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    GMOs Don't Hurt Anyone, But Opposing Them Does
    By Hank Campbell | August 5th 2013 11:44 AM | 85 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

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

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    How do you demonize scientists who added 3 genes to the 30,000 in rice in order to stop vitamin A deficiencies in poor countries with rice-dominated diets? There are zero pitfalls to it yet an elaborate, well-funded marketing campaign has been leveled against it.

    Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer genetically engineered their Golden Rice, called that because the genes they used for producing beta carotene, a Vitamin A precursor, gave the rice grains a 'golden' color, and even persuaded companies to waive patent rights so that they could give the seeds away for free.  No 'Monsanto is evil' nonsensical reasoning applies to this, yet 'green' juggernauts like Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists have opposed it by every means possible, using lawyers and, of course, scare campaigns about biology.

    How many kids have died in the 14 years this has been protested as "Frankenfood"? Estimates on deaths are always somewhat overblown but activist groups love to throw them around so let's give them one they can think about; as many as 18 million children have died due to vitamin A deficiency while they have blockaded just this one technology and another 18 million have gone blind, according to World Health Organization numbers. Deaths due to GMOs? Zero. Heck, stomach-aches due to GMOs - still zero.

    Matt Ridley at the Ottawa Citizen itemizes the manufactured outrage and nonsensical alternatives nicely and gets credit for the bluntness of the title, except he comes right out and says 'kills':
    golden rice was a corporate plot (untrue), did not produce enough vitamin A (not true), might cause health problems (a vitamin enriched bowl of rice?), might upset ecosystems (unlikely for a domesticated crop) and that capsules of vitamin A were a better bet (vitamin A capsules still reach too few people).
    Well, no one said that reason and research were a part of anyone's agenda against science. We all lament that political discourse is so negative yet when it comes to science issues that go against personal beliefs, confirmation bias and 'the ends justify the means' reasoning kicks in quite fast. People who are against science and the future will invent all kinds of other reasons to mask their true motivations, like being anti-corporate, the precautionary principle, slippery slopes and the goofiest logical fallacy, it can't be 'proved safe'.

    Potrykus has been equally baffled by the left's head in the sand on something so obvious, writing in Nature that "Regulation must be revolutionized" (Nature  466, 561 July 29, 2010 doi:10.1038/466561a) - archaic mechanisms exploited by activists are dooming more people than science will and that "I therefore hold the regulation of genetic engineering responsible for the death and blindness of thousands of children and young mothers."


    Activist groups love two things; fundraising brochures and buying biohazard suits to wear in photo-ops while they commit acts of terrorism. Credit and link: Guardian

    I won't just pick on Greenpeace. The ill-named left-wing advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, which until recently was run by Kevin Knobloch, a former Democratic staffer, has been unfailingly opposed to every mainstream science position except climate change. Golden Rice was "scientific garbage", according to Doug Gurian-Sherman there.  Knobloch has now gone back to directly being a Democratic staffer, he took a job as as chief of staff to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz. So the good news for kids in poor countries is that he is now dutifully helping to block energy science rather than biological.

    UCS knows so little about science they basically think if you eat too many carrots you will die from Vitamin A poisoning. 'It is toxic at high levels' was the closest they got to a scientific argument against Golden Rice, even though it can't happen.

    While they promote their 'you need to continue to test this until it is found harmful or you give up' agenda against science, children continue to suffer needlessly and die. Science can fix this. Science has a mandate to fix this. But scientists need to stand up to groups like UCS with just as much unity as they stood with UCS in 2004, when everyone protested irrational blockades of science by the Bush administration.

    Obviously it isn't just left-wing crackpots like UCS and Greenpeace who oppose biology. The conservative flagship publication National Review carries a columnist who works for the Discovery Institute, which opposes evolution and is in the scare journalism business about IVF and mean old science in general.

    Also read: GM crops don’t kill kids. Opposing them does By Matt Ridley, Ottawa Citizen

    Comments

    If Monsanto was not using GMO'S in such damning and deceitful ways then maybe people would not be so angry.

    The fact is that even if GMO'S were fine to eat, the use of Monsanto pesticides has been proven to be toxic to the environment. But Monsanto knew this years ago, and used money and political influence to hide the truth.

    And you wonder why everyone is skeptical of Monsanto?

    Hank
    Monsanto doesn't control Golden Rice so I am not sure why you spent an entire comment talking about them, when I just got done saying anti-science people find a way to invoke them as a way to legitimize their irrationality about GMOs.

    So you are saying you are okay with genetic modification and just don't like Monsanto's patents, right? I am fine with that. I don't think Monsanto is anywhere near as unethical as the $29 billion organic food industry or the even larger homeopathy and alternative medicine industry but yayyyyy capitalism.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm sorry, but this sounds suspiciously like the smoking arguments.  Does anyone really believe that pesticides [i.e. a product designed to kill a pest] isn't toxic? 

    As I've been saying in another thread.  Even if your allegations against Monsanto were 100% true, the problem isn't Monsanto but rather the corruption of politicians.

    I don't trust corporations, but I trust the government officials even less and yet that's the one part that we have a small chance to change and the first thing people do is keep voting in the same people that have given rise to the problems we're facing.

    Go figure.

    I'm not a fan of corporations, but in this debate, it's more important that we focus on the actual guilty parties rather than just railing against corporations that are doing what governments have indicated is perfectly legal to do.
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Gerhard,Toxicity can be extremely selective.  Glyphosate is only toxic to plants.  Bt sprays or Bt in plants is only toxic to a very narrow spectrum of insects depending on the strain.  Most modern fungicides are only toxic to fungi, not animals or plants.  These are just facts.  These realities don't depend on your trust or lack of trust in institutions or companies.  Farmers make good use of these tools.  They feed people. 
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, I realize that toxicity can be selective.  My comment was directed at the generic "toxic to the environment" statement.  In other words, everything is potentially "toxic to the environment" depending on the context.

    There is an issue of trust regarding corporate behaviors and it  has nothing to do with farmers, just like the behavior of pharmaceuticals doesn't reflect on the actions of doctors.  However, the two are not synonymous.

    The problem is that we are making long-term decisions during a very narrow window of current technology.  Unfortunately we've all seen how the legal system operates so that a precedent set today is used to justify something much more questionable in the future.

    Is it a conspiracy?  No. 

    However, once a technology is developed it can't be undone.  At present, we have some very dangerous technologies available and only a corporate statement that they won't use it.  I can't imagine any leader of a third-world nation thinking that such a situation is going to improve their nation's food security.

    I've watched CEO's nearly destroy companies that were considered almost indestructible.  I've seen them make absolutely insane decisions to preserve their view of how things should be fixed, and in many cases, it was only quick actions by a board that preserved the corporation.  I don't wish to find out what decisions such leaders might make if they perceive their choices as being a competitive edge or a necessary step to ensure corporate survival.  I don't trust them.  They are not to be trusted because they are legal entities that do not have the same interests as the individuals that form them.  A CEO has a legal obligation to act in a manner that he [as a person] might otherwise never entertain, except that he is compelled by law to put the interests of the corporation ahead of everything.

    Despite many posts dismissing the notion, the reality is that we've already had numerous corporations make decisions, with the full knowledge that people were going to die, and they continued anyway.  I'm not suggesting that we are in such a situation with the GMO producers, but I am pointing out that anyone that suggests that such a thing can't happen is clearly not paying attention to a well-established history of such behaviors.

    As a simple example, I suggested to someone to imagine having an elephant as a house pet.  It doesn't matter how nice the disposition is or how friendly the elephant was.  The mere fact that it is an elephant would result in your home being destroyed.  

    Because of that influence, even a corporation that is wildly conscientious and is capable of doing good for 99% of it's customers, the 1% that has a bad experience is still a large number.  It can't be helped.  It goes with the territory of dealing with a behemoth who's primary responsibility is to stockholders, even before its customers.

