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    What Would Be A Food Movement Worthy Of The Name?
    By Steve Savage | December 31st 2012 06:27 PM | 28 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    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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    Back in October, author Michael Pollan wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he said the upcoming vote on California Proposition 37 would show whether or not the “Food Movement” had developed into “a movement worthy of the name.”  Proposition 37 failed for good reasonsbut Pollan has raised a good question:  

    What would a food movement worthy of the name look like?

    Food is a tremendously important topic –necessary for survival, but critical in many other ways too.  Our diets influence our health in profound ways.  Food is also an integral component of culture, history and religion.  Food can be a source of great enjoyment and is an important medium for family and broader social interaction. 


    A produce shop in Basel Switzerland

    A worthy “Food Movement” focused on a topic of this importance should have at least the following positive goals:

    ·      The alleviation of hunger in the world.

    ·      Making sure that there is a safe, affordable and nutritious food supply

    ·      Helping people make good food choices for optimal health

    ·      Encouraging food production systems which are sustainable, just, and which have a minimal environmental impact

    I’m sure that many who consider themselves part of the “Food Movement” aspire to these goals, but some of those who write, speak and blog for this movement tend to focus on what they are against more than what they are for.  Additionally, some writers are anti-scientific, inclined towards conspiracy-theory-thinking, and inclined to incite fear more than understanding.  

    The Food Movement's Least Worthy Tendency

    However, I believe that antipathy towards farmers is the least worthy characteristic of the current “Food Movement.”

    If you reflect on the positive goals listed above, most are outcomes that can never be achieved without the critical contribution of those who actually produce the food.  By this I mean those that produce the 98+% of our food that does not come from small, local or organic farms.  While there are some foods for which localness is a real advantage, the fact that different foods tend to be produced in specific regions is because it makes the most sense to do so in terms of productivity, quality, and risk. Scientific and statistical  evidence shows that organic is much less productive, and that it is not expanding in terms of acreage or production at least in our own country.  Organic is growing, but only in cost. 

    When many food movement advocates talk about farmers they tend to do so wielding epithets via terms, like “big,”  “factory”, “industrial,” “chemical,” or “corporate.”  They tend to imply negative or malicious or irresponsible motives.   Overall, they write about farmers in a way that indicates that they don’t actually know any of them.  I don’t think it is a good feature of any movement to dismiss broad groups with no real knowledge of those they disparage.

     What Modern, Large-Scale Farmers Are Really Like

    I wish many of these writers could have the privilege to meet some of the farmers I have met over the years. Examples would be a grain producer in North Dakota with a 12,000-acre farm whose “office” is the kitchen table or the 5,000-acre grain grower in Kansas whose “office” was a desk in the corner of the machine shed with a brand new runt calf under a heat lamp next to it.  These are family farms operated by an individual or two brothers with maybe one hired hand and some family help at busy times of the year.  Between the economics, amazing equipment and the steady decline in the farming populations, this is modern farming, and it is just as noble an endeavor as ever before. 

    I wish these writers could meet farm managers who work at multi-thousand acre vineyards or orchard companies in California that are actually “corporate farms”.   Like the grain farmers, these are all examples of technically sophisticated, business-smart, environmentally aware, generous and friendly folks who farm today.  Well under 1% of our population is directly involved in farming today.  Those who do are worthy of recognition, not demonization.

    Farming Isn't Easy

    Farmers take on enormous economic risks each growing season with so many factors outside of their control (weather, commodity prices, pest outbreaks, new regulations…).   Rather than being armchair critics, it would be wise for Food Movement folks to assume that if farmers do something, there is probably a pretty good reason.  If they apply pesticides, it is because pests and their damage are real, and that failing to control them would compromise the production efficiency, quality and safety of their crop.  If farmers grow a certain crop or a biotech improved version of that crop it is because that is their most rational economic and risk/management choice.  The companies that sell seeds, equipment, chemicals or fertilizers to farmers can only do so if they create real value for their customers. Farmers are not stupid.  They only stay in business if they make good purchase decisions.   The products that famers buy support private investment in the development of better seed, better equipment and better crop protection chemicals.  There is nothing sinister about this.  It benefits farmers and thus, indirectly, all of us.

