back to article GM crops are good for you and the planet, reckon boffins

In a rebuke to environmental activists worldwide, the biggest scientific metastudy yet conducted of genetically modified foods has concluded they’re good for human health and the environment. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an advisory body of scientists, found no evidence of risks over …

  1. Hilmi Al-kindy

    When electricity was first introduced....

    My high-school maths teach told me he came to Oman back when the electric grid was just starting to become available. He says back then there was a big discussion whether it was sinful to have electric lights in a mosque. People are always afraid of what they don't understand, people are even more afraid of change, they assume anything new is going to rock the boat and nobody likes to rock the boat.

    Activists are the worst, they are mostly people who stand behind a cause as a matter of principal and many of them have no true understanding of what they are campaigning for. Be it religious activists, green peace or political activists.

    I have a disclaimer to add to my opinion, that not all activists are equal, it's just the ones who are most vocal who are usually blinded by their opinions

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      Yes, it's the same with people who think they are sensitive to EM radiation or wind turbines.

      I have heard it said that the same techno-fear happened when ball-point pens were invented. Although maybe that was an exaggeration!

      1. itzman

        Re: When electricity was first introduced....

        Well if you dont think you are sensitive to EM radiation, go and lie naked on a beach in the carribean all day, or hang out for a week inside the containment thingy at Chernobyl. and if you dont think you are sensitive to wind turbines, go and live within 100m of one.

        It is manifestly a matter of degree, and shame on you for using such crude politically biased binary logic in a world which has many shades of grey. GM crops are different. That's the WHOLE point. And they may indeed represent some changes that are negative as well as positive. I happen to think they are overall probably a Good Thing, but that certainly doesn't mean I am in favour of stupid Windmills, which have far more negatives and no discernible positives.

        1. DasBub

          Re: When electricity was first introduced....

          Is it really you, Don Quixote?

    2. blueprint

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      Maybe people just want to have a choice, and not have something stuffed down their throats by an unholy alliance of government and big business?

      The whole problem could be solved completely fairly by the Americans simply not objecting to GM foods being labelled as such. Now why do you think they don't want that?

      1. Chemical Bob
        Unhappy

        Re: When electricity was first introduced....

        "The whole problem could be solved completely fairly by the Americans simply not objecting to GM foods being labelled as such."

        Actually, we Americans do not object to labeling GM foods (at least 90% of us want to know what is in our food). What we object to is the unholy alliance of business interests making it illegal (through their bought and paid for congresscritters) to require GM foods to be labeled.

      2. Brian Allan 1

        Re: When electricity was first introduced....

        Unfounded paranoia is likely

      3. Jaybus

        Re: When electricity was first introduced....

        "The whole problem could be solved completely fairly by the Americans simply not objecting to GM foods being labelled as such. Now why do you think they don't want that?"

        Because the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the American version of the fanatically green, anti-GM scaremonger is quite squeaky.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      Your post assumes there's complete scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs and those against are crackpots.

      Hint: There isn't and they're not.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: When electricity was first introduced....

        [citation required]

        i.e., please point me in the direction of a single credible scientist who agrees with your opinion.

        Nope? Crackpot it is then, sorry.

        1. Sean Houlihane

          Re: When electricity was first introduced....

          no, dangerous crackpot.

        2. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: When electricity was first introduced....

          Ah, the joy of cleverly designed terms of reference.

          Forget what could/might be done, what are the bulk of gm sales for? Is it pest-resistance or pesticide-resistance?

          If you could make un-ripe or over-ripe food look just right, would there be an economic incentive to do that?

          If you could make food absorb extra water to grow larger and heavier (but with no additional nutrient value) would you do that? Would that cause malnutrition?

          If you could dominate world wheat production like android and iOS dominate smart phones, what would that do for wheat genetics?

          Why were Monsanto trying to sell protein-enriched potatoes in India- the land of lentils?

          So much money, so much scope for irreversible lethal badness followed by "it isn't our fault. It isn't our job to regulate the industry."

          Tobacco was thought to improve health when it was introduced too.

          We don't have a world food shortage. We have a lack of desire to help those in need, and gm does nothing to fix that. Putting more power in the hands of large corporations has rarely been a solution to anything. It's neither needed nor desirable.

      2. Hilmi Al-kindy

        Re: When electricity was first introduced....

        We have mostly organic farming here due to having a stagnant ministry of agriculture. Our lime farming industry has been decimated by disease, our banana plantations are dieing out and our national crop of dates is being threatened by a bug that kills the palm trees. I'm all for GMO if it will keep our farming industry alive

      3. Al Black

        Re: When electricity was first introduced....

        There is and they are.

    4. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      They would have had better environmentalist response if the first GMO had been drought resistant and not designed to require the seed company's fertilizers, pesticides, and where the seeds were infertile so that farmers couldn't put aside some of the crop for sowing the following year.

      As it was the impression was that these new organisms were designed for the profits of the petro-chemical industry not 3rd world farmers.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re:where the seeds were infertile (4 John Lilburne)

        The irradiation to render the seeds infertile is a separate issue to that of the heath threat posed by "frankenfoods".

        The one is s bunch of FUD put about by people who have nothing to back up their claim, the other is a practice to protect patent that has been carried rather too far for most people's taste.

        Pick your battlefield and fight a war on a single front. We all know what happens if you don't. Dick Cheney ends up on Fox News telling everyone they must stay the course and how there are secret cabals of domestic seed cartels waiting to Destroy America.

    5. Triggerfish

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      Actually I think there's also just a general ignorance*, there's a lot of people who look at things in a very shallow manner and take it as gospel. Genuine conversations I had this year with people I normally count as intelligent.

      1. Panspermia theory - apparently disproves evolution (yes I know it's more likely bacteria clinging to the side of a comet rather than neaderthals don't point it out to me), or possibly aliens. Justification for this reasoning... "I read it on a website, I don't really know anything about this, but it sounds plausible"

      2. There's stuff wrong with farming, (I believe read from a facebook post), when pushed for what exactly, the conversation went along the lines of well you should know it's obvious, when asked for actual details more prevacation, when I suggested possible things, "Yeah them you see you do know, don't know why you were asking me to justify it".

      Along the lines of the farming conversation as well, apparently global food supply chains, changing consumer habits, changing marketing and supermarkets pushing certain foods, issues with cash crop growing, water tables etc etc are not a big thing, it just needs sorting.

      Same people have said things like just going out into the jungle and living off the land should be easy enough don't know why we all can't do it. (I'm not sure I have ever seen them lighting something without a lighter btw). Seriously it should aparently be no bother to go up to a wild buffalo and get some milk from it....

      You can have the same conversations with anarchists, it's all very well smashing the state, who runs the hospitals, how do you get a kidney dialysis machine running. (apparently we will all club together and do it....fuck me).

      *Probably does not help with some of the press thats been about either.

      I'll agree there are intelligent protesters you can tell who they are they usually know what they are talking about in depth.

    6. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      Yet gastrointestinal problems have never been higher. So excuse me if I don't jump headfirst into a brave new bath of GM wheat with a spoon, there might be long term effects of tinkering with plant and animal genomes that we don't understand. Well, there will be, because it's a new science - we only started selling GM plants for food in the mid 90s and GM animals last year.

    7. Citizens untied

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      You are correct, but I do think it is fair to mention that many people are afraid of what the institutions may not understand. Unintended effects are just that - Global Warming anyone?

      Human life is not the only consideration, planet wide. We keep "improving" things to make them work within our flawed frameworks, the world doesn't have starving people in it, nor do we need to sacrifice technological progress because some people want to scale back our weird abstraction (economic value) to understand nature.

      The tension provided compelling proof of validity of claims (x is safe, y is beneficial to all) is invaluable in my opinion, and proof is worth waiting for.

    8. AlexS
      Headmaster

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      When electricity was introduced - was it patented? Did you accommodate for it's intellectual property rights?

      GM food supplies to become crackpot dealers?

    9. nobodie

      Re: When electricity was first introduced....

      On the other side, I was young, but not too young to read, when the cigartette companies were publishjhing reports that claimed that cigarette smoking was good for your health. That the "cancer scare" was nothing more than bad science and that they had been studying the links between cancer and smoking for 20 years and could find no reliable data that showed either causation or correlation between smoking and cancer.

      It was these "studies" that kept cigarettes in the marketplace up through the 70s and into the 80s before even the mildest health warnings were required on packaging. I am a scientist, I believe in good reliable scientific study, but I also work at a research university and know too much about what goes on behind the closed doors of the grant propsal writers and the department heads who know what the customers want. (BTW, no, I won't name names, you think I'm stupid?)

      But truly, when the only work being done on this is coming through the people who have skin in the game, when there are no disinterested players on the field, well, I just can't get excited and want to support the "science" that is supposed to show us the safety of these products.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gene escape

    I oppose GM crops, but not because of the concerns addressed here, but because it is irresponsible to release artificially modifed genes into the environment.

    We have now idea what their effect will be and that is dangerous for our planet.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Gene escape

      What is the difference between "releasing" artificially modified genes into the environment, and releasing what you presumably would call "naturally" modified genes as has been done for thousands of years by selective breeding?

      1. Boothy

        Re: Gene escape

        Or naturally occurring random mutations that happen anyway in all living organisms, and have done for billions of year?

        At least with GM, we are controlling the change, and do it in a lab first, and monitor the changes etc.

        With a random mutation, happening outside away from our control, who knows what could happen!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gene escape

        Selective breeding is not the same as introducing genes from entirely different species. The impact of such radical changes on a balanced ecosystem are difficult to assess and could very well be catastrophic.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Gene escape

          Selective breeding is not the same as introducing genes from entirely different species.

          No, but horizontal gene transfer, as practised by nature is. In fact, this is exactly the (naturally occurring) method which is used in a targeted way to insert a new gene into an organism.

          Nature does this all the time in the form of retroviruses, and horizontal gene transfer is believed to be more prevalent than inherited gene transfer in some bacterial species. This isn't often beneficial; the transferred genetic material may sometimes lend the organism an advantage, but usually it has no effect, in which case it will eventually be lost again, or it has a negative effect, in which case the organism doesn't reproduce and pass it on. What we're talking about here is essentially how bacteria and other micro-organisms evolve. I'm assuming that you aren't one of those people who thinks evolution isn't a thing...

          There's no substitute for actually knowing what you're talking about.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Gene escape @LC

            Sorry as one of those who doesn't know that much, and also is to lazy to google it and spend the afternoon bringing myself up to jargon. Is horizontal gene transfer, the mechanism were they might be able to assimilate dna from a different species? Seem to remember something about some test being done where they have put damaged DNA in a living organism from a different species and they found it can be read due to original shared history of DNA throughout organisms from when life first started?