    ... and just to be clear.  If anything goes wrong, be assured, the farmers will be standing alongside all the other victims of a bad decision, so while they may be as conscientious as you can imagine, they are no buffer. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    sdsavage
    Gerhard,and your alternative to corporations as developers of technologies is....?  By the way, what do you do for a living?
    Steve Savage
    Gerhard Adam
    I didn't propose an alternative to corporations, I simply said they shouldn't be trusted with power.

    Don't you appreciate the irony of wanting to spread democracy around the world, while we rest all of our power in oligarchies and dictatorships?
    Mundus vult decipi
    JohnK.
    Caffeine is my favorite pesticide.  Very effective at killing insects that eat plants which contain that wonderful pesticide.  It is also very toxic to humans at ~200mg/kg.  Or about one espresso per kg of body mass.  Yet despite this very scientific and real toxicity to humans, I drink it every day and in fact pay more for the coffee beans from the local roaster to make sure that the pesticide I drink tastes better.  I just finished a cup of it as I typed this.  

    There you have it.  People paying money to drink pesticides.  Clearly we should blame Monsanto for this giant conspiracy to get everyone addicted to poison.
     


    I don't know - pesticides sound scary, but as far as I know, they are biologically clean acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. In other words, they don't do anything else (at least not at the concentrations used on crops). That isn't like smoking that has dozens of chemicals with hundreds of different biological activities in our bodies. We know exactly what acetylcholinesterase inhibitors do to us. But we also use molecules that are 1000X more potent against insects than humans. I'm not convinced anyone has put forth a convincing argument that the dose of these pesticides we get if we wash our produce before eating it actually does any measurable harm. Consider arsenic which is way worse than the pesticides we use - it is in almost everything, but yet we aren't all dying from arsenic poisoning (or having any symptoms of arsenic poisoning). Everything has a level of consumption that isn't harmful. I'm not convinced that we are exceeding that level for pesticides.

    The use of pesticides is a different issue altogether from GMO's. No one is defending Monsanto's business practices, nor their political influence.

    sdsavage
    EJL,Monsanto is pretty much out of the pesticide business since they shifted to biotech in the mid 1990s.  Their biggest ever chemical product, glyphosate, is essentially non-toxic to anything but plants and even that has been a generic product for years.  None of what you are saying here stands up to any measure of truth other than "I read something about that on the internet."  
    Steve Savage
    If your comrades didn't oppose good science I might care about your argument.

    Get Monsanto, et al, out of the picture. Place GMOs in public domain. Regulate like a utility or other, public domain. GMO without herbicides & pesticides that kill pollinators & ecosystems. Don't allow monopolization of food sources & destruction of heirloom seeds/genetic diversity. Otherwise, we have nothing to discuss.

    sdsavage
    rriverstone,"GMO crops" are the most highly regulated foods in human history.  There is no monopolization of food sources from the seed company side.  It remains a highly competitive market. If you want to look for consolidation, look to major retailers like a Wal-Mart or McDonalds.  They have vastly more influence on what we all eat than a seed company.

     There is no destruction of heirloom seeds or genetic diversity going on.  There are international seed banks that are carefully preserving diversity and no company has any agenda against that.  Anyone can save as much heirloom seed as they want and they do.  I see much more of that in the local garden store today than I ever did 20 years ago.  

    Don't buy into the conspiracy theory thinking on these topics.  It does not help to feed anyone
    Steve Savage
    Actually, Steve, big seed companies have access to vast stocks of varieties of seeds, because they know that these varieties are an incredibly important source of new traits. Our farmers may be planting monocultures, but there has not been a loss of diversity, either in the public or the private sector.

    There are some remarkable initiatives being funded by the EU in Africa- take for example the Chololo village project in central Tanzania http://chololoecovillage.wordpress.com/ - using good science this village has increased crop yields at a much higher rate than would be possible through GM. Good science ensures that the crops being planted meet the nutritional needs of the locals. They have achieved this without the need for expensive inputs and thus protect themselves from the threat of bank indebtedness and eventual land and livelihood loss. I am surprised that this forum produces such extreme antipathy toward those that are opposed to GM. The "Green Revolution" of the 60's and 70's saw much famine and displacement....are we going to let history repeat itself when we have the scientific knowledge and technical skill to meet the needs of people in developing nations without exposing them to the risks inherent in the GM business model? I am not opposed to the science of GM, unfortunately the scientists involved are dependant, for the development of their careers, to lobby for it and as such have very deep pockets when compared to lower tech but scientifically valid approaches- I hope to see less inflamed rhetoric from the GM supporters in future and a more careful discussion of the very real dangers that lie behind its implementation. The dangers to the ecosystem through the creation of monocultures, further dangers from the chemical inputs involved; the dangers to the social and political fabric of fragile and developing states, dangers to local people who lose their food security to cash crops that are then subject to volatile world markets- dangers that lead to Famine in the 60s and 70s during the green revolution. It is amazing science, no doubt, and should be there for the benefit of all, not corporate elites and the few scientists that happen to specialise in GM. We have recently seen how aggressively USAID, and other US diplomatic initiatives are bullying not just developing countries, but even the EU into accepting GM - this is not to feed the world, this is to support US business interests- come on scientists stop putting up with the rhetorical rubbish spouted by the likes of our host and start exploring the issue. Don't be blinded by science! Just because we find it appalling that many of those who are opposed to GM are prone to wooly thinking doesn't make GM a solution to developing nation's problems...we should be helping them to sharpen their arguments to hone in on what are the real problems involved in this technology- the health fears on the surface are a furphy, perhaps. The bigger issues, that will lead to health problems (famine being a health problem), is the GM business model and the damage it could do to whole nations- Please check out the Chololo project- it is working!

    Oh and Steve...wikileaks has shown us why we should buy into the conspiracy theory- The GM lobby is bullying the EU massively through the US state dept. To quote a cable leaked from the US ambassador to France" Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the [European] Commission... Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voice."

    GMO IS BAD FOR YOU. it doesnt matter the way monsanto is doing it or not, it is an abomination, and if it cannot occur naturally, then it is worse than eating alien DNA. you are eating a DNA genome that doesnt match our body's composition, creating diverse, unknown dangers. We dont understand cancer yet, but we're trying to alter something more complicated?

    Unless you eat human, it is all alien DNA. Do you think human DNA is compatible with all natural apple DNA? Give me a break. Why don't you take some science courses instead of spouting nonsense on a science forum.

    if faith in the goodwill and infallibility of scientists is expected, then that may possibly be too much to expect.

    If any particular help isn't wanted, then accept that it isn't wanted. No amount of "but we're awesome scientists, so we know better than you what you should do" is going to cut it. Not even if "but really, it's true" is added.

    Gerhard Adam
    It is difficult to bring up many of the issues regarding the trust issues, because it is easy to conflate a variety of situations that are not similar, but the general point remains. 

    I'm reminded of Oppenheimer stating that "... physicsts have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose."

    Similarly, after the first atomic bomb was tested, Kenneth Bainbridge said to Oppenheimer, "Well, we're all sons of bitches now."

    The point is that for all the good things that science does and has done, it has also done horrible things.  The problem of weapons of mass destruction is such a result, whether they be biological, chemical, or nuclear.  The major issues of pollution are a direct result of some of the most lethal toxins ever produced in nature having been created by scientists.  So, like it or not, if science is to take credit for the good, it must also take responsibility for the bad.

    So while science may have provided penicillin, it also provided thalidomide.

    With that, should come a basic understanding that recognizes that the public is no longer a wide-eyed innocent.  They expect more transparency and accountability.  There are plenty of groups that will play into that uncertainty and fear and produce knee-jerk reactions.  However, the response must be more transparency and education. 

