too much for busy Jane don't you think?

    "...So, apparently your whole premise is that we have to protect models from getting fatter by restricting GM foods..."

    Its not about models ... its just one of gazillion reasons why people need to know ingredients ... obviously you never thought this is important ... but Jane does ...
    thats another reason for listing the ingredients - "you cannot tell who will use it how"
    so dont ask why .. just do it ... hence the prop 37

    "...irresponsible statements like letting Joe or Jane "live or die" on their own terms....."

    yeah .. great job sensationlizing things ... "live or let die " is a twist on Paul McCartney's song title "Live and let die"

    Gerhard Adam
    Oh you're just too clever for words ...

    Of course, you probably don't realize that the phrase comes from a James Bond novel first, so it isn't a Paul McCartney "title".
    Mundus vult decipi
    strangely enuf i know it from the movie first ... afterwards i came to know there was a Paul McCartney album with the title "Live and Let Die"

    Hank
    Poor Science Nordic.  They are actually a pretty good site but they compile articles from all over the north countries and this one gets brought up over and over - why not cite (or *gasp* read) the primary literature?  People citing that is basically like someone on conspiracy sites linking to our Nibiru article time and again.
    Except you are missing somethign huge. This is a controlled test with rats on a controlled diet probably limited to the test subject (corn). Now, the real question is not GMO vs. non GMO it is specific GMO vs isogenic variety. It's a matter of proper controls. The assumption that corn is corn unless it is GMO is a poor one. Two conventional varieties of corn can have differences in their makeup. These changes can easily account for a rat or two preferring one variety over another. The nutritional profile could account for weight gain differences or fat in the liver etc. It's a matter of appropriate controls. And after that it's a matter of large enough sample size - if only one or two rats in an 8(for example) study gain more weight than their buddies, then the experiment artificially shows a trend in body weight simply because 1/4 of the small group were oddballs.

    I would look harder at what varieities were used before drawing such sweeping conclusions from from passing comments in a study.

    You are making a very poor extrapolation here. Feeding studies are designed to bring out the small differences in foods. Assuming that a tiny difference found in a feeding study means a huge difference in actual diet is not valid.

    I am not a special interest. I am a UC Berkeley student and a citizen of the state of California. And if Prop 37 will make every damn product in conventional supermarkets correctly labelled as containing GMO ingredients, that is exactly what I want as a voter.

    Gerhard Adam
    ... but you don't care whether organic foods are accurate in their labeling?  Merely claiming to be organic is good enough for you?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Where did I say that?

    Gerhard Adam
    Since Prop 37 exempts organic foods and you seem to be OK with that, so that's why I reached the conclusion I did.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Organic food is inherently GMO-free. I won't claim that organic certification organizations are foolproof, flawless or untainted by special interests, but that's a different problem than the one Prop 37 is addressing. Believe me, I would love to be able to trust every "organic" product in the supermarket, but because I can't, I try to buy directly from farms.

    Gerhard Adam
    OK, so you aren't really interested in labels that accurately portray food contents.  You simply want a warning label that nebulously names GMO foods. 

    I happen to favor labeling, but it should be applied to all foods and not used as a "warning" against people that already know little enough about it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I didn't say that either. I'm not entirely sure WHAT it is you think I want, haha. I personally don't like processed foods in the first place. In an ideal world, labels would be even MORE detailed and specific organic/GMO ingredients would be labelled as such. But as we all know, such an ideal world doesn't exist. But I DO want to take one step towards it, and labeling products containing any GMO ingredients is a great start.

    After all, so it goes it California, so it might go in the rest of the US. Imagine if the US rejected GMO crops like Europe? Maybe the whole Western world would. Maybe agriculture the world over would be that much closer to being sustainable.

    Hank
    That isn't sustainable, that is consigning poor people to certain death.  

    Europe is pretty anti-science so why would you want to emulate that?  All European countries combined don't match the science output of just the US. 

    What magical year do you think we should go back to as a baseline for this sustainable myth?  Because if it is any year in the last 10,000, science created the food.