          2. Oh Homer
            Mushroom

            Re: "no substitute for actually knowing what you're talking about"

            The biotech industry would do well to take your advice, as apparently it remains wilfully ignorant ('There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans'), a position that has more in common with a cult religion than science. The cult religion in this case would appear to be corporate hegemony, or more bluntly, money. It certainly has nothing to do with scientific method.

            The standard "we've been doing it for thousands of years" gambit is deceptive propaganda that fails to elucidate the truth behind horizontal gene transfer, and your hand waving is just yet more sophistry to muddy the waters. Humans have not been splicing bacteria and animal genes with plants for "thousands of years", and your retrovirus example is like claiming that GMO is safe because plants get diseases. It's like using Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island as examples that prove nuclear energy is safe. You've just defeated your own argument.

            The fact that "it happens in nature too" belies the destructiveness of the "it" in question. This is like claiming that because people sometimes fall to their death from high buildings, it should therefore be acceptable to push people off high buildings, that such a practice must therefore be "safe" because it mimics a "natural" event, and indeed it's absolutely essential that we desperately pursue an agenda of pushing people off tall buildings, because ultimately it's good for you, "honest" (and coincidentally makes us lots of money).

            The fact that some people miraculously survive this horror, and may even go on to cure cancer, merely lends weight to the claim that "it's safe" and "it may even be beneficial", in the same way that Chernobyl rendering a 1000 square mile area of land uninhabitable by humans for 300 years is "beneficial" ... to the wildlife, apparently, but not to the third of a million people who had to be evacuated, nor to the 4000 people who died as a result of the accident.

            My argument is not that GMO is unsafe, it's that its safety has not been proven, and that exposing the ecosystem and the general public to something whose safety has not been proven is criminally irresponsible. Science should be conducted in the lab, not the grocery store.

            And yes, I'm quite aware of the fact that GMO produce has been in the food chain since the 70s. I'm also aware of the fact that there has been an exponential rise in food allergies and other mysterious disorders over that same time frame. Are the two related? Who knows? Not the wilfully ignorant biotech industry, certainly. It's rather difficult finding the correlation between cause and effect, if you never even make the attempt to look for it, and indeed go out of your way to block independent attempts to do so, with lobbying, unscientific rhetoric and character assassinations.

            Frankly I can't understand how any rational person could support something as blatantly unscientific and corrupt as the biotech industry. It has all the hallmarks of the tobacco industry. Have we learned nothing from history?

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Chris G Silver badge

              Re: Gene escape

              @ Symon; You illustrate one of my objections to GM crops and that is that most of the Monsanto and probably other crops are resistant to the biocides that those companies that are producing as well, so that they can sell notonly the GM seeds but also more of the same dangerous chemicals that they already sell. It would be better if the genetic modification was to make better pest resitant crops and do away with chemical pest control altogether. It would have been better to have found a bug free plant in a bug riddled field than something that thrives in a chemical waste dump.

              The World doesn't need never ending use of dangerous organphosphates and choline inhibitors.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

                1. Chemical Bob

                  Re: Gene escape

                  @Symon re: glyphosate is safe

                  New studies show that glyphosate harms the wee beasties living in our digestive system and that those same wee beasties are important to our health. www.mercola.com is a good place to start reading.

                  1. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. Tony Haines

            Re: Gene escape

            //... and horizontal gene transfer is believed to be more prevalent than inherited gene transfer in some bacterial species. ...//

            While I generally agree with the .. er... sediment... of your post, I can't leave that statement alone - I'm pretty sure it's wrong.

            Outside the most extreme and incredibly rare example, vertical gene transfer (that is, genes passed from parent to daughter cells) massively outweighs horizontal gene transfer (that is, genes transferred from one cell to another).

            To put numbers on it, a bacterium may have something like 1000 to 6000 genes. A horizontal transfer event might be 1 to perhaps 500 genes (with a mean I'd guess of less than 50, max), and that won't occur every generation. For example, for a conjugative plasmid, a horizontal transfer for every 10 cell/generations would be a high rate, and for a virus... well, most virus particles in the wild carry infectious death; only a tiny proportion are misassembled donor cell DNA. Some cells can take up free DNA, but if they took up and replaced a large proportion of their genome each generation then ... they wouldn't be like that for long, and would stop.

            But that's not to say that horizontal transfer isn't widespread.

          5. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Gene escape

            There's no substitute for actually knowing what you're talking about.

            Wish I could upvote that statement more!

            At the risk of repeating what's already been said further downthread, I make the following points:

            1. GMO is largely not about crop yields per unit area. Most GMO crops are standard varieties with the inserted genes providing resistance to herbicides, usually glyphosate (Roundup).

            2. The owners of the GMO do not allow farmers to publish crop yields of the GMO versus the standard variety. The contracts with the GMO owners (Monsanto for example) are secret.

            3. One authorised trial I saw the results of in the farming press, the researchers admitted that Roundup had not been used on either the GMO, or the control. Both plots were hand weeded!

            4. If your market is for organic or conventional but GMO-free, and your crop becomes contaminated by GMO carried in by bees, you've lost your market and possibly your income for the season. This is what happened to Percy Schmeiser in Canada. He was also fined for "stealing" the RR genes. He didn't benefit from them because he didn't use Roundup to control weeds in his crop.

            5. If growing conventionally results in spectacular yield increases as often claimed, why for example is Charles H. Wilber of Crane Hill, Alabama in the Guinness Book of Records?

            6. Further to the above point, a very great deal of organic wheat is grown in Australia and some of that ends up in Uncle Tobys breakfast cereal: Organic Vita Brits. Organic Vita Brits cost less than 5% more than the ordinary Vita Brits alongside them on the supermarket shelf.

            7. Once you grow GMO canola (for example) you are stuck permanently purchasing your seed from the supplier. You can no longer save your own seed and unsurprisingly the supplier's prices rapidly go from affordable to a significant cost. This is not a good strategy for improving your income.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Gene escape

              A simple google search for Percy Schmeiser destroys point 4. Presumable all the rest of the points are flaky nonsense too, but I cant be bothered looking.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Gene escape

          'Selective breeding is not the same as introducing genes from entirely different species. The impact of such radical changes on a balanced ecosystem are difficult to assess and could very well be catastrophic.'

          Genes are genes, there is no such thing as fish genes, or cabbage genes.

          We are all made of the same stuff - doesn't it even say something like that in the bible?

          The ecosystem is not balanced, it is in a constant state of change.

          Selective breeding IS the same as GMO, its just done in a different way.

          Coughing on a Tuesday could very well be catastrophic, but we don't ban it.

      3. blueprint

        Re: Gene escape

        Well just to take one of many examples fish genes don't "naturally" get into plant genes, so they couldn't get released into the environment by selective breeding.

        You don't think that's a difference?

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Gene escape

          fish genes don't "naturally" get into plant genes

          Are you sure of that?

          Horizontal Gene Transfer in Eukaryotes

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gene escape

        There is a whole world of difference between selective breeding and GM plants.

        With selective breeding, there is no way you could ever have a fish gene in a Tomato.

        Yet with GM, you can.

        Then there is the small matter of the likes of Monsanto sueing farmers because of wind pollination takes some of those patented genes into his fields and infects his previously patent free crops.

        I was 'undecided' for a number of years until I got talking to a Farmer in Kansas who was facing ruin because of a law suit from Monsanto. All he needed to do to get rid of the suit was to buy his next years seeds from Monsanto. Oh, and he could not keep seed back from one year to the next. The GM Maker apparently puts markers in the seed so that they can tell what year the seed was sold.

        Do you really want that?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Gene escape

          Cite needed as they say.

          How many times have Monsanto prosecuted for low levels of roundup ready in a non roundup field? And at what levels?

      5. Anonymous Coward
        WTF?

        Re: Gene escape

        "I oppose GM crops, but not because of the concerns addressed here, but because it is irresponsible to release artificially modifed genes into the environment."

        How are your orange carrots?

        1. #define INFINITY -1 Bronze badge

          @Lost all faith... Re: Gene escape

          > How are your orange carrots?

          Any research paper to back that up? What's more likely is that the Dutch, being amongst the first colonists, found (natural) orange carrots and spread them throughout their colonies.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: @Lost all faith... Gene escape

            What's more likely is that the Dutch, being amongst the first colonists, found (natural) orange carrots and spread them throughout their colonies.

            "Natural" carrots are called Queen Anne's Lace and are white, not purple. I just dug some up from Mrs Git's garden to confirm.

      6. Chemical Bob
        Facepalm

        Re: Gene escape

        "What is the difference between "releasing" artificially modified genes into the environment, and releasing what you presumably would call "naturally" modified genes as has been done for thousands of years by selective breeding?"

        Because when you selectively breed dogs, for example, you only end up with dogs that have dog genes. GM crops can contain genetic material from anything. Most of the GM crops available today have had genetic material from various strains of bacteria spliced into them and there is a real possibility of unintended side effects. The most common GM foods are the Roundup Ready ones from Monsanto, Roundup Ready weeds showed up within 6 years of introducing Roundup Ready crops. Monsanto's response was to tell farmers to use *more* Roundup, raising Monsanto's profits and reducing farmer's profits and putting more glyphosate in the human diet. While the human digestive organs do not process glyphosate, our gut flora do and early indications are that our gut flora is damaged by glyphosate. Medical science is only beginning to understand the link between gut flora health and human health (looks like healthy gut flora = healthy human). Also, in spite of the claims of increased yields, farmers are actually reporting lower yields than conventional crops.

        In other words, we have weird science making unnatural changes to our food supply that maximizes BigChem's profits, harms farmer's profits and harms our health.

      7. The bigger, blacker box.

        Re: Gene escape

        >>What is the difference between "releasing" artificially modified genes into the environment, and releasing what you presumably would call "naturally" modified genes as has been done for thousands of years by selective breeding?

        #1 Natural genetic drift is slow

        #2 Natural borders such as seas, mountains, deserts provide degrees of isolation and therefore protection

        #3 Most "naturally" modified genes are passed through vertical gene transfer in multicellular life (VRT)

        #4 Most "artificially" modified genes are created through horizontal gene transfer in multicellular life (HRT)

        Selective breeding is a VRT technique, but is far too slow to use practically in the emerging food markets, so these genes are spiced directly using HRT, this means that any harmful characteristics don't usually have time to be fully expressed or even identified, even in selective breeding of dogs, the selective breeding of one trait may drag in undesirable traits (such as hip dysplasia).

