[NAFEX] GMO and Breeding

Anton Callaway marillen at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 30 20:48:30 EST 2005

This is great!  A lively discussion on the topic.  What better opportunity to address these issues?

I agree wholeheartedly with some of your concerns, for instance, concentration of genetic material in the hands of a few, whether they be corporations or governments is not good.  Too much danger in losing diversity.

Also, you made an excellent point in saying that pests and disease organisms will evolve around plant defenses.  It should be remembered that this point is not unique to transgenic techniques.  There is a constant battle between plants and pests in nature as well.  This is one reason why plants, pests and all other organisms have the natural ability to alter their DNA to new sequences.  We should expect that defenses against pests and pathogens will not last forever and so we must always seek new ways to keep the balance on the side of food production.

However, I must respectfully disagree with some other points including that cross-species exchange of DNA does not occur except in the hands of humans.  Bacteria and viruses are quite distinct from plants, yet they exchange DNA with plants naturally.  By the way, the oft-cited fish DNA into tomato is a red herring if you will forgive the joke.  That experiment was a failure.  If anyone can name a cultivar being used from this experiment, please let me know.  It made good press, but not much else.

This brings me to the next point.  The fact is that the agribusiness industry is >very< strictly regulated.  Government regulators do not just "accept" reports from these companies.  It is largely because of the government oversight (which I support) that these products are so expensive to bring to market.  Even if you buy into the notion that agribusiness is all about money, these business folks are not stupid.  If they ever released an unsafe food product, they would lose money and lots of it.  Even before these potential products reach the government regulators, they have passed layer upon layer of safety testing, allergenicity tests, animal trials, metabolism studies, environmental impact studies, digestion studies, and many other tests.  It is a process that is decidedly more rigourous than food safety tests for other food products, including the myriad of Ho-Ho's and ring-pops that pose a real threat to our nation's dietary health.

Another point that was brought up is the trump card against any new technology:  no one knows absolutely everything about the product or what will happen with it in the future.  Of course, no one knows everything about anything, old or new, but that detail often gets shoved aside.  Do we need to keep scrutinizing food safety, including GMO's?  You bet.  Should we continue to research biological fundamentals that could impact these technologies?  Absolutely.  However, we should also educate ourselves in biology and realize that an awful lot >is< known about how genes behave and that responsible use of that knowledge already benefits humans and non-humans and can continue to do so.  