    Gerhard Adam
    Maybe agriculture the world over would be that much closer to being sustainable.
    Sustainable?  Are you joking?  That ship sailed long before we reached 7 billion people on the planet.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Your nihilism has no room in today's sustainability movement. My generation is going to try its best. I'm just blessed to be surrounded by a bunch of people my own age (and older, if you count my professors) who still have hope and are working on the best solutions possible. I really hope you regain your optimism and try to enact some actual change. I know my peers and I are.

    Gerhard Adam
    Optimism is a wonderful thing when you're sitting around a table having a few beers and discussing the future.  However, the world doesn't care about your optimism.  Solutions require realistic assessments and real knowledge.

    Optimists simply get discouraged and give up.  The people that succeed are the ones that know that things will be difficult.

    There is no sustainability movement.  Human populations have long since passed any possibility of "sustainability" without advanced technologies.  Run the numbers.  If it weren't for people already living on top of each other in cities, we'd have long since annihilated each other in our quest for territory.  Just for starters take the population of human beings and divide it by the number of square miles of dry land on planet Earth.  I assure you that it will be an eye-opening experience.  Then factor out all the places that people can't live [i.e. Antarctica, Mt. Everest, Sahara, etc.].  You're in for a big surprise.

    You'd better replace your optimism with pragmatism very quickly.  If not, you will be sorely disappointed when reality comes crashing in.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I'm well aware that things will get difficult, Mr. Adam. Gosh, if I had a dollar for every time I've reached a real pit of despair during my studies, my classes and my research, I'd buy a cabin in the middle of nowhere and hide! But that's just the thing, I'm not going to hide, nor am I going to accept that there's no movement to make this world better. There are a lot of optimistic pragmatists out there, pardon the oxymoron. You should meet them; they're even friendlier than they are intelligent!

    Gerhard Adam
    ...nor am I going to accept that there's no movement to make this world better.
    Good.  You're young.  There's nothing wrong with being optimistic and ambitious to try and do things.  However, you'll eventually learn that there are no movements.  There's only people and what they do as individuals.  Any organization that becomes powerful enough to actually affect change inevitably becomes the problem.  It's the albatross around your neck to succeeding.

    Good luck. 

    However, lest you lose your idealism ... keep this quote in mind.

    Mundus Vult Decipi - "The world wishes to be deceived"
    James Branch Cabell
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thank you, really. Optimism ABSOLUTELY need to be tempered with heavy, heavy doses of realism. I can't begin to tell you how many of my peers and classmates have their head in the clouds about how they're saving the world when they buy organic. Their preciousness and short-sightedness gives me headaches while I'm busy trying to understand the complex, necessary paradigm shift that is required in how we view our food, our planet and our relationship to them both.

    There might not be "movements" in the epic, heroic sense of the world. But out there in the US and abroad there are communities, and lots of them, that are working to make real change. Those communities help people be better individuals and teach others to do the same. And I think organizations can be both the problem and the solution. Speaking from experience, UC Berkeley and its wonderful professors have changed my life for the better, but meanwhile BP is funding pointless biofuel research right next door. The contradictions are endless, but good and bad can coexist in the same structure. Many shades of gray and all that. But again, thank you.

    Hank
    Organic food is inherently GMO-free.
    No, it is not. That is why they are exempt from this law.  Most organic food would have both GM and Organic stickers on them, because organic is just a voluntary process.

    So actual '100% organic, no-GM' food - which is quite rare - would need a whole new set of stickers if the law were about transparency and not corporate greed of organic companies.  Basically, it will get all weird and Sneech-like, with all these stars being slapped on bellies.

    Organic food versus regular food, in pictures:



    The organic food I buy is free of GMOs. I'm not sure where you get yours, but that's a sorry state of affairs if so. I understand this law isn't perfect, as most laws aren't, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. If we can start by kicking conventional produce and GMO foods out of the market individually, I think the "organic" label will regulate itself in time. We're a rowdy, inquisitive bunch of consumers in California. The Big Organic won't be able to hide for long.

    Hank
    I think the "organic" label will regulate itself in time. We're a rowdy, inquisitive bunch of consumers in California. The Big Organic won't be able to hide for long.
    I'm thrilled by your optimism that billion dollar organic companies are so awesome they will just fix themselves - but everyone else needs to be sued to shape up.  It shows you are not all that intellectually 'rowdy', you just  believe what PR people tell you to believe.