        There are also, of course natural parallels, sickle cell anaemia is "selected in" because it offers a degree of malaria resistance, and this is in natural VRT.

        HRT is a really good technique, lets say you have five species of corn, each has a useful trait expressed by having a specific gene, now, you could cross breed these five until one offspring eventually has all five traits, but that takes time and many generations (and of course they may not be cross fertile or drag unwanted issues in) - much better to pick up the five genes and splice them in, more accurate and less prone to error, and of course you are merely speeding up the process.

        What is in the unknown, or at least there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns are where genes from otherwise incompatible species are spliced, these HRT hybrids are very rare in nature in comparison to VRT and have only been observed regularly in bacteria, single cell and to some extent viruses (there's potential for a virus to "inject" the genes).

        If you have no concerns with GM because you think it's the same as selective breeding then you're wrong, plain and simple - it's far more complex than you think, if you have no concerns with GM because you think there's sufficient controls to protect the environment and that commercial success will come second to profit and time to market then you're a little naive.

    2. Tony Haines

      Re: Gene escape

      Well, that's certainly an argument, but it's based on the assumption that everything we already do is acceptable (or perhaps 'responsible'). And further, it disregards any potential benefits.

      In reality there's potential harm in everything we do. Some risks (like the escape of genes into wild varieties) can be researched - and either prove minimal (as in this case) or can be mitigated.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gene escape

      While I agree with your sediment, that ship has sailed...."traditional" methods of producing new hybrids such as exposure to radiation and mutigenic chemicals are used (and released for use in farms) all the time.

      Since those methods produce an unknown number of mutations (think shotgun) while direct gene manipulation only flips certain genes (think rifle shot), I am inclined to believe that the GMO method is LESS likely to produce problems "in the wild" so to speak. However, I understand that less likely does not mean a 0% chance.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Gene escape

        While I agree with your sediment,

        You didn't get that sinking feeling that you used the wrong word?

        1. Uffish

          Re: Sediment escape

          Probably that dangerous and insufficiently tested technology called auto-correct - it lets strange and unnatural word combinations out into the world. Should be banned.

    4. tony72

      Re: Gene escape

      We have now idea what their effect will be and that is dangerous for our planet.

      How is this anything other than irrational fear of the unknown?

      You could say the same about pretty much every technological advancement ever. Penicillin seemed to treat bacterial infections when it was discovered, but how did we know for sure that it wasn't going to make everyone infertile and destroy the species? You can always postulate some unforeseen catastrophic effect to anything new, and say "we don't know ...".

      The rational response is to do some science, look for positive and negative effects, and make a judgement that is as informed as possible. There's always going to be the possibility that you'll later discover some negative effects (e.g. antibiotic-resistance and "superbugs", to continue the Penicillin theme), but to do otherwise is to give up all progress and be stuck in the stone age.

    5. Cynical Observer
      Facepalm

      Re: Gene escape

      Oh Please!

      Every cross breeding attempt where farmers have tried to eliminate undesirable elements of a crop/animal strain amounts to tinkering with the gene pool. The difference here is that instead of doing it in a farmyard with a hit or miss approach, it has been done in a laboratory with a targeted approach.

      The shite that was trotted out this lunch time on the BBC news was (paraphrased)

      There's no evidence that they do harm but I don't accept that they are safe. You've got to keep on looking.

      For how long?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gene escape

        Always keep looking. That's how science works.

        Label GMO just like organic and release. Hiding it doesn't help.

      2. itzman
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Gene escape

        The precautionary principle says we should uninvent the wheel. And indeed all of civilisation, because we simply dont know where its going

        ON an entirely separate note, The EU believes that the precautionary principle should be the mainstay of its (environ)mental policy...

    6. King Jack
      Mushroom

      Re: Gene escape

      Did you know the humble orange carrot is a human creation? The Dutch wanted a national vegetable so they made carrots orange (which is unnatural), they used to be purple. Nobody cares now and generations have grown up thinking carrots are naturally orange. People eat them daily with no ill effects. GM crops are the same thing but done with science in a lab. I welcome GM crops. So long as they aren't used to copyright strains that need licences to grow them. Mushroom icon because...

    7. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Gene escape

      Was going to comment on this thread but wow tl;dr. Holy fsck are the first two threads long as sh1t. I bet this comment eventually shows up on at least page 3 or something.

    8. Al Black
      Happy

      GM Crops are good for you

      Now perhaps we can eliminate chemical fertilisers and pesticides by integrating Nitrogen-fixing Legume genes and pyrethrin-generating Chrysanthemum genes into food crops such as potatoes, rice and corn. These are not "artificially modifed genes" that have never existed before, they are just being borrowed from one plant and copied to another. By doing so, we can farm poor land with higher yields without poisoning the planet with insecticides and chemical fertilisers. If you oppose this, you're a Luddite crack-pot!

    9. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Gene escape

      Well, with Bayer attempting to take over Monsanto, the next thing that will come out of that is GM food with built-in Aspirin, so that if you eat it you won't get a headache from thinking about whether or not it's good for you and the environment.

  3. Spindreams

    Benefit for poorer countries offset by the huge fact that they have been genetically altered so the seeds are sterile and so you have to buy your next harvest from people like Monsanto.

    1. Filippo

      You know, that argument keeps getting trotted out and I still have to find someone who can answer my objection:

      If farmers who use GM seeds are worse off, as you claim, then why do they do it?

      I mean, economically, how does your claim make sense? Farmers are not stupid, and it's not like there's any barrier to using traditional seeds.

      1. Filippo

        I notice I'm getting thumbs down, but no answers. If GM seeds really are economically unprofitable due to the need to buy them again, then why do farmers use them?

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        If farmers who use GM seeds are worse off, as you claim, then why do they do it?

        Now that's an interesting question. Here in Tasmania, they don't. The one trial that was authorised some years back, the truck delivering the seed to the farm "accidentally" spilled canola seed at several locations on the way to the farm where the trial was to occur. The spills were discovered by council workers spraying roadside weeds with glyphosate. As a result, the moratorium on GMO in Tasmania continues. Tasmanian canola growers can sell into markets that demand GMO-free and markets who don't care whether the canola is a GMO. Farmers who grow GMO can only sell into the latter market and receive lower payment per tonne. Lower prices and higher input costs require higher yields be be justifiable. Since independent hard data is impossible to find...

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Spindreams

      This has been one of my concerns too. GM crops that are owned by Monsanto rather than ones that produce seed which is readily available. Putting our (world's) food supply in the hands of a giant agri-business. Then when they have an economic stranglehold they can charge what the want.

      Also, GM crops developed by the scientists for the greater good is very different from GM developed by companies for the greater profit.

      They will invest in lines that benefit themselves. Not us.

      Compare the extent to which large drug companies spend vast amounts on R&D for the rejigging out of copyright products, but don't want to invest to develop anything that only benefits the poor and needy or find other uses for cheaper products that have lost copyright protection.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Also, GM crops developed by the scientists for the greater good is very different from GM developed by companies for the greater profit.

        I don't know of any development of crops "for the greater good" (whatever that might mean). Crop development is usually oriented toward generating profit. The Git bucks this trend having developed a strain of fava (broad) bean that stays tender longer and has much better flavour than commercial strains. The yields are lower (though still very substantial), but I don't give a fuck about that. I grow crops for their taste, not profitability these days :-)

    3. d3vy Silver badge

      Well you can kind of understand why they would do that... Monsanto have spent x$ on research and development of the GM seeds.

      If you only had to buy one sack of seeds and then use your crops to produce seeds for the next season Monsanto would never re-coup that R&D expense.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh boy are you so very wrong

        Keep any seed back and Monsanto will sue you into bankrupcy for patent violation.

    4. breakfast
      Go

      This is the distinction a lot of campaigns have missed - GMOs are not a problem but they make new kinds of unethical corporate behaviour possible. It is those that need to be closely watched and if necessary campaigned against or regulated as people see fit.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. Look at who's pushing the use of GMOs most strongly. They're not the types of companies and organisations that have covered themselves in glory when it comes to acting ethically or even legally, in the past.

    6. Richard Wharram

      @Spindreams

      This is untrue

    7. Triggerfish

      @spindreams

      Would you also not want them sterile so you don't cross polinate with wild species?

    8. DougS Silver badge

      It is a double edged sword

      I recently saw a documentary on PBS (in the US) that was based on a story originally written by a 16 year old female budding journalist in India, whose father had committed suicide because he couldn't pay back what he'd borrowed to buy GM seeds. She wanted to answer these very questions of why they were using these expensive seeds when there were more and more who lost their farms and committed suicide every year.

      The reason they are buying the GM seeds is because they are improving yields. That's great, except the larger supply is driving down the price they can get for their crop, so they feel they have no choice but to use them because traditional seeds make less money now. The problem is that they cost a lot more, and while they are more resistant to drought and pests there is only so much they can do. If you have good season you can make money, maybe more than you used to be able to. If you have bad weather you may not be able to pay back the loan you took out for your crops, and if you can't you might lose your land. Some might be able to survive one bad season, but sometimes you have several bad seasons in a row.

      This is really something the government would need to regulate in India. Not to ban GM crops, but to fund development of "public domain" GM crops that have the yield benefit but have seeds that can be reused. That would require a government with a lot of backbone to fight big agribusiness, and likely pressure from the US created by all the lobbying money Monsanto spends buying US politicians. This is the kind of thing that secret sections in trade deals like the TPP seek to make illegal, and are the reason why they keep them secret so they can be passed before people realize what they've given up.

    9. Angus Wood
      FAIL

      > Benefit for poorer countries offset by the huge fact that they have been genetically altered so the seeds are sterile and so you have to buy your next harvest from people like Monsanto.

      This has not only never happened, it never will happen. Even a cursory search would have disproved your point before you posted it. The so-called "terminator" seeds have never been (nor ever will) be on sale.

      Secondly, to the general point of saving seeds: people don't do that any more. The world has moved on and we all use Hybrid seeds nowadays because the yield is higher (and yes, that includes the poor African farmer). Your comment betrays your ignorance every part of the issue at hand.

      And after all that, it's important to add that if you grow Evil Monsano crops one year then that is all you've done. You're not restricted in any way as to what happens next year. You can go organic, buy from Dow or Synergia or any other seed vendor. Or ask your neighbor for seeds if you want a crap crop.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Secondly, to the general point of saving seeds: people don't do that any more. The world has moved on and we all use Hybrid seeds nowadays because the yield is higher (and yes, that includes the poor African farmer). Your comment betrays your ignorance every part of the issue at hand.

        OK smart-arse, where do these hybrid seeds come from if they aren't grown by people? Factories? FFS...