    While it can be frustrating the one thing the public has learned is that in the absence of transparency, accurate information, or lacking trust, the easiest and more prudent course of action is to simply say "NO".  It may not be the best choice, but it is invariably the one with the least likelihood of regret, and that is the hallmark of a rational decision in maximizing utility by seeking to avoid regret.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I think that the lack of trust is key. We, the people, have learned not to trust our government leaders. The very many scandals in businesses worldwide leave us with very little trust of business in general and corporations in particular.

    The problems with GMO hatred are many and deep. I've tried my hand at educating the opposition. The results have been frustration and zero converts. The biases have been reinforced so much that I don't see a way to reason with the masses. Perhaps a twenty year program of educating children would break the strangle hold. Of course, that presumes that a school system would allow genetic food science in the curricula.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks for being so frank Frank! I think you make some very valid points.
    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
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    As I said on the 'Babes Against Biotech: We'll Exploit Women Until You Hate Science' blog one of the big problems about GMOs is that companies like Monsanto want to patent their GMO seeds and prosecute farmers who continue to use them and as even scientists like  Michael Eisen who has written several pro GMO articles here at Science20 is quoted as saying here :- 

    "If you think that your goal as a scientist is to cure disease, you want people in China and everywhere else in the world to know about," said Michael Eisen, a biologist and advocate of "open science" at the University of California, Berkeley. "Only if you think your purpose is to generate patents and make money do you keep these kinds of things secret," he says. "It's a gross perversion of the whole mission of academic research."

    "All publicly funded research should be in the public domain - no patents, no copyrights, no restrictions on use, period," says Eisen, the UC Berkeley biologist and co-founder of the Public Library of Science, which supports the free distribution of scientific work. For that to be the case, there needs to be a serious change in the way research is funded. And the politicians who created the current system would have to change it, which could anger the defence contractors and patent holders who give them money. But there are things scientists can start doing today to begin the process of change.

    "I am completely in favour of people subverting their institutions' efforts to patent their work," says Eisen. And that subversion need not be risky. Indeed, "there are lots of legal ways to make it difficult or impossible for one's work to be patented," he says, "including sharing your progress with the world on an ongoing basis."

    '"Patents are about keeping things away from people for the purpose of making money," explained Rosalyn Yalow, who won a Nobel prize in 1977 for her work on radioimmunoassay (RIA). The introduced technology revolutionised medicine, allowing medical professionals to detect antibodies and contaminants in a person's blood, which is useful in the fight against hepatitis, cancer and a whole host of other disorders.'
    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
    Hank
    Well, first, stop showing up on different articles and using these same off-topic quotes. This copy and pasted quote has nothing at all to do with Golden Rice.

    But I will let it stay because it is a great example of the exact problem that others outside science who lack knowledge of biology also have - intellectual blinders when it comes to their irrational anti-science and anti-corporate opinion:

    Who doesn't agree with Mike that publicly funded research should be public domain?  Universities and other professors. They got a law passed 30 years ago that allowed them to patent research so they could commercialize it themselves, yet you seem to think the only bad group in there is Monsanto. Every university in America insisted that if they could commercialize their research they would need less government money - academics and schools wanted it, they got it.

    Monsanto is not using academics for its research, it employs its own biologists. Nothing in this quote applies to their corn, nor does it apply to Golden Rice. It is in every way irrelevant.

    Yet you keep insisting that public domain research should not be patented - and you have ignored that the Golden Rice is public domain, it is not controlled by Monsanto, and are still commenting about it. In other words, you are only seeing what you want to see and are therefore the archetype for the person who is on a vendetta both against science and that corporation.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Monsanto is not using academics for its research, it employs its own biologists. Nothing in this quote applies to their corn, nor does it apply to Golden Rice. It is in every way irrelevant.
    Yes, I agree that GMO Golden Rice seems like a wonderful crop and Monsanto appears to have behaved very well by giving out free licenses to the Third World. Hopefully they will do the same with other GMO crops that they have developed and patented. The article that I referenced above called 'Sharing Science is a Crime' did say 'scientists complain that because Monsanto takes such a strong stand in defence of its patented seeds, it is effectively impossible to conduct research on them' [Reuters] however that doesn't seem to apply to Golden Rice.
    Wiki describes how 'Potrykus has spearheaded an effort to have golden rice distributed for free to subsistence farmers.'

    'This required several companies which had intellectual property rights to the results of Beyer's research to license it for free. Beyer had received funding from the European Commissions 'Carotene Plus' research program, and by accepting those funds, he was required by law to give the rights to his discovery to the corporate sponsors of that program, Zeneca (now Syngenta). Beyer and Potrykus made use of 70 intellectual property rights belonging to 32 different companies and universities in the making of golden rice. They needed to establish free licences for all of these, so Syngenta and humanitarian partners in the project could use golden rice in breeding programs and to develop new crops.'

    'Free licenses for developing countries were granted quickly due to the positive publicity that golden rice received, particularly in Time magazine in July 2000. Golden rice was said to be the first recombinant DNA tech crop that was unarguably beneficial. Monsanto Company was one of the first companies to grant free licences.The cutoff between humanitarian and commercial use was set at US$10,000. Therefore, as long as a farmer or subsequent user of golden rice genetics does not make more than $10,000 per year, no royalties need to be paid. In addition, farmers are permitted to keep and replant seed.'


    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
    Is this supposed to be some sort of joke or something? I've never seen anything like this populating a science website. Things aren't just black or white, and author clear shows his inability to discern between the two.

    Both side have fanatics, yes. But so arrogantly written article soaked with cynism has no place in scientific community. Genetic modifications, while certainly opening plethora of new options should not be taken lightly. Organisms are holistic systems and there is no easy way to ensure there will be no other complications.

    As an example, the rice could contain something toxic in return. Overcomsuption of certain chemical compounds can be toxic to humans too. Other important minerals could be suppressed in the rice. There's a lot of research and testing that has to be done.

    Nature itself evolved into some form for some reason. I'm not the kind of fanatic that would jump you with 'don't mess with mother nature', I'm saying that thorough examining and carefulness is needed.

    If you 'd like to see a summary of the safety assessments conducted with Golden Rice, look here: http://www.goldenrice.org/Content2-How/how4_regul.php

    Biotech crops undergo extensive characterization and testing prior to use as food or feed. Molecular characterization, protein safety, allergenicity, toxicity, nutrient/vitamin/mineral content, environmental interactions - the list is long, complicated and expensive to complete. Most importantly, however, it is thorough.

    I am a Monsanto employee and I work in our biotechnology regulatory group. The questions you raise are exactly the questions governments around the world asked when biotech crops were first developed. Countries have their own regulations but the general framework is outlined in the Codex Alimentarius guidelines and various OECD guidance documents. The Codex guidelines are here: http://www.fao.org/docrep/011/a1554e/a1554e00.htm

    Hank
    Things aren't just black or white, and author clear shows his inability to discern between the two.
    At some point things are black and white - polio is black and white, smallpox is black and white, so is going blind and dying.

    That's it, black and white. No touchy-feely postmodernism and 'it's all relative' and 'it's more complicated than that' because it isn't. Your computer works only because things are black and white, sometimes there are right answers and wrong ones. Unless you majored in philosophy you must have flunked a lot of tests in school with your mode of thinking.
     I'm saying that thorough examining and carefulness is needed.
    This has been in development since 1990, it worked in 1999. 250,000 kids a year can be helped by something that cannot be harmful.

    As I said in the article, 'we need more testing' is a dodge posited by groups that hate biology more than they love children - that is black and white.
    Perhaps if your title didn't say "GMOs Don't Hurt Anyone, Opposing Them Does," but said rather, "Not All GMOs Cause Harm, Opposing Them All Does," the responses would have been different. Lumping GMOs together and implying none are harmful opened up the conversation on the abuses of Monsanto.

    Could a gene inserted into a crop cause harm? Not likely in the case of the golden rice, or, perhaps, oranges with spinach genes that prevent greening. Think again about plants that produce their own pesticide. They just might cause unintended and unexpected harm by damaging the flora in the intestines. Keep in mind that an animal is actually a symbiotic community, so what harms flora can harm them. I support the spinach gene spliced into oranges even though it fights the bacteria that cause greening, because spinach is already safely in our food supply.