     The Farmers Most Worth of Food Movement Support

    There are a great many “conventional farmers” who are on the cutting edge of environmentally friendly farming.  They use best practices like no-till farming and cover cropping to build soil quality and reduce off-site pollution. They use integrated pest management; fertilization via precision-variable-rate application for non-irrigated crops, or “spoon feeding” of nutrients via irrigation; or controlled wheel traffic (GPS and beyond) to avoid soil compaction and to reduce nitrous oxide emissions (greenhouse gas).   A “food movement worthy of the name” would be allied with this major group of progressive farmers.  Instead of railing at the farm community as a whole or at the companies that supply progressive farmers what they need, a worthy food movement might be brainstorming ways to change the farmland lease and credit systems which don’t encourage the sort of long-term thinking that is required for farming in the most sustainable fashion. 

     Farmers are not the problem when it comes to important things about food or about legitimate goals of a worthy Food Movement.  Farmers are a significant part of the solution.

    You are welcome to comment here and/or to email me at savage.sd@gmail.com

    Comments

    Teach high school students to cook using energy efficient microwave technology. Teach them how to convert whole grains into pilaf, how to steam vegetables in the microwave. Teach them how to make spaghetti in the microwave and spaghetti sauce from paste, vegetables, olive oil, and spices. Teach them how to purchase meat, portion it, freeze it, and cook a portion in the microwave. Teach them how to cook, debone, and freeze a chicken. Teach children about spices. Teach them how to pickle preserve vegetables. Teach children how to make a salad on a cutting board and garnish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Teach how to make yeast bread, quick bread, pancakes, and pie crust. Teach them to make beer and wine. Teach them to make cold slaw from cabbage and yogurt. Teach children the difference between fresh food and corporate adulterated food products.

    Hank
    Isn't that a running joke about education?  We make everyone memorize the Pythagorean theorem and don't teach anything at all about food, balancing a checkbook, etc. 

    I don't have an 'all chemicals are bad' phobia but I think practical education about food leads to fewer people being anti-science and susceptible to scare journalism - and they can make more delcious stuff.  More use of a microwave would also undermine the 'all radiation is bad' efforts by anti-science people as well.
    sdsavage
    Back when the law was passed putting nutrition information on food packages, it was called the "Food Labeling and Nutrition Education Act."   Congress then never funded the education part.  This is probably why more people get their "information" about food from Mommy Bloggers and the like.
    Steve Savage
    sdsavage
    Merlin,All excellent advice.  I think that a renewal of cooking and home food preparation would be one of the best possible things that a Food Movement could achieve.  So few people prepare their own food on a regular basis.  This isn't about "corporate adulteration," it is about people missing out on a highly enjoyable, socially positive, health positive aspect of life.  It isn't even all about "fresh."  There are certain foods which are great canned (e.g. tomato sauce) or great frozen (e.g. sweet corn or peas).  Its about eating the wonderful, real food that farmers produce.
    Steve Savage
    Fantastic piece. I'm biased, of course, because I'm a cow-calf operator.
    I'd argue that the present agricultural model actually achieves each of the goals you suggest. Where hunger, dysnutrition and environmental problems exist, the causes are almost exclusively socioeconomic and/or political.

    sdsavage
    Well said.  
    Steve Savage
    Good piece, Steve. I'm going out on a limb here and say that about 80% of the US population isn't aware of, nor would they be concerned about, the stigma of 'corporate' farming. This group is interested in good tasting food that is fresh, and (most importantly) the least expensive choice available.

    sdsavage
    Frank,You are probably right.  We actually don't have very many corporate farms and even many that are are just family farms that became very successful.  The size and business structure of different kinds of farms is driven by practical economics and often the demands of the buyers.  That mostly works to the consumer's benefit.  
    Steve Savage
    I am not sure what food we eat is not GMO. I don't think anyone reading this has ever eaten corn that wasn't genetically modified, nor a tomatoe. Currently, there are no animals you can eat that aren't genetically modified. Breeding predates anyone reading these pages. Most of the people reading these pages and talking about GMO couldn't tell you what kind of modifications bother them because they lack the basic biochemistry to understand what a modification is. They argue against GMO rice which was modified to increase Vitamin A so that less people went blind in developing countries, fantastic thing to stop. The CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) people in general have not produced anything or discovered anything in their life they are just against modern discoveries. Its no different than arguing how to herd unicorns with them. The fact that the unicorns don't exist doesn't seem to phase them.