        Do I have to pay the EPR* on harvested grain that I have retained as seed for planting next year?

        AGT** does not require growers to pay a royalty on seed saved for planting.

        Some breeders/owners may insist that growers pay a royalty on farmer saved seed, while others do not.

        * An End Point Royalty (EPR) is a fee paid on every tonne of grain produced (and sold as grain) by growers for each particular variety.

        ** Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) is Australia's largest plant breeding company, and the market leader in wheat genetics.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Secondly, to the general point of saving seeds: people don't do that any more. The world has moved on and we all use Hybrid seeds nowadays because the yield is higher (and yes, that includes the poor African farmer).

        Total tonnages of Australian production 2015:

        Wheat 2.2 million tonnes

        Oats 1.2 million tonnes

        Barley 7.9 million tonnes

        Total 11.3 million tonnes

        Vegetable production ~2 million tonnes the bulk being potatoes and tomatoes.

        While hybrid barley is gradually becoming popular, very little hybrid wheat is grown. Nearly all cereal production is from seed saved from the current crop, not bought in.

        I don't know of any hybrid potatoes being grown commercially here; that is, potatoes being grown from true seed. Potatoes are grown from tubers saved for propagation. Every few years, a farmer will buy in certified virus-free "seed" (tubers), but you generally get the best crop from tubers grown from certified. Russet Burbank would likely be the most grown potato (thanx McDonalds) and they are decidedly not hybrid.

        A very great deal of tomatoes are grown from hybrid seed, but since tomatoes are self-fertile, it's trivially easy to save seed from them. Mostly the hybrids were developed for resistance to verticillium, fusarium and nematodes, not to increase yields.

        So I call bullshit that "we all use Hybrid seeds nowadays because the yield is higher".

  4. Charles 9 Silver badge

    I'm inclined to withhold judgment about this until some of the more salient claims are thoroughly sorted out, as the article only seems to cover things in broad. How about we look over those points in particular. For example, I think one concern was cross-pollination, either among non-modified crops or among weeds. Another concern I recall was long-term effects the food may have on the bodies of the eaters (a concern shared with long-term radiation exposure). Can someone name a few others and/or cover those issues?

    1. Cynical Observer
      Stop

      @Charles 9

      One of the problems with trying to understand cross-pollination is the almost religious fervour with which GM crops trials were destroyed.

      A very considerable challenge that the science faces is that there is a sector of the anti-GM fraternity with a pathological hatred of the concept so extreme that it will not tolerate any attempt to answer those questions.

      It's almost as if they are afraid that the answer will be

      There is no evidence of any detrimental effect

      In which case, they lose yet another leg on which to stand their precarious argument.

  5. ARGO

    This will be interesting to watch. The National Academies have also produced research supporting man-made climate change, so can't really be attacked as business stooges.

    1. blueprint

      Their funding comes mainly through the US government, which probably not coincidentally believes (or more likely is told to believe) that global warming is real and GM crops are safe.

      1. Greggles

        Your reasoning here seems inconsistent. Working on the assumption that the US gov is being controlled by corporate overlords and is told what stance to take on any important topic by those with the most money, wouldn't the petrochemical companies who are the richest and most influential groups in the world tell the gov't to say AGW isn't real? If this organization is willing to release findings that damage the biggest companies in the world I'm inclined to believe their claims that GM foods aren't directly harmful to human health. The ethical use of such products of course being a different matter entirely.

        1. itzman

          Re: petrochemical companies

          wouldn't the petrochemical companies who are the richest and most influential groups in the world tell the gov't to say AGW isn't real?

          Why? They dont lose any business from renewable energy that doesn't actually work, and renewable energy doesn't actually work.

          They end up selling a little less gas into an energy market that is suddenly far more lucrative, because the competition have raised the expectation of energy costs.

          As far as liquid hydrocarbons go, the market is identical. All the oil majors looked at hydrogen, solar cells, BEVS, biofuels etc. and came to their won private conclusions, shut down their 'green' programs and went back to selling gasoline and avjet and diesel. Why? Because renewable energy simply is no threat. Because fundamentally it doesn't really work commercially.

          Germany goes into a righteous orgasm of Energiewiende and shuts down its nukes, and ends up burning more fossil fuel than ever.

          Shell BP and Gazprom snigger quietly.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: petrochemical companies

            Shell BP and Gazprom snigger quietly.

            Not just Gazprom, but all the other government-owned oil companies (revenue in 2015 in US dollars):

            Saudi Aramco (478.00 billion)

            Sinopec (455.499 billion)

            China National Petroleum Corporation (428.62 billion)

            PetroChina (367.982 billion)

            etc

            Big Oil has around 10% market share, government 90%.

    2. itzman

      Re: The National Academies

      The National Academies have also produced research supporting man-made climate change, so can't really be attacked as business stooges.

      Are you saying that there simply is no money to be made out of 'man made climate change the political and marketing movement'?

      I've got a few trillion greenbacks that say different.

  6. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    This still gets pushed around the Internet like it's true:

    Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore now promotes vitamin A-fortified blindness-fighting Golden Rice, which Western NGOs are attempting to restrict in the countries that most need it.®

    Patrick Moore was not a co-founder of Greenpeace and the more that careless reporters blindly reproduce this the more this incorrect statement gets spread. Not that it's just El Reg, the Golden Rice website also claims that Patrick Moore was a co-founder of Greenpeace when he is not.

    Here's Greenpeace's take on it: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/about/history/founders/ (Patrick Moore was an early member, but not a founder).

    However for me, there is only one Patrick Moore...

    1. itzman
      Holmes

      Patrick Moore

      I see you have bought into the rewritings of history Greenpeace has indulged in.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Patrick Moore

        You are free to post credible sources of proof. That's the beauty of the Internet.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Patrick Moore was not a co-founder of Greenpeace

      Bullshit!

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    GM crops will happen, like it or not

    A large part of the problem is that most people have an instinctive fear of new things - this is a good survival instinct. But it does not mean 'never touch' but 'proceed with caution'. This is what has been done by scientists who have tested them and not found them to be harmful to eat, thus we can use them for their benefits: increased yield, pest resistance, extra vitamins, ...

    A large part of the problem are our vote grubbing politicians who see few votes in accepting them but don't want to lose the votes of the braying morons who call them 'frankenfoods'.

    Having said that, we do need a labelling system so that the customer can make their mind up, maybe paying a premium for non GM. Something like the 'organic' tag would do nicely.

    We do need to continue testing new ones; we only know that the ones that we have tested do us no harm, when shuffling genes from widely different organisms we can end up with the unexpected, in a way that millennia of selective breeding has not done.

    We need to use the benefits of GM crops to help feed the world, but must realise that unless we stop population growth no amount of future GM advances will stop people going hungry.

    1. cray74

      Re: GM crops will happen, like it or not

      Having said that, we do need a labelling system so that the customer can make their mind up, maybe paying a premium for non GM. Something like the 'organic' tag would do nicely.

      Except simple "GMO be here" labeling doesn't help make up minds for two reasons. First, as Dr. Mercola is happy to crow, 85% of people who see GMO labels simply avoid the food regardless of how it was modified - it's radiation labeling all over again. Second, most label proposals lack an explanation of what genetic modifications are in the food.

      Golden Rice and Innate Potatoes are good examples of the problems with GMO labeling. Both are genetically modified with genes taken from other breeds of their respective species - Golden Rice was modified with rice genes, and Innate Potatoes were modified with potato genes. The impact of these modifications? Golden Rice is rich in vitamin A and Innate Potatoes produce fewer carcinogens when deep fried.

      The impact of them being GMO? Western governments and NGOs oppose the rice while McDonalds prefers to expose its customers to elevated levels of carcinogens rather than use modified potatoes. That's what clear identification of a food as a GMO gets you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GM crops will happen, like it or not

      I think you'll find there's more than enough food in the world to go around, it's the distribution that's the problem. GMOs wont help one little bit with this problem. There'll still be starvation in desertified areas because there's simply no profit to be made supplying those in need.

      Please try to find some better arguments for GMOs than those trotted out by Monsanto and the sceptical amongst us might start listening to you.

      1. Richard Wharram

        Re: GM crops will happen, like it or not

        Nope. Distribution is less of a problem if you can produce food near where it is required by, for example, making it drought-resistant.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: GM crops will happen, like it or not

      We need to use the benefits of GM crops to help feed the world, but must realise that unless we stop population growth no amount of future GM advances will stop people going hungry.

      No, we need to come up with methods to distribute food to where it's needed. People in Zimbabwe don't starve because of a shortage of GM crops; they starve because of politicz. Worldwide surpluses of crops driving down prices is a much bigger problem than insufficient crop yields.

  8. SecretSonOfHG

    Genetic modification has been done since a long time ago

    No sympathy for Monsanto et al, but by means of crossing species, grafting and crop selection, genetic modification has been done for centuries. This is just doing the same but faster, on an industrial scale and with more targeted goals. You can challenge the goals (e.g, limiting the crop lifetime) or the velocity with which they reach the market (asking for more controls), but if you challenge the means you're basically saying that for the last two millennia (or longer) humanity has been doing it all wrong.

    Which I admit it could be the case...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Genetic modification has been done since a long time ago

      "but by means of crossing species, grafting and crop selection, genetic modification has been done for centuries."

      Ever tried to cross a squid with a cat or a tomato with rice? Selective breeding and gene manipulation are not the same thing.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Genetic modification has been done since a long time ago

        Selective breeding and gene manipulation are not the same thing.
        Errm, It kind of is. My favorite anti-GMO rant was when a person informed me that there are "SIX kinds of grass DNA in corn! Human beings don't eat grass, there should be no grass DNA in corn!"

        ..Except that corn (and wheat, and rice, and millet, and sugarcane, and...) are grass. When maize was first being cultivated its corns were no bigger than wheat heads, and wheat heads were not much larger than the seed clusters the grass sprouts when you don't mow your lawn.

        But by dint of gene manipulation (cross breading, selective breading, culling, etc - Gene manipulation with a machete, vs a scalpel) we have "heritage" varietals of maize that have corns over 10x larger than "nature intended".

        Having said that, I am cautious about GMOs. Not because of the crops themselves, but because Monsanto is almost as evil as Nestle - they make 1990's Microsoft look like a non-profit charity for widows and orphans.

      2. SecretSonOfHG

        Re: Genetic modification has been done since a long time ago

        @AnonymousCoward: "Ever tried to cross a squid with a cat or a tomato with rice?"

        You must be a geneticist if you can assure with 100% confidence that (a) no genetic material is shared between different species and (b) random mutation can't produce the same genetic material in disparate species.

