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    Forbes Takes Down Anti-Science Beliefs At NPR
    By Hank Campbell | February 1st 2012 02:12 PM | 32 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    Who has more credibility to the NPR audience, a scientist or someone who runs an organic yogurt company?  It depends on the issue, of course.  When it comes to global warming, science is awesome but when it comes to food security for poor people, science is evil corporations out to kill us all. So they accept the facts of the yogurt maker.

    Henry Miller of Forbes - physician and molecular biologist, founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993 and, more recently, scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution - is calling them out.  He discusses a common technique against science, especially by the kooky environmental fringe, invoking false moral equivalence by creating "pseudo-balance", like having world-renowned biologist (and Science 2.0 contributor) Lee Silver squared off against anti-science activist Margaret Mellon. They're both equal, right?  Maybe to NPR.

    Scientists of all stripes (and in broad culture liberals and conservatives) care about poor people and that means caring about food security.  The more food, the cheaper it is and the cheaper it is, the more money poor people have to spend on other things.  It is historical fact that when people have wealth beyond basic needs, culture and education improves.  Progressives seem to want to make food more expensive, keep people out of nature and they'd tax the Moon if they could. If we can engineer crops that use less water they can grow in areas where a lot of poor people live, we should do it and improve their lives. Sure, that means poor Africans won't buy organic spinach from Europe but it's better for poor Africans to grow their own food locally and even sell it.

    We've talked about the Aquadvantage salmon before. It could practically be a poster-child for anti-science denialism, on a par with global warming yet with a lot less science media coverage - the reason for that is the Big White Elephant In The Science Media Room. NPR covered that too, Miller opines, with "Science Friday" pitting scientist Alison Van Eenennaam versus the darling of radical environmental NGOs, Anne Kapuscinski.

    Predictably, the denialist did some fearmongering, invoking a "worrisome 'precedent' for future animals" - that's slippery slope reasoning to you and me. Social conservatives do it too, like when they contend that support for gay men being able to cheer their kids on at a soccer game is worrisome. If you buy that business about a 'worrisome precedent' over a fish that happens to grow faster and is the most thoroughly studied and tested genetic modification in history, you have good logical company on the right.

    I'd like to defend "Science Friday" a little, though "Talk of the Nation" and other anti-science fluff on NPR can take their lumps. "Science Friday" wants to appeal to a large cross-section of listeners, and that includes anti-science cranks, so cherry-picking one example out of 50 is just that, cherry-picking - their anti-NGO 'scientist' was actually a professor in 'sustainability' though, which is basically humanities with an even fuzzier title. Hopefully Ira can get a little more informed opposition the next time out. Otherwise, it will inspire food critics to grant us their in-depth science analysis of GMOs in The Atlantic again.

    Link: NPR's Bias Against Genetic Engineering by Henry Miller, Forbes

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    I agree that the fears around genetically modified foods as being safe to eat, or dangerous is flawed and wrong.  However, I'm concerned that many of the real potential issues are never discussed and we invariably get side-tracked into this pseudo-scientific rhetoric.

    One of the most important and real issues is the ability for corporations to patent and/or license living creatures.  The extent to which this occurs and what the legal issues are is not at all clear, but I am unilaterally opposed to such legalistic controls in any aspect of our food supply.

    There is ample reason to distrust corporations, for the same reason that we recognize the obvious legal flaw in having had them declared as "individuals with rights", we're beginning to see that profitability does not equate to altruistic motives.  As a result, I would really hope all the marketing hype about helping the poor and helping mankind stop.  For the same reason that arguments that portray engineered foods as not healthy are wrong, let's also not go too far the other way and talk about how corporations are interested in saving the planet. 

    Unless such engineered foods are completely isolated (which isn't possible), they will compete with other species for resources.  I am NOT prepared to allow patented animals to potentially drive other species to extinction so that corporate domination of a food market becomes a possible outcome.  Even though some people are concerned over novel genetic manipulations, I don't see those as being any more relevant than raising concerns that wheat can be transformed into donuts.