    Gerhard Adam
    Breeding predates anyone reading these pages.
    I don't see that it helps the discussion by redefining everything so that GMO becomes a meaningless term.  By that definition, then everything is genetically modified, so it doesn't matter what we do, because every time someone breeds, they are genetically modifying the next generation.  Rubbish!

    If such a definition were true, then one could achieve Bt corn through breeding, but that could never happen, since actual breeding is constrained by the existing genome.

    BTW, I can tell you exactly what one of the things that bothers me is.  Insect resistance, to the point of where we recommend 4% refuge areas where no spraying or anything takes place while we try to hold natural selection at bay.  Of course, if farmers don't do that, we get the results that occurred in India where insect resistance developed within nine years [Bt cotton - pink bollworm].

    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Actually there was a European Corn Borer resistance that my old company, Mycogen, had back in the 1990s that was a non-GMO trait.  Bt corn was much more effective, but both traits were valuable to farmers.  Insect resistance developing in 9 years is no real surprise.  It has happened with about every tool we have ever had for pest control.  Evolution is a pretty difficult thing to deal with.  There are no permanent solutions of any kind to pest control.  
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    Evolution is a pretty difficult thing to deal with.
    I understand, and that's why I wish more of this type of discussion were taking place, in public.  I've drawn the comparison before to our early experiences with antibiotics, and I'm arguing that we are heading down the same path [and all its consequences] if we aren't careful.

    I can also appreciate that there is a significant difference between the science and it's practical implementation.  However, GMO foods aren't about science.  They are about technology and policy.  Once the gene was inserted, the science was essentially settled.  No one is disputing it, nor is anyone questioning the understanding that went into doing it. 

    When people are afraid of flying in airplanes, they aren't anti-science and disputing the laws of aerodynamics. 

    Yet, we have a huge segment of the population that doesn't accept evolution as a fundamental principle of biology and still we deploy a technology that depends on appreciating the evolutionary consequences of the choices they make?  When this is coupled with the reality that most farmers don't make enough money from farming to actually continue the practice [i.e. they need to supplement with non-farming income], I think it is optimistic to presume that they won't take short-cuts or bypass guidelines for economic reasons alone.  This doesn't make them evil, but practical considerations alone would question how someone with economic difficulties could afford to set aside 4% of their crop for refuge?  While it may make sense to do so for the long-term, humans are not known for their long-term thinking.

    Again, none of these are reasons to ban GMO foods, and most of the food safety discussions are red herrings. 

    I have grave concerns that we are doing things biologically that could have disastrous consequences in the long-term.  We are still fundamentally tinkering on the periphery.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Right, an anti-science approach would have been saying aerospace engineers are out to kill us all, airplanes should be banned, etc.  

    Plenty of people absolutely did dispute aerodynamics and still do.  People argue its mechanisms today and we have had multiple articles here on it but why their movement never became law is because politicians did not cave into them, like they have with GMOs. We know that airplanes work and the how is a topic, just like we know GMOs work.

    Like with DDT or anything in food, correct usage is important. We shouldn't patronize people and say they will be either too dumb go get it or too greedy and that will lead to biological doom but we also should not halt progress assuming farmers won't get anything right.