    Another thing needs to be considered about engineered DNA, especially with the lack of labeling and transparency. Suppose an individual has serious food allergies. Could an interspecies gene transfer leave an unsuspecting consumer vulnerable? Not necessarily, but it does depend on the gene product.

    So I'm not against science, and not automatically against GMOs, but I have some concerns that need to be addressed. Science - YES! Blind faith in scientists, and lack of transparency - NO! NO! NO!

    Hank
    Perhaps if your title didn't say "GMOs Don't Hurt Anyone, Opposing Them Does," but said rather, "Not All GMOs Cause Harm, Opposing Them All Does," the responses would have been different.
    Your title would have been an unnecessarily vague falsehood. Mine is accurate. And I wouldn't ask for different responses than I got, they are exactly in line with what I expected. Non-scientists object on philosophical grounds (evil corporations should own nothing) or factually incorrect, assertion-based, precautionary principle ones.

    Waffling in a title just feeds the dangerous, paranoid beliefs of the people who are directly responsible for the blindness and deaths that don't need to happen. If it is ever shown that GMOs are harmful, I will be the first to jump on them.

    There is no transparency issue with Golden Rice - and there is no testing issue that needs to be resolved. Saying you trust science but not scientists is total bullshit and we both know it - it is like saying you trust food but not your stove.

    I gotta say that blaming anti-GMO advocates for the 14 year gap between the first discussions of Golden Rice and now is rather creative on your part. According to the official website promoting golden rice, http://www.goldenrice.org, the first article on Golden Rice was published in 2000: http://www.goldenrice.org/PDFs/Ye_et_al_Science_2000.pdf The various analyses of the history of Golden Rice note that the first version was considered a prototype never meant for human consumption. Golden Rice II became somewhat viable starting in 2005, and, again according to goldenrice.org, the years 2005-2010 were spent cross-breeding it with other different strains of rice with an eye to making it available in various parts of the world with different climatic conditions that needed different strains to be viable.

    During that time issues were raised concerning the specific diets found in the poorest parts of the world where Golden Rice was hoped to have the most potential for good, including the fact that very poor countries tend to have very low-fat diets and beta-carotene needs a fat-rich diet to be absorbed efficiently. Other issues that needed to be addressed, and have been, at least somewhat, concern patents and other licensing issues. However, this wasn't an easy thing that was resolved overnight, and to blame anti-GMO advocates for legal issues that have taken years of negotiation to resolve is pure BS on your part.

    Finally, while Golden Rice has potential to help alleviate the lack of Vitamin A found in the poorest countries, it doesn't address the real issues: monoculture crops like rice are inherently bad. The UN and other organizations are not at all enthusiastic about the potential for Golden Rice to act as a magic bullet and are working hard to encourage farmers in the poorest countries to plant crops *other than* rice, as well learn to rotate their crops so that consumers will have a wider variety of beta-carotene-containing food crops to chose from in the first place.

    Finally, there are always testing issues with any GMO. Safety testing of any GMO is a farce by any standards other than those set by the GMO industry. In addition, as a biofortified crop has to be evaluated not just on safety, but on how well it actually "biofortifies," nutritional absorption testing must be done on a country-by-country basis. The combination of climate, diet and genetic makeup of the people of each country will determine just how well Golden Rice will work in a given country, and such testing has to be done in order to justify the massive advertising campaigns required to convince people to eat rice that looks like someone has peed on it (leaving aside religious and cultural responses to the very concept of a GMO that vary greatly from country to country).

    Your article glosses over all these issues and more besides.

    Hank
    I gotta say that blaming anti-GMO advocates for the 14 year gap between the first discussions of Golden Rice and now is rather creative on your part. 
    How is it creative? Every one of those fundraising groups takes credit for blocking it so when I criticize them for the thing they brag about doing, blockading it, you say it is exaggerated? That's silly.

    I get it, you hate biology, you hate GMOs - but here is plain non-"creative" speak for you. You are condemning poor kids to die. You were just lucky enough to be born outside that situation or your objections would not be so ridiculously pseudo-philosophical.
    You didn't address any point I made, I note.

    Hank
    Because, had you read the article, you would see the points you made were the strawmen, precautionary principle demonizing and slippery slope rationalization I wrote about in there.  Why rewrite the article in a comment just because you refuse to read?

    By all means, be afraid of vitamin-fortified rice while 250,000 kids a year pay for you and your fellow crackpots to refuse to learn even middle school biology - but it's shameful.
    Why not just send them good old spinach and carrot seeds ? Have them grown them and save the kids !!

    Me thinks Mr Campbell would absolutely LOVE this new science burger they are working on :)

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/05/the-330-000-fake-burger...

    Hank
    Been advocating lab grown meat for years.  It shuts up PETA and, once the technology is optimized and advanced, would make it a lot cheaper for poor people.
    You say "There is no transparency issue with Golden Rice - and there is no testing issue that needs to be resolved. Saying you trust science but not scientists is total bullshit and we both know it - it is like saying you trust food but not your stove."

    Science is a process. Scientists are people with all the frailties and foibles of other people. They compete with each other to be first. They fight with a "publish or perish" mentality at their institutions. Some are beholden to particular industries. Their conclusions are subject to their prejudices despite their data. So, no, it is not "bullshit" to say I don't have "blind faith in scientists," which is also not quite the same as saying I don't "trust scientists" as you imply. The nuances in what people say are important in an honest discussion. As far as "transparency" is concerned, I agree with you regarding Golden Rice, but your title "GMOs Don't Hurt Anyone, . . ." is a broader statement than a discussion of Golden rice, and there are transparency issues in the industry.

    I learned something from your initial article. That, I would think, would be the point of sharing your expertise. But your responses to others' comments, including my own, make me feel that you have an axe to grind just like many of the commenters. In over 40 years of teaching science, I never succeeded in getting through to my students by belittling their conclusions. Believe me, I've encountered some faulty logic in my classroom. Getting through to people who don't understand requires some empathy with the learner.

    I would like to make educated decisions about the entire GMO controversy. I need information from people who really understand all the angles and are willing to share. It's unfortunate that most of the information on the web comes from cheerleaders for one side of the argument or the other. The growing anti-GMO sentiment will not be thwarted by those unwilling to respond fairly to anti-GMO concerns.

    Hank
    Scientists in the Philippines are weeks from submitting a genetically modified variety of rice to the authorities for biosafety evaluations.  They claim it could be in the fields within a year, but national regulators will have the final say - BBC

    If 1.7 million Filipino children have vitamin A deficiency, this is a good idea.

    Though I enjoy the Maria Antoinette-ish 'let them grow carrots' talk too. And 'just buy them supplements' even more.
    I have a deal of sympathy for this writer. I also however have enormous reservations about GM crops and especially those tied to the roundup controversies. It's a pity that both positions are so polarized - because polarized positions rather than dispassionate empiricism don't advance the truth. The EU have a principled sensible position - they are not hostage to extremist views. Not all GM products are equal and we deserve better than this

    Hank
    The EU are absolutely hostage to extremist views. They put scientists on trial for not predicting an earthquake, claim cell phones cause cancer and ban GMOs - except in animal feed, which makes no sense at all. Somehow a gene that can't express anything in humans is fine if a cow eats it first.

    Golden Rice has nothing at all to do with Roundup and if you eat any organic crop grown in the last 200 years, you are eating something genetically modified, guaranteed.
    Monsanto is the author of the GMO food scare around the world. They have been implicated in reports of side effects from the use of their products and the lack of research and regulation on all GMO products on grocery shelves. They have covertly introduced their products into the human food chain under the watch of almost nonexistent regulatory boards, with intent of using their customers as unwitting lab rats in supporting their blind greed toward monopolizing the world food market. They have proven themselves untrustworthy by refusing to accept simple product labiling supporting the consumers right to know, meanwhile limiting product testing as a cost saving measure.
    Golden rice may contain vitamin A but, in insufficient amounts for the starving masses who consume it as their only food source. The amount of Golden rice intake required to provide adequate levels of vitamin A is beyond the amounts available for consumption by many of the needy.