    It is disconcerting to hear the argument about helping the poor, since we already have plenty of current precedent to see that such an outcome rarely occurs.  As an example, we see that people in need of pharmaceuticals are not given any economic break because of a medical need.  In many cases, the uninsured are simply unable to afford such medications, because the companies have determined that it is more important for them to recover their research costs and lobbied the government to ensure that cheaper drugs are not legal to purchase from foreign sources [all under the guise of "protecting" us].  ... {Hmmm .. I  wonder why such legislation never spawns "nanny state" comments?} 

    While I won't argue the merits of that position, it isn't an discussion I ever want to have regarding our food supply.

    Let's be honest about it.  The only reason anyone is looking to produce GMO foods in the private sector, is because it stands to be a tremendously profitable enterprise.  It doesn't matter what the scientist's motivation is, nor what any government or social group wants to do.  It simply has the potential to be hugely profitable.  So, you can be assured that if cheap food is eventually made available to the poor, such research costs will be recovered in some manner by ensuring the rest of us pay more for it.  Feeding the poor has never been a sound economic objective, so when someone claims that as a basis for such work .... sorry, but they're selling something.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    It is disconcerting to hear the argument about helping the poor, since we already have plenty of current precedent to see that such an outcome rarely occurs. 
    America has the fattest poor people in the world.  They don't have to be fat, but they can be.  Cars are also an example of a profitable enterprise that made lives better.  There are lots of examples where profitability and the public good coincided just fine.   Yes, drugs are expensive, but the regulatory and legal climate make them that way - a manufacturer can spend billions and maybe have a product that does not work at all and, if it does, still incur lawsuits...but only has a few years to recoup the money before it becomes generic by law.  The problem there is not capitalism, it is both regulations and a culture that says faceless corporations are okay to sue - we are 'suing the insurance companies so it is okay'.
    Gerhard Adam
    America has the fattest poor people in the world.
    Yeah, but that presents a problem when arguing that such foods are intended to help the poor.  It makes it even more altruistic, and aimed at countries/environments that are even less capable of paying.  I don't buy it.  No company intentionally invests in research, seeks patents, and then provides goods to societies that, by definition, have no money.

    It's what I've argued before, which is why market this to us?  It isn't like we're starving, and if the intent is to help the poor, then there's no need to market to the general consumer market.  I'm sure there are plenty of governments that would willing take all manner of food to help feed the starving.....    Except ....  we already have enough food to feed everyone on the planet, so how does this marketing effort change any of that if the distribution of foods problem is political and social?
    The problem there is not capitalism, it is both regulations and a culture that says faceless corporations are okay to sue...
    On one level I can appreciate the argument, but in truth, they've brought this on themselves.  It is already accepted that corporations are above the law when it comes to private citizens, since they can simply outlast you in court with their teams of lawyers.  In that respect, the deck has long been stacked against legal equality between individuals and corporations.  Therefore, it is the corporation that has forced the lawsuit approach if there's any hope of even having them pay attention. 

    I'm not arguing that profitability is wrong, especially for something like cars.  I'm skeptical and wary of profitability when the "service" or "product" is, by its very nature, a monopolistic effort.  I don't care about cars, because I have numerous products to choose from, including not to drive at all.  I don't have such choices with energy providers, food suppliers, and many essential services (like water, etc.).  Therefore, I extremely wary of allowing such essential services to be managed for profit.  We already see the fiasco such a policy has set in the medical insurance industry and there's no reason to believe that it would be different anywhere else.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Gerhard, I couldn't agree with you more. Couldn't you write this in a blog please as you explain the situation so well and I think its wasted in a comments section.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    mhlongmeyer
    There is ample reason to distrust corporations, for the same reason that we recognize the obvious legal flaw in having had them declared as "individuals with rights"
    If anyone mischaracterized a scientific journal article as badly as you are mischarcterizing the Supreme Court decision on corporations and free speech ("Citizens United"), you would be howling.

    It does not declare corporations to be "individuals with rights."  Instead, because the First Amendment guarantee of free speech on political matters applies to individuals speaking together as an association, it holds that "certain disfavored associations of citizens---those that have taken on the corporate form---[cannot be] penalized for engaging in the same political speech."

    Nowhere does it say that the corporation itself is now an individual in some sense.  Nowhere does it even discuss rights other than free speech.  There are arguments to be made about why it could be a bad decision, but maybe you should read the decision for yourself first to see what it really says, rather than relying on the summary from MoveOn.org. 