    Regarding the zoology issue, insects have evolved resistance to crop rotation, too.  Yet we do not tell farmers to stop doing it.
    Gerhard Adam
    We know that airplanes work and the how is a topic, just like we know GMOs work.
    That doesn't stop the aircraft technology from failing nor does it prevent pilot error [despite thousands of hours of experience].  However, people are also not compelled to fly.  I don't recall anyone disputing that GMO's work.  Nor does anyone dispute the fact that genes can be placed into plants, nor does anyone dispute that these genes can be expressed.  None of this is part of the discussion.
    We shouldn't patronize people and say they will be either too dumb go get it or too greedy and that will lead to biological doom but we also should not halt progress assuming farmers won't get anything right.
    Again, you're missing the point.  This doesn't have to be a large-scale failure of farmers.  It isn't patronizing, nor is anyone suggesting that people are too dumb or too greedy.  As in the airplane example, even well-trained individuals with thousands of hours of experience can fail.  This is precisely why there are numerous other processes and systems in place to try avoiding failure [not the least of which is a set of strong rules governing pilot behavior].

    So is this assuming that all pilots are irresponsible?  That they are stupid?  We've already seen plenty of examples, where despite these rules, there are those that will violate those rules and drink, or do something they aren't supposed to.  This is intrinsic in any system that involves humans, so one doesn't have to presume the worst in order to plan for it.
    Regarding the zoology issue, insects have evolved resistance to crop rotation, too.  Yet we do not tell farmers to stop doing it.
    I don't know what you're talking about, since crop rotation isn't a resistance issue [unless you're referring to differential pesticide usage].  However, we also have the well-known history of antibiotic resistance and again, we've seen human behavior [from doctors, as well as patients], manage to abuse good, solid science.

    As a result, it's already a given, that some farmers will not follow the recommendations, and that some will take actions that exacerbate the risks.  If that isn't part of the planning then it is purely naive.

    Again, banning something isn't the only social tool we have available.  I realize that some people want that result, but I expect that that isn't really the bulk of the people that have concerns.  In a nutshell, I'm not comfortable when we make choices that have the potential to impact the biosphere in unprecedented ways, and then simply relegate all planning and control over to economic forces.  When such choices are no longer profitable, then who is left to manage and clean up the mess?  Again, we can readily look to the antibiotics legacy to see just how much effort is being put into the process.  We took what seemed like an obvious path and did a lot of good medically in dealing with infections.  Now the free ride is over, the problems have become more complex, and correspondingly more expensive.  So, now that we've created this new antibiotic-resistant world, we find that its not so profitable nor easy as it once was, so who is going to address this?

    This isn't as simple as saying, well we didn't ban antibiotics, so what's the problem.  The point is that we can't keep taking these short-term views of the world.  Every action we take with these new technologies has the potential for severe downstream effects, and simply approaching them with hubris and presuming that, no matter what occurs, we'll solve it, is not a good long-term strategy.

    My point is simple.  Whatever benefit we derive now from GMO's whether it be [Bt toxins, or RR], there will be a price to pay in our biological future.  There are no free lunches, and it seems that these problems are not being considered today, because of the appeal of the short-term fix.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Regarding the zoology issue, insects have evolved resistance to crop rotation, too. Yet we do not tell farmers to stop doing it.
    I don't know what you're talking about, since crop rotation isn't a resistance issue. However, we also have the well-known history of antibiotic resistance and again, we've seen human behavior [from doctors, as well as patients], manage to abuse good, solid science.

    Of course it is a resistance issue, it is well known. Insects will develop resistance to any control measure and have.  That is why the silly knock on Bt traits, for example, not being worthwhile because insects will develop immunity makes no sense to scientists. 