    Hank
    There is no defense against "I hate Monsanto" - the scaremongers in comments are like a neo-con who makes everything about terrorists.  That Monsanto has nothing to do with this is irrelevant to fallacious 'condemnation by association' reasoning.

    But the second part, where you attempt an evidence-based rationalization to blockade Golden Rice, is just plain incorrect and has been since before 2005. GR2 produces plenty of β-carotene, according to the bioavailability results. This information is all available to anyone who chooses to learn about biology and not get their claims from media talking points written by people who don't like biology.
    Ow How i would love to write something very very long to
    A) Highlight my own brilliance
    and
    Take apart the article

    instead i will offer a very brief explanation as to why GMO's aren't man's gift to Gaia. Will conclude with a personal parable
    which counters any notion of bias against bio-engineering yet summarizes the pre-announced explanation.

    The longitudinal studies (studies over a very long period of time) necessary to eliminate all possible side-effects of GMO's or all possible factors involved in the creation of GMO's would have made them so costly that no company would even consider them as a viable/non-government funded option.

    I will offer but one article to highlight this point and of course i will add that i am quite pro the notion of tinkering with genes to the point that should i have a child and the option was there i would like to have a menu just to pick a choose what i would like to that child to look , think and smell like.

    Despite that i would know that my choice would have consequences that might be detrimental and would not pretend i did the unborn any fantastic favors. Unlike GMO companies who think they are the second coming of Prometheus.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/289/5484/1554.short

    I'm having real problems making sense of your comment. What exactly are you getting at? When you link an article you should integrate it into your argument and not leave the reader to guess.

    The article you link is a theoretical model of the possible effects the growing of a crop of herbicide resistant sugar beet once every 5 years and winter cereals the other 4 years might have on bird populations. These crops are grown in Europe and North America and so the article uses data from these ecosystems. F. ex. how much certain birds use fields in areas of the UK as a function of weed seed density in those fields.

    This is therefore quite specific so basing any arguments about different GM crops in different ecosystems or about GM crops in general on the conclusions of this article is, necessarily, extremely tentative. Since the conclusions of the article are already tentative at best, being an untested theoretical model, linking this article in this discussion without any explanation makes no sense.

    Having said that you also make the linking of this article even more nonsensical by suggesting that it highlights the point that long term studies of the effects of GM crops would be so costly that the private sector would never engage in them. The article has absolutely nothing to do with any sort of estimate of cost of long term studies nor is it possible to infer from it anything about such costs.

    I hope you were merely having trouble getting your thoughts across (happens to me all the time) because it looks like you did not read the article and are merely regurgitating some talking point you read somewhere else. I suggest using the preview option before posting a comment to see if everything makes sense.

    Could you clarify what you are getting at exactly and how the article you link relates to it?

    Also you don't need to go to such lengths to convince us that you are not an anti-science fanatic. All this talk of what you would be willing to do if there were a menu for baby genes sounds like you are trying too hard, it makes you look insincere. I feel like you are trying to trick me (not saying that you are though).

    Dear MP.

    When you highlight a point you do so cause it either as a whole or as a detail or a concept summarizes an overall point you would wish to make.

    It is good to see that in your own comment you in fact used a phrase that also highlights my point**.

    When you say it (referring to the article and its thesis) " untested theoretical model" you in fact in this one phrase place a nice frame on what could be a rather hastily written comment. Not only is the aforementioned article based on an untested theoretical model but there are thousands of untested theoretical models out-there regarding the effect of GMO's and unlike GMO's there is not sufficient funding or will to test them all.

    **"Point is GMO's and their effects on the ecosystem is so untested and the plethora of different factors involved so vast and under-researched that should there be a requirement for detailed longitudinal studies to exist prior to being able to market GMO's no private company would be interested in producing them. Except a couple who have more money than your average 3rd world country. As such GMO's are a risk and no-one should be under the misconception that they are some magic form of bio-engineered pass par tout to unlimited subsistence."

    Hope that explains things a little.

    Hi,

    You are using a rhetorical fallacy here. It's known as sentimental appeal. "Support the GMO or the little children in Africa will die!" And by doing this, you do exactly what Greenpeace and UCS are doing. And again, you pick one good example (this rice) and generalize it to all GMOs to prove you can't oppose them (anecdotal evidence). And by the way, "left-wing crackpots", is also a fallacy (appeal to spite). So are you a scientist or a low grade journalist?

    Let's analyze this from the science point of view shall we?
    - Is a vitamin A producing rice is a good thing? Yes.
    - Would this rice prevent death in Africa? Probably, yes.
    - Does the opposition to this particular GMO will kill children in Africa? No but less death will be prevented then. (It's the same as saying your opposition to give all your money to these children kills them.)
    - Deaths due to GMOs? Unknown. And you can't say it's zero. If you can, show me the evidence. (The burden of evidence is on the claimant.)
    - Is the opposition to some GMOs a good thing? Yes. Since GMO cultures can't be enclosed, there is a risk of out-crossing which is unacceptable as long as their long-term effects on health are unknown.
    - Should this opposition be irrational? No. By definition, we should never give up rationality.
    - Should ecologist/scientist NGOs spread fear about GMOs? No, even if it's the only global strategy that works against greedy and unethical multinational corporations. It has some collateral damage, like this case, which is why it is condemnable.

    We can conclude that, like many subjects, GMOs are ambiguous at best and each case should be judged separately. So stop saying GMOs are all good/bad and start using your brain. Or call yourself an activist rather than a scientist.

    Dave

    P.S. : Vitamin A poisoning can happen, it's called hypervitaminosis A.

    Hank
     Deaths due to GMOs? Unknown. And you can't say it's zero. If you can, show me the evidence. (The burden of evidence is on the claimant.)
    That's flawed logic  "Deaths due to aliens from Mars? Unknown. And you can't say it's zero. If you can, show me the evidence. (The burden of evidence is on the claimant.) "

    You see the problem?

    Now, your other points are quite fine. As I said in the article, death claims, like economic ones and whatever else, are always overblown.  We can't say vitamin-enriched rice would actually prevent 250K kids per year from dying or going blind, because that is not the only way death happens. But since it is a bowl of harmless, vitamin-enriched rice, it is a crime against humanity that activists are blocking this using scare tactics.

    Using your 'long term effects' precautionary principle, we would still be plagued with smallpox and polio and would never have used antibiotics. They would still be 'in testing'.  GMOs have shown zero harm - organic food has killed and sickened an infinite times more people, since GMOs are at zero - and saying I can't prove that someone who died somewhere didn't get it from a GMO is silly, unless you can also prove (the burden of proof is on you, remember) that an alien from Mars didn't murder them.
    I just took one step further by assuming there was no proof, my mistake, I will reformulate : you claim zero deaths due to GMOs, I say prove it. Can you?

    I agree blocking an harmless bowl of rice is a crime against humanity. That doesn't mean everyone should fully support GMOs. Again it's anecdotal evidence.

    I wouldn't care about these long term effects if I had the choice to consume GMOs or not. But since there is no label on it and "natural" cultures can be accidentally fertilized by GMO pollen, I don't have that choice. Antibiotics were not forcibly given to people like GMOs. They decided to take them because short term benefits outmatched any eventual long term effect. Now explain to me where is the short term benefit for me in, for example, an herbicide resistant GMO?

    (As for this aliens thing, even if I didn't make such claim, we can assume it's zero since the scientific community denies the existence of such beings.)

    Gerhard Adam
    I agree blocking an harmless bowl of rice is a crime against humanity.
    Then presumably someone has confirmed that it is truly harmless.  As it turns it, that may not be as easy.
    New research suggests that there could be health hazards associated with consuming excessive amounts of beta-carotene.