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm referring to the 1886 decision which granted equal protection under the law for corporations [as persons] for the purposes of the 14th amendment.  While the Supreme Court didn't specifically rule on that interpretation, it has subsequently been reinforced by the courts rulings. 

    If you look at the ruling from Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. vs Johnson (1938) you can see the reinforcement of the claim that corporations are individuals.
    A corporation which is allowed to come into a state and there carry on its business may [303 U.S. 77, 80]  claim, as an individual may claim, the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment against a subsequent application to it of state law.
    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&invol=77&vol=303
    In case that seems ambiguous, more insight can be gained by reading Judge Black's dissenting opinion.
    I do not believe the word 'person' in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations. ...

    When a statute is declared by this Court to be unconstitutional, the decision until reversed stands as a barrier against the adoption of similar legislation. A constitutional interpretation that is wrong should not stand. I believe this Court should now overrule previous decisions which interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to include corporations.

    Neither the history nor the language of the Fourteenth Amendment justifies the belief that corporations are in- [303 U.S. 77, 86]  cluded within its protection.
    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&invol=77&vol=303
    It is quite clear that Justice Black was expressing his dissatisfaction with the court upholding the interpretation that corporations are "individuals" for the purposes of the 14th amendment.

    You might consider dialing down the Fox News and actually research something beyond just the hype.

    Mundus vult decipi
    mhlongmeyer
    Wow, it never occurred to me that you would be tilting at windmills erected in 1886.

    There is an ongoing debate about whether the language of the Fourteenth Amendment has been stretched too far, but I don't know that it's all that controversial to, as Justice Black said, forbid the states to "deprive any corporation of property without due process of law" or to deny corporations based in another state the "equal protection of the laws."  Which problems do you think it would solve if states were allowed to expropriate corporate assets at will?  I would probably need to see a more developed argument to follow your point, but I have already dragged this way too far away from anything to do with science.
    You might consider dialing down the Fox News
    I suppose I asked for that one. 
    Gerhard Adam
    It isn't "tilting at windmills" if its legal precedent which is the controversial point about it all.  It is interesting that you make 1886 sound so distant, while you're defending a legal right established nearly a hundred years earlier.

    The difficulty is that the court agreed that states couldn't arbitrarily expropriate corporate assets, but they were also concerned about extending too much protection to a "legal fiction" since that was never the intent of the constitutional protections.  This is the point raised in Justice Black's dissent.  Since this is an issue of interpretation and the process whereby precedent is set, then it becomes an important problem when the Supreme Court routinely upholds the "personhood" standard and refuses to clarify the 14th amendment protections.
    Which problems do you think it would solve if states were allowed to expropriate corporate assets at will?
    This is what I find frustrating in talking to conservatives.  I'm trying to present a legal concern and you're trying to put words into my mouth.  I never said it would be good for the states to expropriate such assets.  However, it should also be quite clear that corporations should not be afforded 14th amendment protections.  They represent a collective of individuals who should enjoy such protections, but it should not be extended to an entity that operates as a paper creation of the law itself.

    One of the ramifications of this ruling is that the corporation, as a person, can be held legally responsible for its actions, and yet no actual human being need to culpable.  This legalistic nonsense is what results in failure of accountability for those that are supposed to be accountable for their actions.  So for all the whining about Sorbanes Oxley, this was something that was brought on by the corporations and executives themselves by shielding themselves from culpability and hiding behind the 14th amendment protections of the corporation.  That way, unless they were personally guilty of criminal activities, they had no responsibility for the actions of the corporation.  It's that kind of legal gymnastics that gives rise to these problems.