-----Original Message-----
>From: Deirdre Birmingham <deirdreb at mindspring.com>
>Sent: Dec 30, 2005 6:53 PM
>To: "breen at fedcoseeds.com,  North American Fruit Explorers" <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
>Subject: Re: [NAFEX] GMO and Breeding
>I appreciate Heron's comments.  And wish to add the following. 
>The trans-genic technologies that are mis-nomered "genetically modified"
>are not things that would happen naturally.  In transgenics, materials are
>moved across species boundaries, such as the early example (and not
>accepted by consumers) from Calgene of moving fish genes into the tomato to
>help tolerate cold better. Genetic material in some classes is literally
>shot into the cell of the recipient organism.  The changes to the DNA
>structure are not fully known.  They can map some of it, but not all of it,
>and at times less is known than the unknown impacts. 
>Also these things are not well regulated.  There has been a revolving door
>between the EPA and Monsanto, between the FDA and Monsanto. Our government
>has not been reviewing third-party independent verification of the
>environmental or human health impacts. The gov't takes reviews from
>Monsanto and similar corporations, does not look at the actual data or
>methodologies but at synopses and results.  And these technologies are
>accepted before any long-term assessments have taken place.  
>The insect and disease control features of some of them, weed control too,
>have some of the same inherent weaknesses.  Insect pests, disease
>organisms, and weeds evolve around them.  Those with resistances survive
>and multiply.  Farmers are still on the technology treadmill but even more
>beholden to the few agro-ceutical companies that remain.  
>The fact that plant genetic resources are increasingly controlled by four
>large for-profit corporations has risks for all of humanity.  The patenting
>of life-forms is what started all this.  That was indeed a grave decision.  
>The Center for Food Safety published a well documented study last year of
>the hundreds of legal actions taken by Monsanto alone against farmers for
>violating seed agreements.  Seed companies are no longer the friend of the
>farmer.  They are driving some to bankruptcy.  
>There are other farmers who are harmed in the market place because of the
>genetic pollution their crops suffer when pollen drifts from trans-genic
>crops drifts onto theirs. 
>I am not against genetic engineering technologies in and of themselves.
>They are simply tools.  My husband's company is a bio-tech company  But it
>is the application of those technologies and their societal and
>environmental impacts that drops out as these technologies are rushed to
>market.  And with the huge $$$$ investments in them, and the drive in the
>stock market for increasingly shorter term profitability, that drives the
>rush to market and their methods to ensure that their products get there.   
>Deirdre Birmingham, 
>zone 4, southern WI
>> [Original Message]
>> From: Heron Breen <breen at fedcoseeds.com>
>> To: North American Fruit Explorers <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
>> Date: 12/30/2005 11:08:30 AM
>> Subject: [NAFEX] GMO and Breeding
>> While I appreciate others opinions, natural selection and pressure is by
>no means
>> comparable to plant breeding, modern or otherwise. There are major
>> genetic "intents" between the two. A plant or animal is, truly, a
>> organism. All of these cells are individually working together to create a
>> enviroment that is safe and secure for division and nutrient management.
>> than go on at length, here are a few concepts for those interested to
>look into: 
>> Natural processes work within what is known as horizontal resistance,
>> modern agriculture works within vertical resistance. As one understands
>> breeding and cellular recombination concepts, one understands why genetic
>> engineering and most other efforts of single or multi-gene resistance
>> problems within 10 years.
>> Also, there is widespread misuse of the very principles which genetic
>> farming should be applied under. Seed technology producers and farmers are
>> suposed to be farming and leaving areas that are non-gmo corn and soybean
>> parallel to their gmo operations. This allows the natural world an
>ability to
>> breed without breeding in gmo resistance. Originally, this also applied
>to weed
>> suppressing technology, but none is adhered to or regulated. Almost no one
>> follows the "science"-recommended farming practices.
>> I take great issue with the concept of intellectual or corporate
>welcoming of
>> criticism or oversight. For the most part conglomeration has led to
>control of
>> seed, fertilizer, crop treatments, medicine etc, all under one roof. Who
>> overseeing the intergration of businesses or their ethical behavior? The
>> multi-national nature of the money moving upwards, and government
>> breeds the propaganda of the starving world needing ADM. The "truth" is
>> conglomeration leads to the starving world.
>> GMO food is already commonplace in the supermarket, so the idea that
>> are overly concerned about the public health seems to leak considerably.
>> I think, bluntly, there are those that believe technology, of any type,
>is the
>> answer to every problem. There are others that have worked with
>"scientists" and
>> industry and realize people are flawed, which is okay, but this includes
>> ideas of a disease/pest/weed free utopia. Their own data and studies show
>> natural selection/processing actually speeds up to outpace and rebalance
>> changes, most often with unforeseen consequences. Look outside anywhere at
>> today's world to see this. 
>> The first 3 generations of gmo technology have been mismanaged, poorly
>> and pushed with profit in mind. Money has been the only "green" in the
>> revolution, while farmers literally die out. 
>> Show me statistics that farming has improved economically or
>enviromentally for
>> small, medium, and large scale farmers since the advent of gmo agro-tech,
>> I'll believe the nicey-nice "it'll be alright once we get it right"
>> Until then , we are blowing billions of investment dollars promoting a
>> do nothing,  tech industry. Please read LORDS of the HARVEST, FAST FOOD
>> and a few other good books. And take a look at the economic and soul
>erosion of
>> farming communities. I am glad at least all the scientists are happy and
>> This is not the simple misunderstood science that many wish to believe.
>But, by
>> looking at our modern highways, I know the road to hell is already paved.
>> luck  with all that.
>> sincerely,
>> Heron Breen
>> zone 4, Maine    
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