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comment by Lintel
Lintel  ·  2305 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Philae has landed! (We landed on a comet. +1 for humans)

Corn? No, unless I either planted it myself and thus know what is feeding me or know the farmer who planted it. And even then, it's rare. Apples: yes, I happen to have acces to a couple of older specimen. The pre-war varieties, don't ask me the strain.





OftenBen  ·  2305 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ok, let's stick to apples then, for the purposes of discussion. You mentioned that yours are heirloom varietals. I live in Michigan, we grow a lot of good apples, I appreciate your point, they are good. So lets say that your variety was around, oh, 200 years ago, which is old, comparatively. But, was it around 500 years ago? How about a thousand? A few thousand? See, if you go back enough on the family tree of most species of plant that humans consume now, you'll notice a few things. Your apples, which are now, large, sweet (or tart), and delicious, were once a small, hard, bitter ball of cellulose and seeds. Now, this is still an apple, we still have varieties like this today, crabapples. Humans realized that, by breeding plants that have traits that they like, they can encourage changes. Selective breeding is a type of technology. So, humans, using technology, performed a change on the species.

GMO's are just skipping, in the case of some crops such as wheat (First cultivated 8000 BCE), thousands of years. Given enough time, we could, by selective breeding, probably create a strain of wheat that would grow well in cold climates. Hell, given enough time you could create a strain of rice whose vitamin content was pretty close to modern Golden Rice.

I happen to be against a lot of things related to crops that are genetically modified, but my problem is with patent laws, pesticide incompatibilities, and a lot of modern farm law. But I am not against the modification of existing organisms genetic material to create versions better suited for human needs.

Lintel  ·  2304 days ago  ·  link  ·  

As I read your comment, it seems you think I don't know the difference between crossbred/selected breeding and the genetically-modified/gene-infused Monsanto-monstrosities. I have no problem with the first: we've been doing that for as long as there's been agriculture. That's way different than eating a vegetable which thrives on a patch of land that has to be heavily sprayed with chemicals. There are already plenty of examples of people falling ill because of GMO's (the explosion in gluten-intolerance comes to mind). And that's just the short run. THe indications that GMOs have a negative influence on fertility aren't made up. Btw, remember the rat-tumor-research where tghe rats had been fed GMO-corn. Yeah.

Ever seen a farmer spraying his GMO-crop with special pesticides? He's fitted out as if going into space, helmet and airtight suit and all. THe farmers who aren't protected like that and either inhale of touch the stuff fall ill, often violently. So no, I don't want to eat food which has to be chemically blasted and drenched before it yields crop. Heirloom-plants don't seem to need that.

OftenBen  ·  2304 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    That's way different than eating a vegetable which thrives on a patch of land that has to be heavily sprayed with chemicals.

I agree. I don't like that kind of farming.

    Ever seen a farmer spraying his GMO-crop with special pesticides?

I go to an agricultural school, a fair few of my friends farm or are in the industry. I completely understand.

BUT.

These things are dangerous extremes and should be prevented. It's a misapplication of technology to create crops that have a chemical necessity for X Brand fertilizer, pesticide, insecticide. It should be considered a crime, in my opinion, to specifically create mule strains of crops with terminator genes. Oversaturating crops with chemicals and hurrying them off to market before they can flush those toxins should be a crime too. But again, that's not the fault of the technology, it's the fault of the people using it.

Your problem (And mine, I agree with you more than you think here, don't tear out my throat) isn't with the alteration of genomes, it's with bad agricultural practice driven by market forces.

Those of us interested in the long-term future of the species want us to be able to feed everybody, using only what land/resources are required for it. Our current system is incredibly wasteful from just an analysis of chemical energy in, chemical energy out. Hopefully we can use Models like this one to produce exactly what we need, with precisely the right chemical composition, with minimal waste.

If you really care about these issues, go talk to some farmers. If you can find any still alive that is.

kleinbl00  ·  2304 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I haven't seen very many examples where genetic modification produced a better, more expedient varietal than good, old-fashioned husbandry. At the same time, the increase in gluten sensitivity probably has a lot to do with the absolute gonzo emphasis on gluten in wheat over the past 30 years for the production of more stable baked goods.

Sure, golden rice but that never really caught on and there are better ways toward it. I guess what I'm saying is GMO crops, outside of nasty little gotchas like terminator genes, aren't necessarily worth the trouble. But then, that argument doesn't get written up much.

OftenBen  ·  2304 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I haven't seen very many examples where genetic modification produced a better, more expedient varietal than good, old-fashioned husbandry.

It's usually not a change in yield(including chemical content), but a change in weather tolerances/requirements.

    At the same time, the increase in gluten sensitivity probably has a lot to do with the absolute gonzo emphasis on gluten in wheat over the past 30 years for the production of more stable baked goods.

I agree, but that's not the fault of the technology of genetic engineering. That's the fault of people misusing the tech.

    Sure, golden rice but that never really caught on and there are better ways toward it.

There are legal issues about it too, and other problems that aren't related to the organism itself, but it's implication.

    I guess what I'm saying is GMO crops, outside of nasty little gotchas like terminator genes, aren't necessarily worth the trouble. But then, that argument doesn't get written up much.

The terminator gene thing is a problem. A big problem, but again it's not the fault of the tech, it's the fault of the people. There is an economic incentive to screw farmers as regularly and for as much cash as possible, and that should be stopped. But again, it's not the fault of the tech.

kleinbl00  ·  2304 days ago  ·  link  ·  

We clearly agree that there's a problem of implementation... and again - I think most of the problems that GMO is applied to have a lot more to do with exclusivity and monopolistic tendencies than they do with solving agricultural problems. Take your "change in weather tolerances/requirements." part of agriculture is in selecting varietals that adapt better to the particular microclimate of a farmer's plot. Been that way since Babylon. When you take something that wasn't originally there and introduce it, you run the risk of an invasive species. An invasive species that's genetically engineered to defeat the pests that keep the plant from thriving? definitely an invasive species... unless you introduce one of those lovely terminator genes, at which point we're back to square one.

If it takes ten years to breed a crop that can tolerate one zone hotter or colder or five years to genetically engineer a crop that can tolerate three zones hotter or colder, I'd rather go with the 10 year plan. There's a checks'n'balances thing that comes about through breeding that you don't get with GMO.

And that's my whole point, really - GMO has the potential to solve a lot of problems, but the current state of technology, from what I've been able to gather, doesn't have much of a leg up on traditional approaches once you eliminate the nasty Monsantoism of it all.