    Could this be corrected?  Certainly, but until the Supreme Court is more explicit, many of the lower courts uphold rulings based on that interpretation of "personhood" and therefore pervert the legal intention of "protection under the law".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I totally agre with you Gerhard. Brilliant.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    mhlongmeyer
    I called it tilting at windmills because, even though your argument is perfectly sound legally, it's a hopeless crusade.  Only one Supreme Court justice (Thomas) in the last 40 years has shown any willingness to return to the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.  I just don't think it's very likely that we'll get four new justices (or a Constitutional Amendment) to change that.
    This is what I find frustrating in talking to conservatives. I'm trying to present a legal concern and you're trying to put words into my mouth.
    I'm just trying to figure out what you mean by the words you are using.  As Hank noted somewhere else, the word "rights" is often used to encompass any of a whole range of legal protections--a corporation's right to own property in its own name, for instance, or to speak on political matters, like I originally guessed you were addressing.  As you narrow down what rights you are talking about in your follow-up comments, then I can follow your logic much better.
    . . . executives themselves by shielding themselves from culpability and hiding behind the 14th amendment protections of the corporation
    Here is where I think you are still off base.  I don't think the Fourteenth Amendment, even as currently interpreted, prevents a state from also imposing liability on the actual people running the corporation.  In other words, while it enables corporations to be the subject of criminal actions, it doesn't forbid simultaneous prosecution of any responsible individuals within the corporation.  (Otherwise, Sarbanes-Oxley would be unconstitutional.)  Your real problem is with the people who write the state and federal laws that don't impose that liability the way you want to see it imposed.  Why try to make every single thing a Constitutional issue?

    Apologies in advance if I sounded like an evil conservative, put words in your mouth, or perhaps just misconstrued your argument again.
    Gerhard Adam
    It is meaningless to assign "rights" to corporations since they represent entities which can't actually be said to even "exist".  They can appear or disappear at a legal whim.

    There is nothing wrong with having laws/rules that govern how people can form associations for the purpose of pooling assets, or limiting liability, however to insist that somehow this should extend to "rights" defies reasoning.  Beyond the ability to conduct business, what "rights" should a corporation have?  Does a corporation have civil rights?  
    In other words, while it enables corporations to be the subject of criminal actions, it doesn't forbid simultaneous prosecution of any responsible individuals within the corporation.  (Otherwise, Sarbanes-Oxley would be unconstitutional.)
    Actually it does.  It allows for the paradoxical case of where a corporation may behave criminally and no individual can be legally culpable if they didn't themselves behave criminally.  This is precisely why we run into the fiascos of individuals making decisions and acting in ways that they suspect aren't right or good, but they aren't responsible because individually they didn't break the law, regardless of whether the collective results in the corporation having broken the law.

    Coupled with the "I couldn't possibly know everything that goes on", and you have a perfect recipe for getting away with whatever anyone wants.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    Instead, because the First Amendment guarantee of free speech on political matters applies to individuals speaking together as an association, it holds that "certain disfavored associations of citizens---those that have taken on the corporate form---[cannot be] penalized for engaging in the same political speech."
    BTW ... on the manner of free speech, it does illustrate perfectly the blatant hypocrisy of the system.  One has to admire the audacity that seeks legal protections for corporate "free speech" while the same corporation argues that it has the right to deny its employees "free speech" if it conflicts with the corporate image of agenda.

    So, essentially a corporation can use its influence to exercise "free speech" even if that speech is not representative of all its employees, but an employee can be dismissed,  if they exercise their right to "free speech" because it may taint the corporate image.  The Red Queen would be proud.

    Just to be clear ... corporations should have no rights.  It makes no more sense than arguing that my car has a right to gasoline or my house has a right to have the grass cut.  No one things for a moment, to extend separate rights to non-corporate businesses, because it is recognized intrinsically that the individual engaged in business already enjoys those protections.  Corporate "rights" are only another legal sleight of hand to remove responsibility from the decision-makers.  That way, their "rights" aren't tainted by their responsibilities.




    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    I am not sure there is any way to make a legal entity without giving it rights - without corporate rights, you can be sued if you work at Exxon and a tanker turns over.
    Gerhard Adam
    Actually it's quite simple.  Rights have nothing to do with assets and liabilities.  It doesn't require any special legal gymnastics to claim that assets belong to a corporation (i.e. a legally defined entity) as do it's liabilities.  There is no concept of "rights" involved in such a definition.