        I'm not a gene boffin, but from my limited knowledge, the answer to those two points I think is... yes. You don't need anyone messing up with gene sequences for those two things to happen. Let me even add, again from my possible ill informed point of view, that the current scientific consensus is that if/when those mutations happen and derive a competitive advantage to the individuals carrying them, they'll actually become dominant over time.

      3. Nick 1

        Re: Genetic modification has been done since a long time ago

        Genes have been crossing species barriers with the help of viruses for as long as they have existed. The fact that the genes coding for a certain protein have evolved in a fish does not negate the effects of that protein in a tomato cell. There is no innate "fish" or "tomato" essence to a protein or the genes that code for it...

      4. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Genetic modification has been done since a long time ago

        Ever tried to cross a squid with a cat or a tomato with rice? Selective breeding and gene manipulation are not the same thing.

        No, but somebody appears to have grafted a squirrel onto Donald Trump's head! And who can forget the Anglican Archbishop who had an elephant grafted onto his?

  9. Tim Hughes

    Seed ownership

    I thought that the biggest issues with GM at the time were basically:

    a) Potentially planetwide uncontrolled, and uncontrollable, experiments with new stuff that might cause problems being largely driven by purely commercial interests. I'm not sure a lot of people trusted the "of course it is safe, trust us" messages coming from the likes of Monsanto, and the attempts by the US to force it on the rest of the world. At least that's what it felt like.

    b) The concepts around farmers not owning the seed from the plants, being forced to re-purchase them each season and the owner of the next field across suddenly no longer owning their previously non-GM crop either due to the inevitable nature of nature to ignore such barriers as hedges and fences.

    Now this may all have changed in the intervening years, but I didn't think it a particularly stupid action by the EU at the time.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Seed ownership

      "and the owner of the next field across suddenly no longer owning their previously non-GM crop either due to the inevitable nature of nature to ignore such barriers as hedges and fences"

      Couldn't that also be an argument FOR the selling of sterile crops that will not produce crop bearing seeds... which means that the farmer would then need to re-purchase the patented seeds again for the next harvest.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        @d3vy

        Regardless of what they're doing with the GM seeds to avoid their reuse, nearby farmers sometimes end up with the special properties of the GM seeds getting bred into their seeds.

        There was a famous case in Canada where a farmer who lived next to a farmer using Monsanto GM seeds that were RoundUp (herbicide) resistant blew onto his field or managed to pass that trait to some of his normal seeds. He noticed this and collected those seeds and bred them through traditional methods, and Monsanto sued. Their argument was that it wasn't that he accidentally got the RoundUp resistance trait in a few of his plants, but that he specifically collected the seeds that had acquired that trait and bred for it to get their patented capability for free.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: @d3vy

          @DougS

          You refer to Percy Schmeiser. He came to Tasmania many years ago to spread his message regarding the dangers of cross-contamination from GMO crops. Percy was never shown to have benefited from the RoundupReady genes in his crop. The only Roundup he used was along fencelines and around some power poles where he actually wanted the canola to die, not survive. His crop grown from his own seed was never sprayed with herbicides of any kind.

          There has been a trend in farming for many years now called chemical ploughing. Rather than breaking up the soil to control weeds prior to sowing, you spray them off, usually with Roundup (or generic glyphosate these days). Roundup Ready genes in weeds means you can no longer do this and have to either go back to mechanical ploughing and the attendant loss of soil structure, or use another herbicide.

          Needless to say Monsanto will sell you that protected by patent herbicide. Before the patent on Roundup ran out, it cost several times as much as generic glyphosate does now.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @d3vy

            Wikipedia says "Ultimately, a Supreme Court 5-4 ruling found in favor of Monsanto, because Monsanto owned a valid patent and Schmeiser violated the patent by intentionally replanting the Roundup Ready seed that he had saved"

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @d3vy

              The ruling is specific to Canada (the remaining G8 countries forbid patenting of higher life forms). Furthermore, they ruled against Schmeiser due to the fact he singled out the cross-pollinated stock (and the fact that the act of farming is, by definition, a human intervention on the land). It's sort of like trying to take advantage of prototypes of an invention (that eventually gets patented) you happen to find in a waste tip. It's still a patented invention.

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: @d3vy

                It's sort of like trying to take advantage of prototypes of an invention (that eventually gets patented) you happen to find in a waste tip. It's still a patented invention.

                Bad analogy. Resistance to glyphosate is not a human invention. Or are you claiming somebody invented clover?

        2. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: @d3vy

          I said it was an argument for selling sterile GM crops which CANNOT produce crop bearing seeds (Something that GM companies have also been criticized for).

      2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Seed ownership

        "

        "and the owner of the next field across suddenly no longer owning their previously non-GM crop either due to the inevitable nature of nature to ignore such barriers as hedges and fences"

        "

        That's what the farmer would like you to believe - that the fact that his entire field comprises of only the GM strain of crop was purely accidental due to natural cross-pollination. If that's what really had happened the court would have found in the farmer's favour. The fact is that the farmer was quite obviously lying, and he had deliberately planted a GM crop that he had not paid for. One rather telling bit of evidence was that he had used "Round Up" weedkiller on his crop from the start - which he knew full well would have killed an unmodified crop. The law in this area is no different to copyright of software, videos or music. The fact that anyone can produce 1000's of copies at almost no expense does not mean that you have the right to do so. If you want to believe that the item is overpriced, then don't use it. Simples.

    2. Richard Wharram

      Re: Seed ownership

      @ Tim Hughes

      Sorry but this is not true.

      1. Richard Wharram

        Re: Seed ownership

        Downvote all you want but it still isn't true. Those little arrows don't change reality.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Seed ownership

      These aren't problems with GM, though, they are problems with multinational organisations. Monsanto could, in fact, have exactly the same practices with non-GM varieties which they have bred.

      The issue has been deliberately conflated with GM to influence hearts and minds, but the issues are not actually linked in any way.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Seed ownership

        These aren't problems with GM, though, they are problems with multinational organisations. Monsanto could, in fact, have exactly the same practices with non-GM varieties which they have bred.

        Except that if I purchase conventional seed from Monsanto I don't have to sign a commercial in confidence contract and I don't know of anyone who has. I was for a decade a market gardener and I always purchased decent seed. The seeds sold to home gardener's BTW is mostly utter shite. When you are growing vegetables for living, you want every seed to count and that costs a significant premium and most such seed is produced by/for big agribusinesses such as Monsanto.

        GMO canola seed is certainly not sterile as claimed elsewhere in this thread. It is however a "hard" seed. That is some of it lies dormant in the season of sowing and germinates in subsequent seasons so you sow sufficient seed to compensate. A Scandinavian researcher told me that a paddock used for a canola trial he conducted was still generating canola plants a decade after it was sown down to grass. If it was a commercial GMO canola, that means under the contract the farmer would still be paying for seed ten years after the original purchase!

  10. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    I have a few reservations on the science of GM, in that there can be, and have been, some unintended consequences. But my main concern is the economics. To breed seed that cannot propagate themselves, so that farmers, even in the Third World, are forced to buy your seed every year, is a great economic model if you want a captive (i.e. enslaved) market, but a bad one if you don't like monopolies. We all decried China for holding the world to ransom over rare earths; why is holding farmers to ransom different and OK?

    1. Filippo

      Nobody is "forced" to buy anything. You can't just make more rare earths, but you *can* go back to traditional seeds whenever you want. If a farmer buys GM seeds, it's because he makes more money that way, even after paying for the seeds every year. Farmers are not stupid.

    2. cray74

      are forced to buy your seed every year

      No, you're not forced to. It's usually the farmer's choice. The myth of the captive GMO users is one of the top myths of GMO plants.

      Another perspective on buying seeds.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you look at it from the companies point of view they will need to re-coup their R&D costs.

      If they only ever sell to each farmer once (Because the farmers can use the seed from their first GM crop to produce their second, third etc...) then they would have to make the seed prohibitively expensive, which would not sell.

      To put in into technology terms... imagine Epson developing a printer that never required refills. How much do you think that they would have to charge to even come close to making the same money that they do from a normal ink jet where the printer is sold at a loss and the costs made up by a few years of cartridge sales.

      Imagine Continental spending £100m developing a car tyre that never goes bald and cannot be punctured... do you think that they would sell them for £100 each knowing that each customer would only ever buy 4 (Possibly 5) for the life of their car?

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/jsp/Landing/ecotank-super-tank-printers.do

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          James51.

          I dont know if your intention was to validate or discredit the comments about printers... but the cheapest one of those printers that I could find was £200 and the cheapest epson inkjet that I could find was £30... So if you were aiming to discredit the previous comments you have not swayed me.

    4. Richard Wharram

      @Hollerithevo

      This is simply untrue.

    5. Triggerfish

      @ Hollerithevo

      I'd say cash crops and consumer power are probably more damaging.

      For example

      Quinoa, a staple part of the South American diet for the poor, except now they've been priced out, is causing deforestation as people chop down trees to make space for it, and is taking away the diversity of other crops because people are growing crops for profit rather than food. (I believe in the Irish potato famine Ireland was exporting a lot of food as cash crop so gues it's not new).

      Diversity of crops due to consumers, there's 40.000 varities of rice, if you go to places in South America and South East Asia they have farming culture that adapted over thousands of years in an effort to make use of every part of the land and it's conditions. But consumers (or maybe the supermarkets and buyers) want only certain varieties, not only does this mean you may have to buy GM crops if you want to be able to sell, but it also means that farmland that would be highly productive for some food species are being under utulisied to grow something to sell. (Which has knock on effects for the locals feeding themselves). It also means you run the risk of the world becoming dependent on certain crops, Cavendish Bananas for example which are being hit by a virus (I also seem to remeber hearing something about the propogation methods for these fruit not helping it's genetic diversity, may be wrong on that).

    6. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      "

      But my main concern is the economics. To breed seed that cannot propagate themselves, so that farmers, even in the Third World, are forced to buy your seed every year

      "

      But they are not forced to buy your seed every year, and so your argument falls on its face. Non-modified seeds are still readily available and the farmer can even produce next season's seeds himself from unmodified stock that propagates fine. As another poster has pointed out, farmers will only pay for modified seeds if it ends up earning them more money than planting unmodified seeds. Which puts a cap on the amount that the manufacturer can charge for GM seeds.

  11. Mr Dogshit

    Well DUH

    People have been breeding plants for thousands of years to increase yield. This is nothing different.

    But it's interfering with nay cha!

    So's combing your hair. Shut up.

    1. blueprint

      Re: Well DUH

      What, people were breeding plants for thousands of years in a way that incorporated fish genes into the plant DNA? Amazing! How did they manage to get a salmon to hump a corn cob?