    There has never been a free lunch, no one in biology says there is. That doesn't mean nothing should ever be done until the lunch is free.
    Gerhard Adam
    That is why the silly knock on Bt traits, for example, not being worthwhile because insects will develop immunity makes no sense to scientists.
    That's fair enough, so what follows Bt traits?  What is waiting in the wings for when Bt is no longer effective against the targeted insects?  Since it makes no sense to scientists, then I'm assuming there is a follow-up plan, right?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    This will never end.  It is easy to snipe biologists and science with chronic 'you can't anticipate all scenarios' assertions.  I'm out.
    sdsavage
    The follow-up has been in place for years now.  There a great many different strains of Bt and in many cases there is not cross-resistance.  Several different ones have been deployed in cotton and corn and we have been quite successful at preventing any sort of problematic resistance development.  The same cannot be said for the old, spray on Bt because several pests did develop resistance to that because they only used one kind too much back in the 80s.
    Also, insects have evolved to get around crop rotation.  The corn root worm (actually a beetle) used to be suppressed in a standard corn/soy rotation, but eventually it developed the ability to live on soy as well
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    Thank you.  It's always easier when actual information is provided.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    Interesting. I agree that there should be a sensible food movement as you have described.
    What crops have the best/worst contingency plans for resistance etc? What major food crops worldwide would you be most/least worried about in the coming decades?
    Thor Russell
    sdsavage
    THOR,I am the most concerned about wheat.  It is highly dependent on public breeding programs which are poorly funded and has a very small private breeding component in most regions.  That might have changed if the crop had gone biotech as it was about to in ~2002.  Big wheat importers in Europe and Japan threatened to not buy any US or Canadian wheat if an acre of commercial biotech wheat was planted and the grower groups reluctantly asked Monsanto and Syngenta not to commercialize.  Greenpeace declared victory.  Thus there is still far too little investment in such a key crop particularly when we are facing a threat from stem rust that finally overcame the resistance that was developed back in the green revolution.  
    Soy, in contrast, has a much higher investment level which it really did not back when it was about a 50% saved seed crop prior to biotech.  It and corn will continue to do fine.   Potato was also poised to get some major biotech improvements until the building anti GMO trends convinced MacDonalds to effectively kill it for brand protection reasons.  They just asked their big fry suppliers if they could promise no biotech potatoes to the largest single customer in the market and that was the end of it.  
    Steve Savage
    Breeding, breeding with other species of plants and breeding things that are more edible such as the run of the mill desert banana. So yes with enough breeding, cross breeding I think you could come across just about any genomic combination that you desire but time is an issue so we speed it up with uv light or radiation or grafting known genes into seeds and plants. I realize we get some of the DNA from animals and insects, but so what? Why is that an issue? What do you precieve as a threat from this and what would the mechanizism of the threat be?

    I have heard of and read a few papers on using various weeds which appear to be resistant to insects for finding DNA to add to other species. Nothing we eat at this time is anywhere natural. The animals and plants we eat currently have all been altered significantly to improve yield, resist disease, resist pests and grow in a larger temperature zone.In 1950 we got 40 bushels an acre, today its about 160 and in 1900 it was about 25. Genetic modification feeds the planet and so far there have been no cases that it does any kind of damage.

    As far as the refuge areas and no spraying goes, that is spraying and not genetically altered plants. As far as your cotton example goes, they had a bug infestation that drove the desire for bt Cotton, they didn't make bt cotton and just find a market for it.

    Gerhard Adam
    I realize we get some of the DNA from animals and insects, but so what?
    The "so what" is that we are radically altering the evolutionary trajectory of these organisms without fully understanding the end result.  We are embarking on a path that removes many of the genetic constraints that occur naturally and by crossing these genetic elements to produce organisms that we will have to address in the future.  We have no concept of whether these genetic elements will cross-over into other organisms where they were not intended, nor potentially result in unintended consequences.

    Your comments regarding consequences is very reminiscent of the hubris associated with antibiotics.  At that time, we were going to finally conquer and eradicate all the diseases that plagued humanity.  Well, that didn't turn out so well. 

    The problem is that hubris is not science.  Short-term solutions must consider long-term consequences if we are to address these issues.  That doesn't mean that we must be paralyzed with indecision, but it does mean that we don't need cheerleading, but rather we need sober assessment of what the risks are and what the follow-up plans are for when things don't work out as expected.

    The question therefore isn't about Bt toxins, but rather what follows it.  Bt toxin, is essentially the modern day equivalent of penicillin during our antibiotic phase.  What do we do when we need stronger or more exotic toxins that becoming increasingly expensive to develop and test?  What do we do when we discover that we've accelerated the adaptability of these insects to whatever we throw at them?