    It's no different than what a typical small business owner has to contend with.
    Mundus vult decipi
    mhlongmeyer
    I think you are way off base here.
    One has to admire the audacity that seeks legal protections for corporate "free speech" while the same corporation argues that it has the right to deny its employees "free speech" if it conflicts with the corporate image of agenda.
    Audacity?  The Constitutional guarantee of free speech says THE GOVERNMENT can't interfere with political speech, whether by an individual or an association of individuals.  It doesn't say your speech is free from all repercussions from non-Government sources, like businesses who might decide not to employ you or customers who might decide to boycott your product.
    Just to be clear ... corporations should have no rights. It makes no more sense than arguing that my car has a right to gasoline or my house has a right to have the grass cut.
    A corporation is an association of individuals who essentially contract to pool their assets and let them be managed by a representative.  Sometimes it makes sense for the law to treat that association as a single entity.  If you want to argue that our laws should impose stricter consequences on those individuals and their representative when the corporation cheats, that makes sense.  What makes no sense is to compare an association of individuals to your car or your house.
    Gerhard Adam
    What makes no sense is to compare an association of individuals to your car or your house.
    That's the problem.  It's NOT an association legally, which is precisely why when the law gets into it, no individual can be identified as being "the corporation".  It has a completely separate existence. 

    A corporation should NOT have any constitutional protections beyond those minimally required to ensure the ability to conduct business.  A corporation has no business expressing political opinions, since that is a right already held by the individuals.  Therefore it conveys an unfair advantage by allowing corporate assets to be redirected to the benefit of individuals, all the while arguing that it is "the corporation" that is acting.  It is ridiculous, since a corporation has no such capability.

    More importantly, few people would think it reasonable to argue that a corporation should have the "right to keep and bear arms", or that it should be "free to practice its religion". 

    The point is that all the protections already exist for individuals, so there is no additional benefit to people in redundantly defining those protections to a corporation.  Instead when it does is allow the ability for individuals to make decisions and obtain benefit, under the guise that it is somehow this mysterious "corporate" entity that is performing the action.


    Mundus vult decipi
    Oh look, more scientific fraudulence from the scientific fraud Hank Campbell of Science 2.0 fame and fortune.

    It would be great if you could like, address the science, instead of engaging in propaganda laced commentary.

    Hank
    So you are going with the yogurt guy over science, is that what you are saying? What 'science' isn't addressed by some homeopathy crank insisting science is out to kill us all?  Or are you also a crank insisting science is out to kill us all?
    Quoting Uber Scientist Hank Campbell : "Progressives seem to want to make food more expensive, keep people out of nature and they'd tax the Moon if they could."

    Awesome science, Hank!

    Totally awesome Science Friday Science : http://www.sciencefriday.com/arts/2011/08/the-story-of-charlottes-web/

    Art and Fiction! Now that's science in Hank Campbell's new American Science 2.0!

    Go and get em Hank!

    Hank
    I'm unclear of the point you are trying to make.  Do you contend progressives don't want higher taxes and don't rely on hyper-regulation to block actual progress? The power company in San Diego trying to run lines for solar energy from the Mojave Desert faced years of lawsuits and $125 million in costs - for solar power.  Are you saying liberals or conservatives would have blocked solar power like that?

    I defended Science Friday but if you side with the Yogurt King over the scientist, well, you probably don't understand a complex topic like biology.
    Responding to the comment that progressives want to make food prices higher, this is just ridiculous. We don't want higher food prices - we want clean, chemical-free, non-GMO food that is affordable for all. Corporate agribusiness and other food-producing or distributing corporations (e.g. Monsanto, Walmart, various agribusiness alliances - take your pick!) are powerful lobbyists when it comes to making sure US policy is in their favor. Small and medium-sized farmers and family farmers are hardly in a position to be able to begin to challenge big ag and big food. Policies are deliberately kept in place to benefit these companies at the expense of the poor - and I agree, they are not out for the poor - they're totally concerned with their profits and they will turn profits at any cost to people or the environment.

    Meanwhile it is becoming increasingly more environmentally detrimental to continue to produce large-scale monocultures using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Agroecology provides a powerful and sound alternative for food production. It does not rely on GMOs, chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and advocates polycultures that do not strip the soil of valuable minerals and nutrients necessary to long-term sustainability of agroecosystems. It relies on a variety of inputs, including compost and manure, and there is much science to back up this approach. Studies have demonstrated that while yields from agroecological farms do not spike in the same way that they do with green revolution technology, they do provide long-term sustainability and aggregate yields are thus greater over the long-term. This is in contrast to green revolution technology, which peaks and then dramatically decreases as the soil becomes infertile.