    I live in California and I also disagree that Californians are inquisitive.  Or even remotely critical, much less skeptical - most Californians frame science through their belief system, instead of the other way around. 
    Haha, Mr. Campbell, all I've got left at the end of the day is optimism. And before you start tossing the ad hominems around, I'm studying urban agriculture with the intent of one day being a farmer myself. Be careful who you call sheeple!

    After meeting countless folks from out of state and around the world, what we Californians accept as "normal" is substantially different than others. The technicalities will never be perfect, but the very fact that we, as a state, are saying "NO" to GMOs in any capacity is a big challenge to corporate agribusiness.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...is a big challenge to corporate agribusiness.
    LOL ... boy do you have a lot to learn about farming. 
    I'm studying urban agriculture with the intent of one day being a farmer myself.
    I'm not even sure how to wrap my brain around that concept.  While I can't say much about crops, I know something about cattle, and believe me ... they aren't reading the same books you are.  :)

    Presumably you're wealthy, since without money, I can't begin to imagine how you envision buying enough land to make a living at farming.  Even those that have been doing it for generations have lost and continue to struggle, while you're planning on doing this with a college degree?
    Mundus vult decipi
    I know I have a lot to learn about it; that's why I'm going to college for it! I start my first agroecology research project this week, too. Maybe it'll make me all bitter like you think I should be. : )

    Oh, I'm far from wealthy. Thousands of dollars in debt, actually. And I'm also aware that the biggest challenge to young farmers is the lack of affordable land. Personally, I'm excited for all the hands-on experience I'm going to get AFTER I finish this college degree. Maybe in a little over a decade I'll have that Impossible Farm, but until then...

    Gerhard Adam
    You know ... you're right.  You're too young to be dealing with my cynicism.

    I would encourage you to get out on a farm as much as possible.  If you have time off, then go work as a hand someplace.  Then you'll get a real sense of what's involved. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Haha, I'll get there one day.

    I really, really want to. I'm well aware that at this point I'm just middle-class suburban kid with a lot of books and principles. Thus why I'm so excited that my classmates and I get to start planting on some of UC Berkeley's agricultural land this week. After college, I intend to help on farms in the Bay Area and ideally do work in Israel as well. But if you have any advice on where to go and what to do, it'd be most appreciated!

    Gerhard Adam
    Don't really know what opportunities might exist around the Bay Area and I have mostly dealt with cattle, so it's not quite the same thing.

    However, I might suggest that it would be better to try and help out at a smaller operation first.  Get a sense of the work, and then you might be in a better position to judge some of the adjustments made in larger environments.  Just a suggestion.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I understand ranching and agriculture tend to be two different ecosystems, so I understand your limitations. Just curious, though, have you ever heard of the dehesa style of ecosystem? It's a Mediterranean practice that blends both into a really cool landscape. Here's a basic description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehesa_%28pastoral_management%29.

    There are a lot of smaller operations, both urban and more traditional, in and around the Bay Area. I've visited a few now and am already really inspired. Your suggestion is truly taken to heart. : )

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not familiar with it, but that kind of stuff works out when you have all the elements come together.  It's like ranchers in the southwest have different options when they can let their cattle graze on public lands.  Someone with small acreage has to make due with what they have there.  It all depends.

    If you have enough land to where animals can graze then you've already got a sizeable piece of land.  If you  have to feed hay, grain, etc. then the operation is completely different.  Similarly determining how you're going to handle them based on the climate [i.e. rain, etc.] is going to effect your choices.  That doesn't even begin to cover issues like breeding, calving, etc.  It takes on a life of its own, and you tend to adapt to what's happening rather than being in a position to control much of what happens.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Boy, no doubt this article was written by either a Monsanto employee or someone totally brainwashed by them. Would you feed your children something that scientists have proven causes infertility and cancer? I guess you won't realize the health dangers of the GMO crops until you're diagnosed with some new, "rare" cancer caused by it.