    Vitamin A provides its health benefits by activating hundreds of genes. This means that if compounds contained in a typical source of the vitamin are actually lowering its activity instead of promoting its benefits, too much beta-carotene could paradoxically result in too little vitamin A.

    "A concern is that if you engineer these crops to have unusually high levels of beta-carotene, they might also have high levels of these compounds," Harrison said.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501134414.htm
    http://www.jbc.org/content/287/19/15886.full.pdf+html
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Meanwhile, activists who say it should be 'tested thoroughly' have once again prevented testing by vandalizing the tests.

    A group of farmers, provoked into action by claims that a vitamin-fortified bowl of rice is dangerous, descended on the experimental site in Pili and uprooted the palay

    Yeah, that is being rational and evidence-based.
    To clarify, when I say that there is perspective altering information on my blog, I do not claim that any of it comes from me. I know nothing. I only share information that I think is important (along with my own opinions and interpretations at times). Food freedom is a big part of the social activism that I like to participate in. I don't claim to know the science. I do know how to comb my sources of information and find out where they're coming from and who they serve. But again... It's only one person's perspective. I hope many people who visit this page will at least look at some of what I'm sharing, consider the arguments and make their own decisions about how to interpret them after some research and critical thought. Thank you.

    Hank
    I do not claim that any of it comes from me. I know nothing. I only share information that I think is important (along with my own opinions and interpretations at times)
    No worries, food activists don't hire any scientists either. In reality, there isn't a single issue any environmental movement has discovered first. In 100% of instances, scientists have discovered problems first, then activists created a stink raised a bunch of money so they could criticize ... scientists.

    But you are confusing two issues; food freedom and science. It's like telling a neo-con they can't be a real conservative unless they attack foreign nations.

    You have total food freedom right now - any product with no GMOs that puts that on their label is required to be honest. No one forces you to buy a GMO product. That is total freedom.  You instead want selective regulation based on your personal whims.

    And your freedom does not apply to penalizing poor people in foreign countries, so condemning to die and go blind because you know nothing about science is not freedom, it is despotic totalitarianism.


    Indian Farmers, Activists Protest Against Global GM Seed Giants
    Indian farmers and activists stage a protest against global seed giants and genetically modified (GM) food formulators and producers, demanding their immediate ouster from the country.
    - See more at: http://www.ntd.tv/en/news/world/asia-pacific/20130809/82099-indian-farme...

    [Kavita Kuduganti, Coalition for GM Free India]:
    "If seed is controlled by corporations like Monsanto, it's going to be expensive. It is going to limit the choices of farmers. It’s going to contaminate, if these are transgenic seeds, it is going to contaminate neighbouring farms and so on. Monsanto is known in other countries to sue and jail farmers for the ‘crime’ of saving their own seeds. The message today is: GMOs, BRAI Bill and Monsanto and similar organizations should quit India. We are asking political parties, which side do they stand on?"

    The BRAI Bill was introduced in the previous session of parliament, despite objections from opposition parties.

    Farmers are urging global giants to leave the country.

    Campaigners against GM crops have in the past protested against the country's first genetically modified vegetable, aubergine, saying it could be a hazard for the environment and public health. - See more at: http://www.ntd.tv/en/news/world/asia-pacific/20130809/82099-indian-farme...

    Hank
    So you are happy that activists with no knowledge of science can scare illiterate farmers in poor countries? We all knew that.

    Isn't fomenting fear and doubt exactly the problem? You are endorsing it as a solution - and a way to reaffirm your lack of knowledge. How many dead kids are you going to take responsibility for, or is spamming the world with links to junk science claims the extent of your 'involvement'?
    You tell me Hank. Is fast tracked Monsanto GM in India going to limit the choices of farmers?

    Is seed controlled by corporations like Monsanto, going to be expensive?

    Is it going to contaminate?

    Are transgenic seeds going to contaminate neighbouring farms and so on?

    Is it true that Monsanto is known in other countries to sue and jail farmers for the ‘crime’ of saving their own seeds?

    The Indian farmers message today is: 'GMOs, BRAI Bill and Monsanto and similar organizations should quit India'.

    Is it fair that they are asking their own Indian political parties, which side they stand on?

    Hank
    Monsanto does not own Golden Rice, so you can continue to bleat about how evil and mean they are but it just makes you look like exactly the irrational zealot that prevents children from being helped.
    See here is the problem. There was an opportunity for you to answer some questions that
    Many people have. Instead you pint out yet again that Monsanto does not own golden rice. Ok we got the point. The person asking never said they did. You answered none of the questions asked and just attacked the person. Why? As a scientist and as someone who wants to change something why not make your argument. State facts. Inform people. Your entire article and most of your comments are not putting out any fact thy are just attacks on those who don't agree with you. I learned nothing new reading what you posted other than your opinion, how is that science? I am trying to learn about something. What you say none of us do. Thinking this would be a place to get some fact. I guess I was wrong.

    Hank
    You had no question. The previous commenter had no question other than asking how awful Monsanto is, which is irrelevant to the article.

    The article is the answer to the Golden Rice question no one asked. There is no scientific or medical reason Golden Rice is being sued in courts by Greenpeace but the question commenters should be asking is, if science is so evil and unethical, why does Greenpeace accept climate change? The answer is because they only accept science that can scare people in fundraisers.  I did not answer that question either, because no one asked it, the same way I did not answer questions about Monsanto.

    Monsanto has plenty of unethical people working for them, just like Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists and Sierra Club and the government and grocery stores and landscaping companies and every place with humans. Science is right or wrong without human ethics and Golden Rice is right. GMO corn owned by Monsanto will not save 250K poor kids a year, but doing nothing will hurt them. Golden Rice cannot harm anyone and it can help a lot of kids that the activists protesting it (including you) do precisely nothing for.

    You, and they, have created a scary monster you claim you are protecting them from, while letting the real monster take their eyesight and their lives.
    Ok. Here are two questions I saw asked in the other post and I asked one in an earlier post as well.

    You tell me Hank. Is fast tracked Monsanto GM in India going to limit the choices of farmers?

    (Ignore the Monsanto piece- will it limit choices)

    Are transgenic seeds going to contaminate neighbouring farms and so on?

    And what is it you would like me to do for these kids, you accuse me of Doing nothing for? What are you doing for them specifically. Other than attacking people with questions. Are you saying that this rice is the only solution to this problem?

    God, as a scientist you seem to not want to share fact. I stated if I could get the answers to questions I would have no reason to be against this. You ignore that completely and twist around what I said to assume because I asked questions and am an activist I am against this. That is ignorant!

    Hank
    You tell me Hank. Is fast tracked Monsanto GM in India going to limit the choices of farmers?

    (Ignore the Monsanto piece- will it limit choices)

    Are transgenic seeds going to contaminate neighbouring farms and so on?
    What India does as part of its government policy is a mystery to both you and me. I can't even tell you what hidden mechanisms are involved in US decisions so asking me to interpret policy in a foreign country is not going to give anyone a good answer. You can't answer that, nor can people in the Indian government outside a small group, who are not going to comment publicly here.

    In America, no one is forced to use Monsanto seeds. India has a food problem and forcing people to use a type of seed would make that worse, not better, and it is unlikely Indian politicians are as evil and uncaring as you seem to think they are.

    Will transgenic seeds contaminate neighboring farms? The fact that you use the word "contaminate" shows you don't understand the basic science. Think of seeds as a much safer pesticide. Pesticides are harmless when used properly but when used improperly they can impact crops that don't need them. Monsanto has limitations on how the seeds can be used to prevent your concern - but then critics turn that on its head too and insist that Monsanto won't let farmers use seeds any way they want. It is a mystery how people can yell that Monsanto restricts how its seeds can be used while secretly plotting to have all farms be Monsanto seeds so they can sue.

