I understand being skeptical and wanting proper over site and testing but it seems to be an irrational fear of how the organism is modified but not if its modified. Guys in labs coats bad, guys in overalls good.
The truth is there is a continuum of techniques we use to modify organisms genomes from selective breeding, to marker assisted breeding, to mutagenisis to targeted gene insertion. What health reason would drive us to ban one while allowing another?
Why limit it to health reasons? Personally, I'm worried because corporate and consumer interests don't align. When business designed food, we got high-salt/high-fat unhealthy stuff optimized for addiction. When it designed tractors, we got DRMed electronics only repairable by those blessed by the manufacturer. Unless incentives change, GMOs will be analogous, with the addition of copyright protection and restrictive IP agreements. A new front in the already difficult battle for consumer rights.
Natural has no such protection or meaning. When you see it on a label, just photoshop it out in your mind.
There's a lot happening in this sector, some of it good and some of it bad. GM isn't necessarily bad, but it might be pandora's box. Monocultures are definitely bad even if they are pest resistant. We don't know how this will play yet. Some apprehension is normal.
How humans accomplish the genetic modification seems to be the point of contention and I argue its poorly defined as there are many techniques in between selective breeding and gene insertion that we use to perform the modification.
I’m not trying to make a value judgement there about whether we should do all that. I can imagine someone approaching this from the precautionary principle holding the position that there is some currently undetectable, unwanted, and important change occurring in the plant. If you make decisions solely based on that, you would effectively never get any potential benefits from GMOs. Again, to some people the potential political/social/economic risks outweigh the benefits. I just think people should be clear about the rationale for their position. (Edit: grammar and clarity)
It's very different from what people will do in laboratory.
Natural process is quite slow and gives you enough time to drop adverse crop.
Both can't be same.
It's really the same process, with but with noise removed. Genes are genes, they do not carry metadata that say they were introduced in a lab. "Natural" vs "artificial" is a kind of magical thinking one would hope humanity would cure itself of by now. Hell, if you want to see true masters of targeted genetic modification, look no further than viruses.
> Natural process is quite slow and gives you enough time to drop adverse crop.
"Artificial" process can notice and drop "adverse" crop faster. Also, the way all organisms live and reproduce, genes not fit for the environment they're in will get dropped over time. Living things have an energy economy in them; enabling one feature usually means taking away from others.
This really deserves an Abstruse Goose reference:
If it is "the same process", then how are we able to make a distinction between domestication and biolistics or crispr?
Even disregarding the literal human action part, the most notable difference is that the latter allows for genes to be moved between organisms even if the two organisms would not have done so even if given millions of years without human interaction. (Ex: Spider genes in goats).
I feel this defense of GMO's is weak, as is the defense of "It's the same food chemically." as some other's may claim. If it were actually the same outcome, then it would be useless as a technique.
There are really no such things as "spider genes" or "goat genes" or "fish genes", there are only genes. Some sequences are found in one species and not the other, but they do not carry a tag that says where they came from. It's akin to copying functions between programs. You may say you copied over the implementation of e.g. incremental search from Vim, but that doesn't suddenly taint your program with "unnatural vimness" (license considerations notwithstanding).
> I feel this defense of GMO's is weak, as is the defense of "It's the same food chemically." as some other's may claim. If it were actually the same outcome, then it would be useless as a technique.
It's more akin this: quicksort and random sort give the exact same outcome in the end, but one of those processes is vastly more efficient at achieving the goal.
I think this is revealing of an implicit assumption that we disagree on. I do not accept this idea that genes, in a sense, are like functional-programming functions. Considering the fact that there exist genes that express only in the presence of other genes or specific environmental factors, its very likely that genes DO have side-effects in our metaphor of genes as functions.
“Conventional” non-GM breeding these days includes methods that induce rapid change by exposure to radiation or chemical mutagens; both because of the randomness of the methods and the weaker regulatory environment, there is a lot less knowledge of what changed are induced outside of the targeted traits that are selected for with these.
> Natural process is quite slow and gives you enough time to drop adverse crop
Crop development has used artificial process for millenia; the alternative to transgenics isn't “natural process”, it's a wide variety of other artificial processes.
Again it a continuum, why is artificial selection ok but marker assisted selection not? If marker assisted selection is ok, why not mutagenisis? if mutagenisis is ok why not targeted gene insertion? What basis are we labeling one GMO and not another? Why are we worried about one and not another?
Monocultures are a problem and having more drought or pest resistant crops is not a solution to industrial scale farming turning perfectly good farm land into desert.
Why is it that out of gazillions of species, most fish that we eat are on of just four species. Likewise, why do we have to rely on just a handful of crops for most of our grains and vegetables? This basically arises from the notion that with the technologies available to us mid last century, those were the easiest ones to industrialize. We fertilized and plowed land at an industrial scale, we dealt with pests using pesticides, and used GMO to make sure that our crops and nothing else would grow on the land.