    Now, as far as GMOs, I am completely on the side of the precautionary principle. Prove to me that these genetically-modified varieties have no profound long term consequences on the health of BOTH humans and the environment. But you see, science cannot do this. The earth is not a laboratory. The health and well being of the natural and environment and humans is not an experiment. Much to the disdain of "hard scientists", it is time to return to an examination of how the natural environment operates - without human interference - to see how we might be able to capitalize on these processes and produce food in an ecologically sustainable manner congruent with natural processes.

    One final comment, anyone who speaks of food security really must realize that the world produces enough food for all - as another person above stated, it is isn't a matter of quantity - it IS a matter of distribution. I would also go as far to argue that obesity can easily be linked to distribution as well. And distribution boils down to policy.

    Thanks for the opportunity to add to the discussion and look forward to comments.

    Hank
    "Meanwhile it is becoming increasingly more environmentally detrimental to continue to produce large-scale monocultures using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Agroecology provides a powerful and sound alternative for food production. It does not rely on GMOs, chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and advocates polycultures that do not strip the soil of valuable minerals and nutrients necessary to long-term sustainability of agroecosystems. It relies on a variety of inputs, including compost and manure, and there is much science to back up this approach. "

    No, there isn't. In reality, going backward in time does not help produce more food. You may not like GMOs but you seem to think that random mutations due to cosmic rays and 'organic' toxic pesticides are okay but precisely modifying a gene to be a natural repellant non-toxic to humans is not. okay I assure you, unless you grew your 'organic' food yourself or personally know the farmer that did and watched him get 40% yield, you are eating pesticides. Engineering plants so they produce non-toxic ones is better for everyone. People love the precautionary principle when it matches their ideals. This is why it is hard to call conservative people anti-science when they invoke the precautionary principle to prevent hard limits on emissions - " Prove to me" arguments can't exist. This also means you do not use 100% of modern medicine because science cannot prove to you medicines have no consequences. Not a single herb or pill can make that claim.
    MikeCrow
    Why is it that progressives are clueless as to how businesses stay in business, and what would happen if they (the progressives) got their wish and all big businesses failed?
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    Why does business have to fail?  If the government can spend $15 billion subsidizing solar energy companies, they can subsidize Whole Foods too. Oh wait, that won't work...

    I watched that National Geographic show on "Preppers" - people who are concerned our social and economic infrastructure will break down and want to be ready - and I noticed that in the 1990s, those folks were militia people worried about government getting too big.  Now they are worried about no government in the future, due to a collapse resulting from incompetence.
    Suit yourself, Hank.

    "In reality, going backward in time does not help produce more food." Interesting comment - depends on how you define "backwards". I think making people sick through use of pesticides, other chemicals, and unsound science is backwards. But I'm not a "hard scientist" or doctor.

    "You may not like GMOs but you seem to think that random mutations due to cosmic rays and 'organic' toxic pesticides are okay but precisely modifying a gene to be a natural repellant non-toxic to humans is not. okay I assure you, unless you grew your 'organic' food yourself or personally know the farmer that did and watched him get 40% yield, you are eating pesticides." - I didn't know poop (animal manure) was so toxic - but I suppose if you inject your animals with all sorts of hormones and antibiotics and you feed them food they were never intended to eat (non grass-fed cows, etc), the poop cannot be very good for any of us. And by the way, never said I wasn't eating pesticides - I just would prefer to live in a world in which they didn't exist and there are countless others like me who make conscious choices every day to try to avoid doing so. There is such sound science to back up the risks involved in applying and consuming pesticides. Many GMO varieties (Round-Up Ready soy, for example) require pesticides to achieve production levels, thus keeping Monsanto (and others) in business.

    "Engineering plants so they produce non-toxic ones is better for everyone." Engineering non-toxic plants that either emit a pesticide (bT-cotton, albeit not all bT varieties) or require the application of a toxic pesticide (see above).