    Until those questions are answered, I'm not comfortable that we know what we're doing.  Perhaps this is a necessary short-term step, so I'm certainly not suggesting that we ban such technologies, but I can also virtually guarantee, that this isn't the end of the story.  I can't imagine anyone believing that Bt toxin will be a viable solution in a few decades.  So, then what?
    Mundus vult decipi
    "The "so what" is that we are radically altering the evolutionary trajectory of these organisms without fully understanding the end result."

    Currently the organisms that we farm such as corn and wheat would not exist as they are if we had not interfered long before you or I was born. The evolution has already been radically altered by us. Why the worry of more?

    "Your comments regarding consequences is very reminiscent of the hubris associated with antibiotics."

    Why do you think it has not turned out so well? We cure strep throat and prevent minor cuts from become lethally infected. Seems to have worked fine. A few minor issues like resistant TB do not mean the system failed.

    "What do we do when we need stronger or more exotic toxins that becoming increasingly expensive to develop and test? What do we do when we discover that we've accelerated the adaptability of these insects to whatever we throw at them?"

    If the insect is currently a problem and significantly lowering the crop yeild, what do you purpose be done? It is the only thing driving bt crops aside from yield. Secondly, those questions can never be known because there are infinite varibles in the equation. We don't know everything about the genome of grasshoppers and the effects that future changes in the genome of crops will cause, but we will never know all. I would say we know enough and as far as accelerating thier adaptation is more science fiction than reality. How would that occur? How does a species change its current genome on the fly? A change is usually a certain portion of the population which already has it survives and passes it to the next generation, the DNA doesn't change on the fly.

    Gerhard Adam
    Currently the organisms that we farm such as corn and wheat would not exist as they are if we had not interfered long before you or I was born. The evolution has already been radically altered by us. Why the worry of more?
    I'm not talking about artificial selection which is constrained by the current genome.  I'm talking about creating a new genome by introducing elements that have never occurred together.  That is a radical change, since such variations wouldn't occur without dozens if not hundreds of generations intervening.  This creates a completely different co-evolutionary environment and circumstances.
    Why do you think it has not turned out so well? We cure strep throat and prevent minor cuts from become lethally infected. Seems to have worked fine. A few minor issues like resistant TB do not mean the system failed.
    Minor issues?  Do you really think that TB is the only antibiotic resistant disease out there?  With many antibiotics rendered useless, and an increasing number of bacteria becoming resistant, there's a real concern that the problem is quite real.  The point being that we took good science and good results, and by being too cavalier, we created a whole new set of problems that we are ill-equipped to address.





    So, what is fueling antibiotic resistance, you may ask? We're finding that the widespread overuse—as well as inappropriate use—of antibiotics is fueling antibiotic resistance. Additionally, the overuse of antibiotics is causing even more problems faced by patients. Drug side effects, allergic reactions, and serious diarrheal infections caused by Clostridium difficile* are all popping up as a result of inappropriate antibiotic use. These complications of antibiotic therapy can have serious outcomes, even death.
    http://www.cdc.gov/features/antibioticresistance/
    How does a species change its current genome on the fly? A change is usually a certain portion of the population which already has it survives and passes it to the next generation, the DNA doesn't change on the fly.
    DNA doesn't need to change at all.  That's what epigenetics is about.  How do you think your cells differentiate themselves from stem cells?  Bacteria can respond to changes in the environment by selective use of genetic traits.  Even without epigenetics, how do you think bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance?  All of these are changes "on the fly".  The notion that DNA is a fixed set of instructions resulting in a pre-determined set of traits is simply incorrect.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120620133359.htm

    http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/gmcrops/article/20329/
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Bacteria can respond to changes in the environment by selective use of genetic traits. Even without epigenetics, how do you think bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance?"

    I know how they become resistant. Not sure you are aware. The bacteria in a given culture are close to the same but there are some genetic mutations for whatever reason(UV light, radiation, chemically induced, the list goes on) are resistant. The antibiotic doesn't kill those bacteria and they are killed by the immune system either(perhaps a compromised or suppressed immune system) and those bacteria breed enough to casue the infection and it is now the strain of antibiotic resistant. The bacteria really don't change on the fly it is in future generations from an already resistant bacteria. Yes I know what epigenetics is but it is about the expression of already existing DNA sequences in the cell and not mutations and changes to the DNA.