Organic farming is a bit of a romantic ideal. It's basically an expensive way of small scale farming using our per-industrial technology to farm the good old way. The produce however, can be delicious; which (along with all the ecological feel good vibes) is why it is popular. Additionally, people are rediscovering foods that just haven't been in scope for mass production.
However, it's high tech cousin of sustainable farming by using land more smartly and using technology to monitor and restore soil in a data driven way is not naive. It works, it scales, and can be highly competitive and you get much of the same benefits as with organic farming. There is a lot of innovation in this space. Essentially, you can reverse much of the effects of destructive farming practices of the last centuries and create soil that produces high yield crops without relying on fertilizers, GMO, or pesticides. Turns out nature is pretty awesome when you guide it a little. Many farmers are discovering that they don't need to buy a lot of things from large corporations to grow stuff. If you manage the land right, you don't need fertilizers, pesticides, or indeed GMO.
(Irish university scientists) willingness to buy GM baby food? (41.4% would buy; 45% would not; 13.6% not sure)
"4. Willingness of scientists to buy GM food :
Respondents were asked how willing they would be to buy certain types of genetically engineered food if they were at the same price as similar non-GM products. The axiom that those buying food would do so to consume it was
drawn. These results are shown in Table II. Of the respondents 60.4 per cent would buy genetically modified food items if they were the same price as non-GM food with the notable exception of baby food (41.4 percent would buy; 45percent would not; 13.6 percent not sure). T-tests carried out showed that when the means were compared, the drop in willingness to buy GM baby food was statistically significant (p < 0.01). This drop is an interesting insight into risk analysis of the scientist."
"Genetically modified food issues: Attitudes of Irish university scientists - Shane H. Morris Catherine C. Adley" (2000)
A lot of GMOs are designed so that you can dump herbicides and pesticides on them. That is a problem.
Pretty much all crops (including organic ones) have pesticides (incl. herbicides) dumped on them. There are GMOs made so that this can be done with a particular broad-spectrum herbicide from the same vendor without negatively impacting yield, though.
I can already think of a counter example: GMO plants are often more resistant to herbicides which makes it more profitable to overuse herbicides.
Whether this is good or bad doesn't matter. Your argument is based around the fact that business practices don't change.
Increased yields, increased disease resistance, decreased maintenance (e.g. pesticide use).
> GMO plants are often more resistant to herbicides which makes it more profitable to overuse herbicides.
Why are GMO plants made more resistant to herbicides? In order to enable more efficient utilization of them. For instance, AFAIK Roundup is less toxic than most other stuff people spray on plants, and it replaces the use of that other stuff.
A lot of interesting problems in real world seem NP-complete, and we deal with them just fine. NP-complete doesn't mean "any wrong step can kill you"; it means we need to be satisfied with almost, but not quite, optimal solutions.
Don't be surprised when pseudoscience believing corporate-cynical customers don't trust the newest food tech, when it was only developed to increase corporate profits in the first place.
Maybe people just want what they think is 'natural' with the understanding that breeding is different than Genetic Modification. One works with the tools nature created the other is playing God.
I'm not surprised, because this topic has exactly zero to do with science, health, or truth. It's all about trust issues. About abuse on one end used by the other side to fertilize the public perception with bullshit.
Alas, I wish people complaining about "chemicals" in food and "ripen on the shelf" tomatoes and stuff would realize how big a logistic hurdle it is to feed 7 billion people. All those inventions developed to make food live longer on the shelf (and in trucks) is part of what enables you and me to be a programmer, instead of a farmer.
> Maybe people just want what they think is 'natural' with the understanding that breeding is different than Genetic Modification. One works with the tools nature created the other is playing God.
By those standards almost no technology should be allowable. Floods are the tools nature created; putting up dams is playing God. Lightning is the tool nature created, electrical generators is playing God.
AFAIK the whole point of pesticide-resistance GMOs is precisely to use less pesticide, and of a less toxic kind, than in case of regular farming.
> GMOs have typically resorted to exploitive and predatory business practices which fostered negative implications for the farming industry as a whole.
s/GMOs/GMO-employing companies/, which is essentially large agricultural companies.
Alas, if I'm to believe the HN thread from couple of days ago, the main issues people blame on GMOs don't exist (lack of genetic diversity), or aren't really a property of GMOs in the first place (lack of "seed saving") - many (including IP protection) apply to "normal" or even "organic" farming as well.
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18923957
What is more scary is some of the mosquito killing genes that are being developed. Those are actually being designed to spread throughout entire species of Mosquitos, despite making them infertile. This is a far more difficult problem that a simple terminator gene.
The same essentially applies to anti-vaxxers too.