    "This also means you do not use 100% of modern medicine because science cannot prove to you medicines have no consequences. Not a single herb or pill can make that claim." No, it cannot, I agree. However, does that mean that continuing to produce substances with unknown effects is warranted when there are perfectly sound alternatives that do not pose near the amount of risk?

    "Why is it that progressives are clueless as to how businesses stay in business, and what would happen if they (the progressives) got their wish and all big businesses failed?" Maybe then 1 billion people in the world (an estimated 500 million of which are small farmers) wouldn't go to sleep tonight hungry while the CEOs of these companies make their millions... Look, progressives aren't against business. Markets are clearly important. What they are against is socially and environmentally harmful businesses. This is why the local movement has been so popular - it's a win-win situation. Small and medium-sized farms who are more capable of catering to the needs of consumers have a market and consumers can feel good about buying food from someone they know, having a voice in production, and keeping money in local/regional communities. It's a shame that these farms aren't given a bigger share of federal subsidies and credit. If you haven't noticed, there is a demand for "backward"-grown food.

    I suggest you all go and read some Vandana Shiva. She's a scientist (because we all know that scientists no more than farmers...sarcasm intended). She's got some pretty good explanations as to the social and environmental implications of what is often termed as the "second green revolution" (aka biotechnology). She's also from a developing country in which countless small producers have been crucified by modern agriculture, have been sued by Monsanto, and are committing suicide regularly as they are faced with mounting debts due to the modernization of food production and associated costs due to patents, etc.

    I didn't realize growing clean, safe food was a privilege - I'd like to think it's a right. I can provide a more extensive reading list, if you like, including scientists :)

    Hank
    I didn't know poop (animal manure) was so toxic - but I suppose if you inject your animals with all sorts of hormones and antibiotics and you feed them food they were never intended to eat (non grass-fed cows, etc), the poop cannot be very good for any of us.
    No, E. coli from animal feces on organic food has poisoned thousands and killed plenty of people. Yet not a single stomachache has occurred from any genetically modified food. Not one. Not ever.
    Look, progressives aren't against business.
    You need to talk to the rest of science media. They insist the objection to GMOs is not an anti-science belief by progressives, but is simply anti-business. So you are contending it is simply anti-science. Fair enough, but when a whole bunch of people who claim to be progressives say it is anti-business, not anti-science, I assume they know what they are talking about.
    I didn't realize growing clean, safe food was a privilege - I'd like to think it's a right. I can provide a more extensive reading list, if you like, including scientists :)
    You're talking to a guy who, given his way, would let nothing his family eats be anything he did not grow, kill, clean, process and cook himself. You have this notion that science doesn't care about safe food - modifying a natural repellent is the epitome of safety. Spraying strychnine on plants because it is 'organic' is not clean and it is not safe, yet a lot of organic farmers use it and other pesticides. If you think you are eating organic food that only used manure, I believe you - if you grew it yourself. There is no organic farm I know of using nothing but manure to grow plants. I'd love to visit the place where you buy your food. Regardless, the goal has to be to let people grow more food locally. And that means creating food that can grow in harsher areas. Shipping food and complaining about emissions won't do much good for anyone.
    Gerhard Adam
    They insist the objection to GMOs is not an anti-science belief by progressives, but is simply anti-business.
    I know it's been mentioned numerous times that one is typically categorized as being anti-science or anti-business.  It's also been mentioned as being a necessary and safe alternative, especially to promote better quality food for the poor and countries where there is difficulty in producing enough quality food locally.

    OK ... let's assume all that is exactly true, since I would agree that that is the "scientific" objective.

    What I'm not getting is the proposed economic model that this is supposed to be based on.  I don't believe that any corporation is going to give this technology away, so how does this help the poor?  Are we talking about third-world nations going even further into debt?  How does this work?  Are these government programs with subsidies? 

    That's the part that no one is talking about, and quite frankly, its the part that I'm the most suspicious about.  I know that genetic modification doesn't present any kind of specific problem nor safety issue.  However, I'm deeply suspicious when government and/or corporations rationalize their behaviors by claiming altruistic objectives {i.e. helping the poor].  That always makes me wonder which hand they intend to rob me with.

    Regardless of various opinions and political views there is one "truth" that I always watch for in economics. 