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Well DUH

      It is different in that they're creating, for example, pesticide resistant crops. That allows farmers to dump huge quantities of pesticide onto a field. Which kills a large number of pest and non-pests. Which is not necessarily ideal for the surrounding environment and unrelated species.

      And the GM corporate response is "works as designed".

      Quite happy to eat GM crops but would prefer its production didn't kill of all the local wildlife (and would prefer my food not to be soaked in neurotoxin).

      So blight-resistant potato = good, herbicide resistant wheat = bad.

      And yes, pesticide and hedgerow destruction has been doing this for years, GM just makes it easier to use non-selective solutions.

      1. Richard Wharram

        Re: Well DUH

        @ Adam 52

        This is untrue. Pesticide and Herbicide usage is usually reduced. That's the whole point:

        http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2016/05/as-consumers-shift-to-non-gmo-sugar-farmers -may-be-forced-to-abandon-environmental-and-social-gains/

      2. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Well DUH

        Some crops *naturally* put pesticides (and herbicides) into the soil, and a lot more food crops are positively saturated with neurotoxins (Look up the nightshade family of crops). This is not the result of "a salmon humping a corn cob"; this is the result of plants trying to not get eaten, and to reduce competition for soil nutrients/space/sunlight. Coffea Arabica secretes caffeine into the soil around its roots, in addition to being toxic to a large number of warm blooded species, caffeine prevents the germination of seeds - it is a pesticide and herbicide. Peach pits are quite rich in cyanide, so that animals eating the peach will not eat the seed, but rather drop it somewhere it can sprout. We are not doing anything that nature has not done to some extent in some species before.

        As to getting fish genes into crops: Fertilizing crops with fish guts + Horizontal Gene Transfer = (possible) Salmon genes in corn. If this hasn't caused a problem in 2000+ years, I doubt that a more focused effort with improved testing will bring the world to an end.

        1. Uffish

          Re: Well DUH

          World agriculture benefited from a multiple research and development projects over decades to increase food production and apparently saved a billion or so people from starvation. It was an international effort but is usually referred to now by the catchy phrase 'green revolution'. I am sure that quite a few people died because of the these efforts (pesticides, locally wrong choice of new technology etc etc) but overall hugely more people benefited than suffered.

          What seems to me to be different today is the role of business. Business needs seem to be the driving factor not humanity. I do not have to support some business plan if I don't want to and, strangely, I don't.

          tldr: There is nothing much wrong with cola but you don't have to drink it if you don't want to. But call it cola and not 'the finest water plus a lot of sugar and a few things you shouldn't be bothered about'.

  12. Richard Wharram

    Well d'uh.

    I could link hundreds of studies that have shown this for years and regularly lose Facebook 'friends' for doing so on Facebook. That and calling their anti-vaxx bullshit dangerous nonsense.

    Careful with the Patrick Moore angle though. The science doesn't need an ex-green 'name' and can stand up for itself quite nicely.

    Thumbs down for the first to mention large bio-biz Mon&@^70 in a 'woo-scary' kind of fashion.

    1. Uffish
      Meh

      Re: Well d'uh.

      @ Richard Wharram

      In the age of the internet troll the phrase 'This is simply untrue' is simply meaningless. I could try checking out your longer posts for believability and coherence but why?

      A few words describing why a comment is untrue would be reasonably verifiable and much more reader friendly than a list of study reports.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's a conspiracy led by Monsanto" storm in 3, 2, 1...

  14. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the biggest scientific metastudy yet [..] concludes they’re good for human health"

    My interior conspiracy theorist says duh, of course they would. If this study is in any way funded by Monsanto, its results are to be viewed with utmost precaution.

    Chikita bananas are dying due to mold and the fact that we've grown Chikita exclusively. The entire banana production industry is set to expire in the coming years because of our lack of precautions.

    That fact alone is sufficient to put in question our ability to judge whether or not we are capable of properly evaluating the impact of our decisions when it comes to determining the consequences.

    I am quite sure we need to enhance our food production capabilities if we wish to avoid slaughtering half the world population to feed the other half with the remains. I am not so sure Monsanto is the right entity to trust with that job.

    1. N2 Silver badge

      Re: "the biggest scientific metastudy yet [..] concludes they’re good for human health"

      In other news: HP claims inkjets cheaper to run

  15. David Nash Silver badge
    FAIL

    The problem is, those opposed to GM are generally not opposed on scientific grounds, they already made their minds up and any evidence to the contrary is taken as a conspiracy.

  16. blueprint

    SHOCK!

    Institution funded mainly by the American government whose members themselves are funded mainly by multinational companies like Monsanto is in favour of GM crops!

    Of course the Americans could just not object to other countries putting labels on GM food indentifying it as such, so that the people can decide if they want it or not? Funny that they're dead set against that for some strange reason...

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Do you know what the Meta in Meta study means?

      I suggest that you look it up.

      1. NomNomNom

        Oh so scientists just have to put the word meta at the start and the paper gets double counted? Only in "science" would such a thing be allowed.

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          NomNom

          I started typing up an explanation of how wrong you are and how meta studies actually work but I realised that someone who puts the word science in quotation marks would likely not listen or simply not understand.

          I implore you, type the phrase "What is a meta study" into google and do some reading, I know you wont.. instead you will laugh at this comment and wrap yourself a little tighter in your blanket of ignorance,

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why all the negativity to GM foods?

    It puzzles me how so many so called 'greens' can object so much to GM foods.

    GM foods have a higher yield, so can help to resolve, possibly solve, food shortage issues, and will certainly help in the future as the population grows.

    A higher yield means reduced pressure to turn current un-farmed land (forests, jungle etc) into yet more farmland.

    GM crops are more resilient, which reduces the need for pesticides and other nasties, which should help reduce the damage being done to the environment, both directly on the farmland itself, and also reduce the industrial impact, by reducing the amount of pesticides we need to produce.

    The added resilience means we can also grow some of these crops in areas that are currently unsuitable, which means land that is effectively worthless (can't grow anything currently) becomes potentially useful, and that we can also grow crops closer to where they are needed, thus reducing the need for transporting the crops around the world.

    To me, GM foods are just one step up from splicing and cross breading plants, something we've been doing for a long long time now. It's just being done with more finesse and precision now.

    Yes it needs monitoring, yes it needs controls, food labelling etc. but that's something we can manage, and GM foods have far too many positive benefits for us to simply ignore.

    1. Named coward

      Re: Why all the negativity to GM foods?

      A higher yield means reduced pressure to turn current un-farmed land into yet more farmland

      -

      The added resilience means we can also grow some of these crops in areas that are currently unsuitable

      so which one is it?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Why all the negativity to GM foods?

        Both. Imagine being able to plant in more arid areas so you don't have to clear-cut forests for farmland.

      2. Cynical Observer
        Facepalm

        Re: Why all the negativity to GM foods?

        @Named Coward

        It's the first one. The areas that have the existing infrastructure so that the crops can be gotten to market with reduced cost and effort.

        Because when all else is equal, things have a habit of following the path of least resistance - i.e. they use the already established transport networks which serve the already establish planting areas.

    2. SnakeChisler

      Re: Why all the negativity to GM foods?

      GM crops are solely controlled by big firms who's main focus is profit, all GM products are tied up with licences due to patents, once your on the GM gravy train then you can't get off as you need the appropriate chemicals supplied by the said firm.

      Like anything else the pests become resistant meanwhile you've polluted your genetic stock and are now joined by the hip to your GM supplier who gives you the latest pest resistant strain which which costs more.

      Your also not allowed to use the seed you produce to replant due to patent restrictions

  18. Terje

    While I definitely don't like the big companies in this business who usually have to reach for a dictionary to see what the word ethic means. I feel that we can't ignore the fact that using correct GM stuff can allow us to significantly reduce our reliance on pesticides and fungicides and some more "cides" that I likely forgot that is likely wrecking a lot more havoc then what GM crops can manage. Increased yields is a nice bonus.

  19. Adair

    Follow the money...

    Regardless of the technical pros and cons of each GM project we can absolutely rely on the historical truth that where there is a buck to be made there will be people willing to bend/break the rules, regardless of the consequences (assuming they even know what the consequences will be) in order to make a bigger buck.

    Factor in 'global corporates' instead of individual people, and that historical truth is grossly magnified in terms of the unintended consequences and tolerable 'collateral damage' to individuals and communities.

    GM is just another way of making money. In this case though, as with other major tech, caveat emptor applies not just to the buyer, but to everyone. No doubt there will be the odd 'technical failure', disaster even; but it's on the economic and social sides that any real damage is most likely to occur. Greed and self-interest have always been powerful drivers towards major fuck ups.

  20. chivo243 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Management, only management

    Managing to somehow say all the seeds in the world belong to M'santo et al, you can't grow that crop for the seeds, we have managed to get LAWS passed to stop you, Joe home farmer, from managing your own garden. I think the planned obsolescence in plants is the problem most people have with M'santo et al. You can plant this only one year, and next year it won't grow again from the seeds you harvested because we genetically modified the plant not to produce viable seeds..

    Talk to some small to mid sized farmers, they'll tell you horror stories.

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: Management, only management

      This is simply untrue.

      1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

        Re: Management, only management

        True that. You can verify this by a simple search of the legal cases Monsanto has brought against farmers for "unauthorised growing" of their seeds. Which the other side says is "unwanted contamination" of their (frequently organic) crops.

      2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: Management, only management

        @ Richard Wharram, well if YOU say so, it really must be untrue! My mind is set at rest.

    2. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Management, only management

      "next year it won't grow again from the seeds you harvested because we genetically modified the plant not to produce viable seeds"

      Look at it another way - that stops the uncontrolled propagation of GM crops that the daily mail gets all frothy mouthed about.

      And as I have pointed out above - the companies need to re-coup their investment in the R&D to create the seeds in the first place.

      If you ran a company and sold a product that was capable of replicating itself don't you think you might want to disable that so that you could sell more than one?

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Management, only management

        "If you ran a company and sold a product that was capable of replicating itself don't you think you might want to disable that so that you could sell more than one?"

        I would if I didn't try to gain a monopoly on food production. Glad you're well fed.

        1. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: Management, only management

          @chivo243

          I am well fed, and because of GM crops we stand a chance of ensuring people who previously were not well fed, can be in the future.

    3. NomNomNom

      Re: Management, only management

      I heard a percentage of Monsanto seeds harvest into what appear to be fully formed human bodies which when fully grown replace the farmers in the night and the next day the land is mysteriously sold to Monsanto at a ridiculously low price. Just one of the horror stories I've heard from farmers

  21. Alex Read

    No way I'm trusting any opinions coming from this lot when the FDA are made of pepsi, monsanto, kraft etc. directors & the senate all take backhanders.