    Gerhard Adam
    It's hard to imagine how an individual can employ so few words and yet be so monumentally wrong so as to stifle any attempt at correction.  You're so far wrong, you aren't even in the same ball park.
    Mundus vult decipi
    What a load of B/S. You apparently don't read scientific studies done on GM stuff, which the government and Monsanto try to cover up so nobody knows how bad their stuff is. Must have already altered your brain or you wouldn't be stupid enough to write this article.

    Gerhard Adam
    Aren't you concerned that the Illumanti might monitor your keystrokes and be able to read your mind from their space satellites?

    Mundus vult decipi
    I feel sorry for the farmers who want to switch from GMO crops. How do they get out from under Monsanto without being sued? Hopefully not the same way over a quarter of a million farmers in India did.

    Gerhard Adam
    How about something more specific in the form of links rather than just innuendo?
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Farmers have no problems switching between various biotech crop providers or non-GMO seed providers.  The only ones who ever had an issue were "brown bagging".  The Indian cotton farmer suicide thing is a myth, and last year 5 million small scale cotton farmers in India planted Bt cotton and were very happy with it.  
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not sure that the Indian farmer suicides are a complete myth, I'm not just convinced that they're necessarily related to biotech nor as statistically significant as claimed.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/05/18/every-30-minutes-an-indian-farmer-commits-suicide-biotech-is-not-to-blame/

    http://www.chrgj.org/publications/docs/every30min.pdf

    What seems to be more mythical about it, is that the assertion is that approximately 250,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1995 in India.  That comes out to about 15,000 per year.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802368/
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    There was a really sad situation in India, and it may still exist.  Farmers who took out loans to by seed, fertilizer etc had to get those from what we would call a mafia.  If they had a crop failure because of drought or any other reason, they and their families would be threatened by the loan sharks.  If they committed suicide (usually by drinking pesticides they didn't need for their Bt crop), their family would be paid a substantial amount as a death benefit.  Sadly, many farmers yielded to that insidious scenario.  This was going on long before biotech crops.  In the developed world we have really important things like rational farm credit and crop insurance.  That is what is needed in places like India.  This is not in any way a GMO issue.  It is a fundamental fairness issue like the potential for land ownership by women which is also banned in many developing nations even though most of their farmers are women.
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    I understand, and I agree with your explanation.  My only point was to recognize that there were suicides of farmers in India, and I think one has to be careful in stating that something like that is a myth.

    Certainly it is mythical that it is specifically related to biotech, but I believe that your explanation is more important because it acknowledges the event while offering a more plausible explanation for its occurrence.
    Mundus vult decipi
    NONE of those arguments make sense. Take your own advice and FOLLOW THE MONEY all the way to Monsanto and the millions they're using to try and defeat prop 37. As well, plenty of major food corporations using GMOs are throwing waaay more money to keep things as they are so they continue to profit at the expense of the American people. Monsanto and others have no place else to go - 40 + countries BAN GMO crops/foods altogether. We have a right to know what we're eating. YES ON PROP 37!

    Steve, thank you for your article. I am of the opposing view point, but appreciate the information you shared as there is a lot to consider with this subject. There is more to this subject than meets the eye and many stand to gain or loose money as a result of this vote. Anyways the only thing I will argue is that the consumer (or I) have the right to know. For years I was consuming products that are GMO and had no idea. I thought Wheat was Wheat. It took many posts by my lefty friends on Facebook about GMOs to make me realize what it is. Once I was made aware, I immediately made ever attempt to avoid GMO. Many people do not even know they are consuming GMOs much like I didn't. My personal beliefs conflict with the idea of GMOs. Being a vegetarian also, we have to be aware of all that goes into foods and patented seeds may not want to share their proprietary blends. I have heard of tomatoes with flounder genes which would make a vegetable non-vegetarian. Anyways maybe GMO products can put a disclaimer saying that there are no proven side-affects. I do no mind paying more for knowing where my food comes from since it is really important to me. I know many people prefer lower prices and do not mind GMO and that is ok too. It was a fight to get ingredient labeling and nutritional information a long time ago. In the end, I feel we have the right to choose and let the free market decide.