    "No organization can make a profit by targeting a particular market and/or expending effort in a sector of society that, by definition, has no money."
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    That's the part that no one is talking about, and quite frankly, its the part that I'm the most suspicious about.
    A healthy skepticism is warranted and I don't think anyone contends it should be given away, any more than we give away a John Deere tractor or a rake.  This is a way farmers in remote areas that can't grow food can now grow food.

    Locally grown. The objection that it is somehow 'unnatural' was the product of an offhand comment by one guy in 1999 who said a genetically modified potato stunted the immune system of a rat.  It wasn't published or reviewed, follow-on analyses led his own school to think he made it up.  And it isn't the first time.  Rachel Carson insisted DDT gave you cancer in 6 months and people believed it regardless of the science otherwise.  

    Locally grown means people not only can grow their own, it doesn't have the emissions of being shipped in.  And they can perhaps even compete economically with big subsidizers like Europe, who spend 6X what we do on food subsidies to sell to other countries.   That's a win for everyone. So it doesn't have to be free, Monsanto can make a buck, just like Wal Mart made money giving poor people a better life by selling good stuff cheaper.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...just like Wal Mart made money giving poor people a better life by selling good stuff cheaper.
    Well, I certainly wouldn't want that to serve as the economic model of what one might expect in the future.  Without getting into that quagmire, suffice it to say that Wal-mart ensured that it maximized its profits at the expense of its employees and suppliers.  Using such economic might to extort lower prices isn't my idea of a viable economic business future.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    I think you have to use the same perspective as the yogurt king to reach that conclusion.  In Nevada, when the union was trying to bust Wal Mart - not because they were bad, simply because they were not union - they paid people 8 dollars an hour to stand in the sun holding signs.  Wal Mart employees made 10 dollars an hour to be in the air conditioning.  Not every janitor is entitled to 50 dollars an hour in wages - we wrecked the car and steel and every other heavy industry learning that lesson - and Wal-Mart makes suppliers rich.  If they ever want to maximize their profits in science at the expense of suppliers, I hope they come to us first. :)
    Gerhard Adam
    Not every janitor is entitled to 50 dollars an hour in wages - we wrecked the car and steel and every other heavy industry learning that lesson
    I certainly agree, but I don't agree with the picture painted that somehow unions destroyed these industries.  Unions were no different in business negotiations than anyone else, but it was the business managers {and I witnessed some of this first hand] that either didn't know how to negotiate, or signed stupid contracts.

    I saw one contract where the union workers actually still got paid if they got laid off.  In the midst of financial difficulties, the management was so stupid, they actually set about laying people off, despite the fact that it would save them no money.  In the presence of such stark idiocy, it's not hard to see why so many of these companies went bankrupt. 

    The reality was that these people had no idea how to run a business and consequently they laid blame at everything except themselves for running it into the ground.  There isn't any one entity in the "market" that is ever completely good nor completely bad.  That's the nature of competition and negotiation.  So when I listen to businesses whining about how onerous requirements are on them, it's only because they've uniformly failed to police themselves and behave properly in the marketplace. 

    While there's no doubt that given a chance, government will always intervene to add even more goofy legislation, the simple reality is that corporations got into bed with government when it suited them and then ended up creating some of the worst scandals in business history which forced the politicians to take action [so that the public perceived that something was being done].  As a result, we find that there's this incestuous relationship between government and business which is almost entirely of their own doing.

    Back to your point about the automobile industry ... whatever market they lost is because of their own ineptness and it had nothing to do with unions or regulation.  It had everything to do with producing a crappy product that couldn't compete at the most fundamental levels with vehicles that were being imported.  Despite all manner of government assistance, they simply didn't know how to build cars that anyone wanted.  In short, they felt entitled to their markets [and still do to a large extent].
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    I certainly agree, but I don't agree with the picture painted that somehow unions destroyed these industries. 
    Well, in fairness, you painted the picture that Wal Mart was bad for poor people because they were not union jobs and they made suppliers provide high quality with low prices.  Then you note that leadership is incompetent, which has nothing to do with poor people either.  If poor people can grow food and a company makes a dollar, being a union job is irrelevant to me and how much money the supplier makes is irrelevant too. Everyone will make money because that system works.