    Monsanto did sue a farmer, but he was not a hapless victim, he intentionally violated the usage agreement and was a huge fan of their product.  They want herd immunity not to happen and they way to do that is to license the product - ironically, their policy prevents the thing everyone worries will happen, yet critics say Monsanto is bad and farmers should not have any restrictions on the seeds. It makes no sense.
    First I don't claim to be a scientist. Undo try to educate myself though on something when I take a stance on it as an activist. I have and will continue to fight for labeling. Info not have any preference for organic vs non organic. I do have strong doubts regarding the safety of some GM crops. Now if what you say is in fact true that there is no down side to this rice then I don't have a problem with it. I repeat though my comment on if its true. I don't know enough to say without further research but it does raise some questions. How would it effect other rice crops? What is the exact genetic mod. Plant based? I see a lot of anger and have a hard time understanding your horrid feelings and Condesending attitude towards all activists? There is a basic fear of the unknown. It's very simple. And when things are kept out of public view it rises more concern. I think the battle you are waging is pointed the wrong way. Bio-corps like Monsanto in tandem with the US government have created a very ugly distrust regarding this issue. And it is hurting a lot of people. Sadly until the level of transparency on testing is much higher the trust will not improve. And I think that's fair. Some are suffering yes, but to open a flood gate that can not be closed when people are not given the correct info they need to make educated conclusions I'm. It sure what else you would expect

    Hank
    Again, not liking Monsanto is not a valid excuse for anything. It's as ridiculous as saying if one politician lied they all are liars. Golden Rice has nothing to do with Monsanto so labeling the creators of this, who went out of their way to make sure no companies own it, isn't logical.
     I see a lot of anger and have a hard time understanding your horrid feelings and Condesending attitude towards all activists? There is a basic fear of the unknown. 
    Basic fear of the unknown whould apply to every medical product on the planet. Do you know what product no one can figure out? Aspirin. No one knows why it works. And no one can define a magnetic field. Yet you used a computer to write your comment, which meant electromagnetics even without knowing everything about magnetics, and aspirin has helped a lot of people.

    Pick any disease or any cure - antibiotics, polio, smallpox, whatever - and the mentality of the anti-science activists today mean those products would not be in use. That's not anger, though it is condescension and the condescension is valid. When people who know nothing insist a product is dangerous, they should be ridiculed. When their unwillingness to learn anything results in dead and blind kids that can be fixed, opponents should be reviled.

    The title of this article that you have written is 'GMOs Don't Hurt Anyone, But Opposing Them Does', yet you are an anti-science, little bigot with an over inflated idea of our own self-worth and a very flawed opinion in this complex arena. You are the one person at this site who appears to be incapable of any scientific thinking. Science is not about cheer leading and black and white anti-science mentalities, it is about the complex development and sharing of reasoned hypotheses and scientific data and until you get your head out of your arse you will NEVER be able to understand this! Every day people here tell you again and again that you are an extremist idiot, when will you ever get your act together and start investigating and sharing real science with your public?

    Hating Monsanto is not the only reason behind this if you read my entire comment that was one point. While you may call it junk science, there have been issues raised regarding GM foods. I don't think those have been addressed. You point out that people want things to be proven safe as if that is some horrid expectation. Monsanto is only a figure head for all of the mistrust and hate. What they have been doing in conjunction with the US gov has caused people to distrust all GM food. So my point was instead of attacking the activist your cause would be better served to point your argument at those creating the mass panick and distrust.

    I am not attacking you or doubting your frustration. But that frustration is felt by those on the activist front as well. They want answers and more transparent testing. No one is fighting with the goal of killing children. However thy are fighting with the goal of ensuring what they are feeding they're children is safe.

    I sent this article to the Union of Concerned Scientists, and asked for their comments. Here is what they replied:

    Thanks for your question and I apologize for the delay, but I wanted to check in with Doug Gurian-Sherman, our scientist who is mentioned, to hear from him directly. According to him, this story "blatantly misrepresents what I was quoted as saying. I never said that golden rice was scientific garbage. I don't remember for certain, but I think I was referring to a completely unrelated issue... And I also never said you can get vit A poisoning from carrots. The theoretical issue Is whether plant metabolic pathways are altered to produce other retanoic acids that are teratogens. And we have never even opposed golden rice, simply raised some considerations about efficacy and safety testing... and whether we should really be working to encourage better diets instead. Golden rice is a bandaid at best, on much bigger problems."

    Hank
    Then the whole world has misquoted him. Here is an example quoting him about Golden Rice from Voice of America:
    Doug Gurian-Sherman, with the environmental group the Union of Concerned Scientists, calls that argument "scientific garbage." 
    ...
    Gurian-Sherman says one reason Golden Rice needs to be tested for safety is because vitamin A and its chemical relatives can be toxic at high levels.
    And obviously every activist group carried his quotes as well.  

    He should probably Google himself before he says he doesn't "remember for certain" what he said. And maybe UCS should hire some scientists rather than Democratic staffers and fundraisers, then they could fact-check their spokespeople.
    It sounds to me like YOU should check YOUR facts before you write an article. You should have asked Gurian-Sherman directly about the veracity of these quotes you found attributed to him. We all know the Internet is full of misinformation that just keeps spreading because people don't check the truth of what they are sharing.

    And what is your deal with demonizing Democrats, anyway? That kind of attitude doesn't make your points sound very factual. Republicans and Democrats are pretty much the same monster these days...they might have different talking points, but they end up doing the same BS once they get into office, which is basically nothing good for the vast majority of Americans.

    I'd also like to see the proof of your claims that the UCS "has been unfailingly opposed to every mainstream science position except climate change".

    Hank
    It sounds to me like YOU should check YOUR facts before you write an article. You should have asked Gurian-Sherman directly about the veracity of these quotes you found attributed to him. 
    Funny, they never once denied that quote. If you think Voice of America journalists(!) are fabricating quotes from UCS, you are even more of a conspiratorial crackpot than your commenting suggests.

    The UCS positions against science are well-known. That is outside the scope of this article but I am also not your librarian - I have written 1,500 articles here and UCS has a whole site devoted to fund-raising based on scare tactics. If you can't do even some basic research of your own, you probably should stick to commenting at UCS.
    Well, Hank, it sounds to me like you are an angry young man who does not know how to take criticism without lashing out at the criticizer, covering any points someone else brings up with sarcasm. And no, I am not into discussions of this nature, there are a waste of everyone's time and energy.

    YOU are the one who wrote the article. I only saw your article because a friend posted it on Facebook. I have never heard of The Voice of American Journalists, but I know that any publication, no matter how big it is, can make mistakes. Actually, I don't even care about that thats' where you saw these supposed remarks from UCS, but I would expect you to check on the facts before you write your own article.

    It is YOUR responsibility to be able to prove the statements made in your article, not mine. And since you made that statement about the UCS, YOU should be able to back it up with facts. But you chose to attack me instead. This speaks volumes about who you are and that the info you present is simply your opinion. Mature people know how to converse without attacking the other. Looks like you're not there, yet. So, no, I don't have any more time for your little opinions and diatribes against anyone who might ask you for the proof of your statements, much less have a differing view.

    Hank
    Carol, this is not USA Today nor a fundraising corporation like UCS so, no, it is not anyone's responsibility to spoon-feed you. I am baffled that you are older than me yet have never heard of one of the most well-known journalistic organizations in America - and reflexively call their journalist a liar while insisting some guy at UCS is to be taken at face value with no fact checking at all.

    Do you not see how hypocritical it is?  I'm not attacking you - I have zero interest in going back-and-forth with one person on the Internet - it is just silly that when some guy says things that happen to agree with your predetermined beliefs, he gets no complaints about documenting his beliefs that Golden Rice is 'scientific garbage' and 'toxic' but you want to get on the phone with the journalist he said it to and you demand to hear the recording.