    MSG, high fructose corn syrup, MRM - it's time we admitted we don't know what the f*** we're doing buggering about with food & left it in it's natural state. The entire population shouldn't be f****ing guinea pigs held to ransom. I'd love to see all of this lot strung up by the b****cks asap.

    1. Richard Wharram

      MSG

      The fact you mentioned MSG makes it obvious I can ignore your comments. Get an actual education rather than picking up 'facts' from Facebook memes.

    2. Cynical Observer
      Black Helicopters

      @ Alex Read

      Who mentioned the FDA?

      The report was produced by The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine

      - analogous to the Royal Society or the Royal Institution.

      It's also not a single study - as has been referenced already, it's a meta-study. It's a summation of many studies with a view to deriving a common result.

      Or all they all disreputable? Your helicopter awaits.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        @Cynical Observer

        "Or are they all disreputable?"

        Of course they are EVERY SINGLE ONE... Except the ones that agree with his point.. those ones can be trusted, but the rest... All funded by Monsanto and the illuminati - follow the money sheeple.

        ;)

  22. Smooth Newt
    Thumb Down

    Putting the genie back in the bottle

    If some catastrophe happens with green GM (i.e. crops etc), then it will be impossible to put the particular genie involved back into the bottle. I don't trust profit-hungry megacorp agribusiness to be careful enough to avoid it, and I think they have enough paid lobbyists to have proper oversight watered down.

    There is at least one precedent, with the introduction of cane toads into Australia for pest control in sugar cane. That was enthusiastically promoted by agribusiness, back up by scientific publications and international peer review, and vigorously supported by the Queensland government. So what could possibly go wrong? It was a win-win situation all round.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      They are nothing alike

      Modifying a few genes in an existing organism is NOTHING like introducing an entirely new organism that has its own behavior. You might as well try advocating for banning the import of iPhones into Australia based on the cane toad experience.

      When Monsanto created RoundUp ready crops by splicing in a gene that allowing putting pesticides on a corn plant without killing it they weren't doing anything they couldn't have done naturally. They could have grown a bunch of plants, put just enough RoundUp on them to kill 99% of them, saved the seeds from the survivors and lather rinse repeat until you end up with plants able to survive enough RoundUp to kill the weeds. It would just take a lot longer to get there that way - a decade or two, perhaps. In fact this is already happening in nature with weeds becoming more and more resistant to RoundUp through this exact same process!

      If they used this "natural" method to create RoundUp resistant crops, they'd end up with some other traits that might be less desirable, since they would select on just that one but others would happen as well. Maybe they'd have corn that didn't taste as good, or survived drought less well, or the stalks would have a substance in them that made crop rotation less successful - they'd be relying on random mutations after all. By splicing in a specific gene they were able to change the one thing they wanted without getting any "bonus" traits to come along for the ride.

      Which do you think would have the greater chance for "cane toad" like problems, natural seeds that had acquired their desired traits through random mutations via selective breeding, meaning they not only had the desired traits but acquired a lot of other traits as well (whether those are desirable or undesirable) or GM seeds where a single trait was spliced in but everything else was left alone and unchanged?

      1. Smooth Newt
        Unhappy

        Re: They are nothing alike

        Which do you think would have the greater chance for "cane toad" like problems, natural seeds that had acquired their desired traits through random mutations ... or GM seeds where a single trait was spliced in but everything else was left alone and unchanged?

        My comment about cane toads was about the danger of performing an irreversible change to the environment even when there is scientific consensus for it. Horizontal gene transfer and cross-pollination means that genes are spread more widely than the specific farmer's crop, and the trait (or pleiotropic traits) may have wholly unexpected side effects elsewhere.

        It is the irreversability of the process, coupled with the total confidence that "nothing can go wrong" displayed by the industry and their well-funded lobbyists, and the lack of real recourse if it does, that scares me.

  23. Timmy B Silver badge

    Did anybody read the full paper?

    I simply don't have time at the moment but would be interested in doing so if it covered things such as cross-pollination, affect on local food chain, affects on pollinators.I don't care if they are just safe for people I want to know if it addressed (local would be most interesting) ecology as a whole. If it does then I'll try and make the effort to read it all.

    Cheers.

  24. Richard Wharram

    Sterile Seeds

    I'm not going to reply to every single one of you who says that Monsanto will eventually hold a monopoly because GM seeds are sterile and farmers will have to keep buying the seeds every year and once the monopoly is in place will jack up the price etc...

    So many replies keep trotting this out as an objection 'even if the science shows they are safe...'

    It's utter bollox. Totally untrue:

    https://gmoanswers.com/ask/i-keep-reading-about-how-monsantos-seeds-and-other-gm-seeds-become-sterile-and-unusable-farmers

    The only time terminator seeds have been developed is where the were specific requests or NGO pressure to make them sterile for fear of cross-contamination. And then they were never rolled out anyway.

    Let me repeat: IT IS BOLLOCKS! SHUT UP!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sterile Seeds

      The source is biased, so we call bollocks on the bollocks. How about some INDEPENDENT sources to prove your claim?

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: Sterile Seeds

        "The source is biased, so we call bollocks on the bollocks. How about some INDEPENDENT sources to prove your claim?"

        Because youll say any independent source that doesn't agree with you will be "Biased" or "funded by monsanto"

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Sterile Seeds

          No, there's one way to prove your claim. Show one sponsored for the purposes of banning GMO crops and showing just the opposite. Sorta like an Altria-sponsored study that proves cigarettes kill. The only endorsement stronger than an independent one is one from your enemy.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Sterile Seeds

      True, M*nsanto only make sterile seeds when required - They would much rather let the crops cross-pollinate and sue every farmer for miles around for back-royalties for using their IP.

    3. Hans 1 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Sterile Seeds

      >https://gmoanswers.com/ask/i-keep-reading-about-how-monsantos-seeds-and-other-gm-seeds-become-sterile-and-unusable-farmers

      cf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GMO_Answers, notice the sponsors ? Ouch!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    we're scientists, we know what we're talking about!

    I 'see' your statement and i 'raise' you 'Thalidomide'!

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: we're scientists, we know what we're talking about!

      Interesting. Since you raise the issue of thalidomide, presumably, you are aware that the drug thalidomide is an enantiomeric compound that has only one active isomer. Presumably you also know that due to the cost involved, the other isomer (thought to be inactive simply because it hadn't been tested) wasn't removed from the mixture when sold. You would also know that it was this 'inactive' isomer that turned out to be teratogenic (i.e. caused birth defects). You would also know that this was all at a time where new drugs were not routinely tested for their effect on unborn foetuses.

      Now, do you think that these decision were made by scientists, or by a businesspeople and politicians?

      So, I 'see' your smug, and raise you a 'do your research'.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: we're scientists, we know what we're talking about!

      Actually, Thalidomide may be making a comeback as a chemotherapy addition. It is still an unparalleled anti-nausea drug.

      But yeah, I do wonder why the pre-approval testing didn't show the fetal effects, were mice/pigs not susceptible to the damage, or was that part of testing "streamlined"?

  26. IHateWearingATie
    Mushroom

    Doom, DOOOOOOM i tell ye

    Messing with genes will bring the wrath of Gaia upon us.

    I blame the neoliberal cisheteropatriarcy military industrial big agri big pharma complex for cruelly messing with the evidence to show that this is safe.

  27. SnakeChisler

    What is done cannot be undone

    The case for GM is a good one unfortunately a lot of it is driven by US big bucks so do you believe a study that is promoted and paid for by Monsanto or do you look over the fence and see how Roundup Ready has polluted the gene stock over in the US and lead to round up hardy strains of pests so the farmer sprays more pesticide (which Monsanto makes) and also no one can use any of the seed follow on seed without a licence because of well patents held by Monsanto

    Here's the rub I just don't trust a large corporation whose sole motive in this world is profit and who continuously try and bulldoze legislation through both the front and the back door to get us to take this stuff (latest effort is in TTIP trade agreement, the one where we sell our European soul to corporate America for a handfull of Beans)

  28. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    GM is all well and good, but the risks aren't all about the science.

    For a start, they are patented technology. You buy from Monsanto, you can never grow your own. Monsanto control your business. (Or Bayer Agri, Syngenta, whomever. But Monsanto are the big player here). Now what happens if, say, Monsanto gets bought a foreign power? Suddenly your entire country's food supply is controlled by a foreign power. (There's a bid by a Chinese company to buy Monsanto, incidentally).

    Plus, of course, there's the problems of monocultures - if everywhere in the world uses the same pesticide it just takes one species of pest to become resistant to that pesticide and suddenly every farmer who plants that GM crop has the same problem at the same time. If that's a staple foodstuff, that becomes everybody's problem.

    As for scientific consensus, don't make me laugh. We all know these surveys are paid for by the very companies whose products they so enthusiastically endorse as "good for you and good for the environment". I'll remind you that there were similar studies in the 1950s that showed the positive health benefits of smoking.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Food labeling

    I wasn't concerned about the safety of GM foods to begin with.

    However, if it's possible to use GM for corporate shenanigans, you know the 'merkins will do it (because they lack ethics), and I don't want patented DRM food.

    I want my food clearly labelled "This is a 'merkin piece of shit", so I can vote with my wallet.

  30. MJI Silver badge

    Depends on what is done.

    When the modifications are not huge, or are for health reasons (such as John Innes tomatoes) there is very little to object over. I would personally welcome developments like this.

    But I personally would avoid food with modifications to cope with extreme amounts of pesticide, or where cross kingdom (fish in grain)

  31. NanoMeter

    But it's best for Monsanto

    which can make money by selling new seeds every year to the farmers.

    No, thank you. Monsanto is Monsatan.

  32. Hans 1 Silver badge

    My $0.02

    The fact that a number of GMO's, as I have already written, produce toxins that are supposed to counter herbicides such as round-up, ONE example among many, ... allowing farmers to use those herbicides in their fields ... double/trebble contamination of the crops (original toxins+herbicide+produce of (toxin+herbicide)).

    Does NOT take a rocket scientist to understand that is NOT a good idea, NK603, for example, should be banned world-wide.

    GMO's are sterile, quite silly as farmers have to buy new crops every year. They have to be, because

    it is not wise to import "foreign" plants because they can spread like mad if no living thing can attack them. The other problem is cross-field contamination, where seeds a blown by all winds to neighboring fields, contaminating those cultures.