    Secondly, the development of antibiotics has saved millions of lives. Is it mis-used and are some diseases developing resistant strains? Absolutely. Should we quit using them until we figure out how to stop that from happening?

    "I'm not talking about artificial selection which is constrained by the current genome. I'm talking about creating a new genome by introducing elements that have never occurred together. That is a radical change, since such variations wouldn't occur without dozens if not hundreds of generations intervening. This creates a completely different co-evolutionary environment and circumstances."

    Breeding has never been constrained to the same genome. We have been cross breeding different plants from different continents for a very long time. We have cross breed different animals, a mule for example for a very long time. I am wondering why or what the issue is with creating a "new genome". What is it that you think could happen if this occured? What do you believe would be the ramifications? Taking DNA from a fish and inserting it into grain for example? They increased the vitamin A in rice, what do you precieve the downside of doing this is? The question is, what do you think the dangers are? It is either edible and we grow it, or it is not edible and we don't. I don't see a danger in these modifications.

    Gerhard Adam
    Should we quit using them until we figure out how to stop that from happening?
    No one ever suggested stopping the use of antibiotics, just as I specifically indicated I wasn't interested in banning GMO foods.  Is the world truly so black and white that no one can actually provide real information anymore?  Is everything really so single-threaded that if anyone questions anything, then they must be either anti-science or wanting to return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle?

    You asked the silly question of whether we should quit using antibiotics.  OK ... how about this?  Even knowing what we know today, we find livestock being fed antibiotics for no reason other than increasing growth rates.  This is a clear example of abusing the science, despite claims that, people wouldn't do such a thing.  They not only do it, they continue to do it. 

    However, the short answer to your question is that we should not quit using antibiotics, but if we don't get our heads screwed on straight, it won't matter in another few decades. 
    The bacteria really don't change on the fly it is in future generations from an already resistant bacteria. Yes I know what epigenetics is but it is about the expression of already existing DNA sequences in the cell and not mutations and changes to the DNA.
    Sorry,but you clearly don't understand.  DNA is meaningless unless the gene is expressed.  That's precisely why one gets divergence even from genetically identical organisms.  It's about the expression or non-expression of genes, which is changing the way the organism develops.  The point being precisely that even if the DNA is identical, it tells us nothing about how the genes will actually be expressed.

    As a direct result, bacteria have to be capable of changing "on the fly", since that is precisely how they can adapt to rapid changes in their environment and why they have stress responses.  The genes are already present, but may or may not be expressed.  Resistant bacteria are also created by HGT.  The rapid increase in antibiotic resistance certainly didn't occur because of a few mutations.  In many cases, antibiotic resistance was conveyed by our own commensals to pathogenic bacteria through gene exchange.

    In case there's any misunderstanding, when I'm talking about changes "on the fly", I'm not simply talking about the instant at which a bacteria becomes exposed to an antibiotic.  Clearly that would be too little, too late.  The point is that they are changing all the time, so in that respect resistance will occur before antibiotics are present, but one can't simply assume that it is due to chance mutation, because in all likelihood that is the least likely avenue by which it will be introduced.
    Even the simplest single-celled bacterium can use its genes selectively—for example, switching genes on and off to make the enzymes needed to digest whatever food sources are available.
    http://www.garlandscience.com/res/pdf/9780815341291_ch08.pdf

    ...a mule for example for a very long time.
    Seriously?  Overwhelmingly mules are sterile, so they are hardly a biological factor in any sense.
    I don't see a danger in these modifications.
    Obviously.  However, even the way you phrased this statement sets up the spin.  No matter what I might say, a simply caution, or simply expressing an unknown, makes me appear as if I'm hysterical about some unforeseen danger.  If you can't see the risks of mixing and matching genes across a range of organisms, then I'm not likely to convince you that it represents a great many unknowns.

    So, clearly we'll just disagree on this one.
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Um...Spam
    Steve Savage