    There is no 'differing view' - science is not about your opinion, you don't get to vote on data. You can lobby Congress to continue to block science right along with UCS, that is your right, but the science itself is correct even if you continue to deny it.
    Thanks for your piece.

    At times I get the feeling of living in the Dark Ages, with such an ubiquitous anti scientific popular opinion.

    I have the feeling that this GM angst is derived from a wider, deeply entrenched popular belief, namely total lack of confidence in our own abilities and the placing on a pedistal of mother nature.
    All things from nature are deemed good, in harmony and impossible for humans to improve upon. Besides this being untrue, this also is a far cry from how we viewed ourselves, when we were still subject to nature's gruesome whims and our ability to use our wits and shape our environments to our benefit, meant escaping a short and harsh life. We have become estranged from mother Nature, and with all distant memories, we remember the good, and forget the bad, and are nostalgic about it.
    I would love to see the psyche return that man is valuable, a creator and shaper of a world we all like to live in, using all the tools he can think of to do so.

    Where we have allowed technology, such as in medicine, communication, information; progress has been relentless, but where we have halted technology, such as in farming (or perhaps in doping for athletes), progress has stagnated.

    Finally, the precautionary principle must die. In essence, we would need omniscience to meet its requirements, something that although humans are underrated, we do not possess.

    GMO foods can and do cause serious medical problems for some people. I am one. I have severe gluten intolerance and have been absolutely gluten free for 25 years, excepting mistakes. The tiniest trace of gluten will make me very ill. Recently I became very ill with the far too familiar symptoms, extreme gastrointestinal distress to the point of not being able to eat for a week. Somehow, somewhere I had eaten gluten. It took me a week of research to find where it came from.

    Almost nobody is aware that there are now traces of gluten in nearly all cheeses made in North America. The cheeses are made using microbial enzymes that are created using fungi that have been genetically modified to make rennet. The GMO fungi are grown on a mash of wheat bran and traces of the gluten end up in the enzymes used to make the cheese. I was slammed under the table by eating a cheese sauce that should have no gluten in it from any source. A week of severe intestinal agony was the result which was then followed by a relapse from eating some cottage cheese. This has been the case for the last few years as animal rennet is in short supply and not as predictable as GMO rennet.

    Look at your cheese. If it is labelled "microbial enzyme" it probably has traces of gluten. It shouldn't and there is no reason to suspect that it does. But thanks to GMO foods it may contain unlabled gluten. This is not a trivial matter. Even if you experience no symptoms the presence of gluten in the food of somebody with real gluten intolerance may eventually lead to cancer and/or other possibly fatal disease.

    Hank
    While I appreciate your plight, it isn't GMOs to blame. Saying a microbial enzyme in cheese is a 'GMO' is such a loose definition that 100% of all foods in the last 2,000 years are also GMOs - mold is a GMO, everything is a GMO. The same crazily broad definition would also mean cheese is made of meat.
    You don't get an animal gene into a fungi without using modern genetically modified oragnisms. The GMO fungi is used to make the food and that process introduces the gluten to the food. Without GMO technology this would not be possible. Rennet is an animal product and the particular "microbial enzyme" is actually synthetic rennet. It may not be labelled as such for reasons that have nothing to do with the making of the food. The synthetic rennet contains gluten and that is only possible via the GMO process.

    Hank
    There is nothing in the human microbiome of today that is even close to the microbiome of a human 100 years ago, so lots and lots of genetic modifications have happened. Your notions about how genetic modification happens are flawed - they happened long before humans did it precisely and happen even today. Your rationale is also saying that the presence of this enzyme means cheese is meat - and even that celiac sensitivity is so high to an enzyme due to a gene that it would be the equivalent of me being able to feel the gravitational pull of a fly on the moon.
    I am not following your reasoning. What we have is an animal product that was made using another animal product. No gluten involved at any stage so the final product contained none. We now have a product that is made with an ingredient derived from a genetically modified fungus (Aspegillus niger or similar). That fungus has an animal gene inserted in the fungus genome so it will produce rennet, a microbial enzyme normally produced by cows and pigs, gluten free. The fungus is incapable of producing this enzyme without genetically modifying the genome in a manner only possible using recent high technology.

    GMO is being used to produce a food that now contains another food that is poison to a lot of people. It isn't listed nor is it an expected food for the product in which it is now found. This problem is significant and is a direct result of the use of GMO to produce a food product. There is absolutely no indication on the final product that GMO is involved nor is there any expectation that the resulting product is now dangerous to eat for so many people.

    I have spoken to cheese manufacturers and they have no knowledge of this possibility at all. This is Not A Good Thing and is a direct result of using a GMO process to produce food that used to be entirely safe to eat.

    It is exactly this sort of problem that may be expected to turn up more often. Virtually any food may be contaminated by inserting genes from other foods with the production of unidentifiable antigenic components. Antigens are capable of killing many people. Think peanuts.

    What if a protein forming gene from a peanut has an advantage for a potato when inserted in the genome?

    Hank
    Expression is the issue. The peanut genome is gigantic but that is how people get derailed in science discussions. They think it is sympathetic magic, where any part is the same as the whole. A peanut gene that wards off pests, for example, but cannot express anything in humans that people with the mutation for an allergy can react to would be harmless to humans eating a potato.

    Without enzymes, there is no cheese. Rennet is the most natural, ancient, traditional way and that is due to a cow. 'Vegetarian' microbial enzymes have been tried as a replacement and make terrible cheese but even those have been 'genetically modified' over time; as I said, if we analyze someone from a hundred years ago our microbiome has nothing in common with them because the food of today is different than the food of 10 years ago and 50 and 70 and 100 and 1,000. 

    Taking a rennen-producing gene out of an animal and putting it into mold isn't a GMO, they have not created a new organism. And it isn't meat, but less-knowledgeable vegetarians say it is.  
    Well, then that's settled because then nothing is a GMO. GMO corn isn't a GMO and GMO cotton isn't a GMO, since these aren't new organisms. Who would've thought the problem could be so easily disposed of.

    Of course, you don't know what you're talking about since the 'M' in GMO means modified, not new.

    Hank
    The 'O' means organism. I didn't say it was not modified, I said it was not a GMO.

    Unless now you are claiming all hybrids are GMOs, along with every piece of organic food on Whole Foods shelves. And that every new graft of any plant is a GMO too.
    Yes, the 'O' is rather obvious, since we depend on other organisms for food. The keyword is "modified" which you seem to ignore. As for the goofy argument that every variation, hybrid, and mutant is also a GMO, then you're just engaging in sophistry. I'm sure that you clearly recognize the difference between a specific modification that could never occur due to hybridization and the other.

    However, if your argument is that there is no new science, then all those plant scientists are responsible for those children going blind and dying. After all, they could have simply bred the plants to produce more beta-carotene, but had somehow decided not to.

    "Taking a rennen-producing gene out of an animal and putting it into mold isn't a GMO, they have not created a new organism."

    Huh? Of course it is a Genetically Modified Organism. That is an exact example of what GMO means. If you think otherwise then all of your arguments are meaningless.

    I should also point out that the primary protein (Gliadin) that is responsible for causing damage in gluten intolerance is produced by a single gene. What if it is found that the same protein will damage the equivalent of the digestive system in a pest? Adding the gene that makes Gliadin to the potato genome might seem like an excellent solution to the pest problem. Not so excellent for those with gluten intolerance though.

    That is another highly possible example of how GMO food changes can be harmful. I fully expect such problems to occur more often in the future. We are facing serious problems.

    How do I stop receiving this thread in my email? I have sent back the 'disable comments' link which said it would stop this, but I keep getting notifications when a new comment is posted. I've tried several ways to stop this (including trying to remove my email address, and unchecking the box for being notified when new comments are posted), but it continues. Sorry to be asked to be 'spoon-fed' the facts again, but how do I stop this process? And now I am sorry I ever commented in the first place, what a waste of time all the way around.

    I should mention that the fungi contains either a pig or cow gene to cause it to make rennet.