    As for yields, you get far better yields when you study the ecosystem in the soil and adapt your strategy, which, apparently, only a select few do. Fertilizers actually KILL the ecosystem in the soil, forcing you to use ever more of them, and harm the the plants, which forces you to use pesticides.

    The worst thing is, nature adapts to GMO's, so they keep having to come up with new GMO's ... The fact that GMO's are sterile means that the plant cannot "adapt" and have to be "adapted" manually.

    It is, once again, not change that frightens me, change is required, but GMO is NOT it - and all the BS about it saving humanity from starvation is pure ideological non-sense.

    It is the agricultural-variant of the subscription license model.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      "MO's are sterile, quite silly as farmers have to buy new crops every year. They have to be, because

      it is not wise to import "foreign" plants because they can spread like mad if no living thing can attack them.

      The other problem is cross-field contamination, where seeds a blown by all winds to neighboring fields, contaminating those cultures."

      Did you read that as you were typing of were you rabidly frothing at the mouth too much to notice your two statements completely contradict each other?

      There are two other options.

      1. you dont know what sterile means,

      2. You dont know how plants reproduce (If you like I can have the birds and the bees talk with you - Quite literally!)

  33. Ian Ringrose
    Facepalm

    So I will have to pay more taxes to the EU, so they pay the farmers not to grow too many crops…

    At first sight, increasing farm output seems good. But the EU props up farmers that should be allowed to fail, pays minimal prices to framers for crops, then pays to destroy over production.

    Therefore I don’t see how “normal people” in the EU will benefit form GM crops.

    Also given how Monsanto has behaved in the past, I think only “open source” GM crops should be allowed.

  34. tiggity Silver badge

    Vit A rice - meh

    Vit A fortified rice is fairly pointless.

    Vit A is common in much green vegetation / root vegetables (e.g. your classic carrot see in the dark meme due to it high in Vit A), plenty of which is human edible & easily available, so easy to obtain (no need to even go the availability in non plants route as lots of meaty Vit A sources).

    The only use of Vit A fortified rice would be in something like refugee camps / aid centres in times of severe drought where people just have to eat what's provided & little / no greenery available... And in that sort of scenario then vit supplements acn be added to rice, flour, etc. taht is provided by aid agencies.

    Vit A is fat soluble so, if someone is Voit A deficient, uptake improved if vit A containing foods eaten with some fats e.g. vegetable oils.

    Vit A GM rice is basically the GMO industry trying to project a positive image, when there's actually very little need for such a product.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Vit A rice - meh

      "And in that sort of scenario then vit supplements acn be added to rice, flour, etc. taht is provided by aid agencies."

      Unless supplements can't work as well as the stuff in the rice. The whole "synergy" business.

  35. NomNomNom

    In 1957 government officials and employees of the RAND corporation met in pseudo secrecy at a now defunct Wyoming Masonic lodge. Their plan? Who knows, but I tell you this - no government gene men are putting genetics in MY food.

  36. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Hmmmm...

    I'd be more inclined towards GM crops if such things as "Terminator Genes" didn't exist.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hybrid crops.

    As someone linked to the agribusiness world, maybe I can make a comment or two.

    I keep seeing the reference to farmers not being able to save their seed as a major negative of GM seeds. I don't know if you know but there has been, for many many years, a move to hybrid crops - where two different lines are crossed and the seed of the offspring harvested and sold to farmers to plant - this gives huge (especially in the case of corn) yield increases (hybrid vigour - the reason cross-breeds tend to be healthier than pedigree dogs). However this only works for the first generation seed. Saving and planting the seed from a hybrid crop then gives a much lower yield. So, farmers do not save seed from hybrid crops anyway because there is a huge impact from doing so. (Some crops, mainly cereals, are not yet hybridised so farm saved seed is the norm). This is true whether the crop is GM or not.

    Second I see some people with concerns around gene leakage into wild relatives of crops. Others more knowledgeable than me have commented on the impact (rather lack of impact) of this. However I feel it somewhat hypocritical that those who complain the most loudly about this were the same people who complained about the Monsanto (and, no I do not work for, with or am in any way connected with Monsanto) technology which was designed to prevent this - what got christened end the 'terminator' gene. This was derided as being a mechanism to prevent farmers from saving their seed - as this was a in corn, a crop which is massively hybridised as above, this argument was, of course, invalid.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Hybrid crops.

      Saving and planting the seed from a hybrid crop then gives a much lower yield. So, farmers do not save seed from hybrid crops anyway because there is a huge impact from doing so.

      Thanks for not repeating the usual canard that seed from hybrids is infertile. While some hybrids are generated for vigour, this is not the only purpose for hybridisation. Vegetable producers need uniformity in size rather than maximising yields. Carrots, for example, need to fit into the polystyrene trays that they are packed in for retail. Carrots that are too long, or too short are rejected. The "ideal" carrot is one where every carrot matures at the same time since they are (nearly always) machine harvested.

      The particular carrot variety I grow these days is a hybrid. The purpose of the cross is for enhanced flavour. While I couldn't grow this variety for market were I certified organic still, I am free to do so in my home garden when I only have myself and dinner guests to consume them.

      The main reason growers don't save their own seed is that their contracts don't allow them to. The seed is supplied by the purchaser of the crop, usually a major multinational such as McCain, Edgell/Birdseye etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hybrid crops.

        Thanks for the build - my experience is not in the vegetables area. I think (and please correct me if I am wrong) that the argument still holds true, you need to buy new seed each year even though these are non-GM because if you save seed you lose the benefits of the hybrid seed. And, for you, it makes economical sense to pay more for hybrid seed as you produce a higher value crop using it.

  38. markowen58

    Piracy

    So sterilising seed is the same as data protection, when does it get cracked and pirated so anyone can use the GM version? I get recouping the R&D costs, I really do, but perhaps they should look elsewhere when trying to lock down their 'invention' and how well that's gone.

  39. Cheapster

    I think a read of the paper is in order.

    They found no risk to the environment at the moment but they also found no increase in yield.

    So there is not much point in handing your cash to the new tech giants, this is mostly a revenue stream for them and there is very little in it for anyone else.

    That may change but many smart farmers are finding more profit in organic methods.

  40. johnwerneken

    OF COURSE its beneficial and safe

    Rich and powerful people and big companies generally DO know what they are doing: profiting by building a better future for all. All you egalitarians and whiners and 'precautionary <so-called> principle' and environmentalists are Criminals Against Humanity, holding back progress, and ought to be HANGED.

  41. The little voice inside my head

    And what will the worms eat if the crops are pest resistant? Do we really need all those worms in our food (No)? Will the birds be able to eat worms? But then, do we need birds flying around in our airports?

    Do we need all those dying bees to polinize flowers now that we can grow products in labs, there would be no more deaths due to allergic reactions to bee stings. Artificial honey, aspertame enriched, zero sugar for diabetics? Maybe we should modify our genes to be able to drink sea water and eat sand or concrete.

  42. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Boffin

    >That may change but many smart farmers are finding more profit in organic methods.

    That may change but many smart farmers are finding more yield and thus profit in organic methods.

    Upvoted and FTFY.

    The fact that organic variants are more expensive is simply because of the middle-men, mostly.

    You will notice that organic products are usually sold in smaller containers, this is to con you into believing it is not "that" more expensive compared to "conventional" (as in [fertilizer|anti-biotics-rich|pesticide-poluted|GMO]) products.

    Organic farms done properly have better yield than their chemical competitors ...

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Organic farms done properly have better yield than their chemical competitors ...

      Careful with that axe, Eugene ;-)

      It's a bit complicated. Organic methods can easily generate much higher yields per unit area than conventional agriculture. BUT that doesn't mean that profits are much higher. Comparisons between conventional and organic nearly all show markedly similar profitability. One difference I remarked on when I first became involved in farming was that organic farms carried much smaller debt loads. This made a big difference in the 1980s when interest rates rose considerably. Hardest hit were the Australian farmers who had been sold loans in US currency as the exchange rate also hit them and many were bankrupted.

      Someone above said this isn't really about the science and this is true. It's about economics. And choice. If I'm an organic farmer and my neighbour decides to grow GM, then my farm is decertified due to contamination.

      A related issue is that conventional farming (i.e. artificial fertilisers/synthetic pesticides/hybrid seed outperforms organic under ideal conditions. In bad seasons, the reverse is true. Prices tend to be considerably higher in bad seasons and lower in ideal growing seasons. Maximising your yields when prices are lowest and minimising them when prices are highest never made any sense to me.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously...

    Prepping you all for TTIP :D

  44. BurnT'offering

    I would be happy tp lift the ban inside the EU

    Now that the crops have been so thoroughly tested outside the EU

  45. Bucky 2

    Chain of Reasoning

    Science is always scary.

    Nature is always safe.

    Cross-breeding two crops via sexual reproduction is inherently safe. There is no reason to investigate the resulting cross.

    Cross-breeding two crops any other way is inherently unsafe. There is no reason to investigate the resulting cross.

    Gene editing is unsafe because the combination of those two words sounds scientific, and science is dangerous.

    Anyone who disagrees is part of a political or financial conspiracy.

  46. AnoniMouse

    Faulty logic = inaccurate reporting

    There is all the difference in the world between " genetically modified foods [being] good for human health and the environment" and there being "no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops", as was actually stated in the report.

    Most importantly, nothing in the report even attempts to state that all future GM/GE products will be risk-free.

    As nature shows repeatedly, once genetic material appears in the wild it is virtually impossible to reverse that appearance.

  47. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Well duh!

    It ain't the crops that are bad for you, it's what they do when they harvest them. How much weedkiller is the mandated daily minimum for a healthy body?

  48. TheSkunkyMonk

    can we know how long the studies were ran for? most nearly always seem to be no more than a few month and the longer ones especially the ones the Russians did over a couple year were all pretty damning

  49. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I love people who get bent out of shape over imaginary Skiffy threats from "Frankenfood".

    I had the distinct pleasure of having to listen to one friend holding forth while slathering ketchup all over his yeastburger.

    "You been eating ketchup long?" I asked 'innocently'

    "Of course. Since I was a kid."

    "Grown a third eye yet?" I asked, sweetly.

    "No. What are you getting at?"

    "Me neither. I'm surprised really because Heinz has been shining hard gamma rays through every bottle of ketchup they produce since the 1950s in order to kill any mould spores in the goo. With the amount of ketchup I gulp down every montgh I expected to get awesome X-Man powers years ago." I said, glumly. "I guess it was an unrealistic expectation based on unscientific thinking ..."

  50. This post has been deleted by its author

  51. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Therefore, Don't Label GMO Food... NO!

    We know full well where this unrelated study is going: It's going to inexplicably be used as an excuse to ignore the demands of the vast majority of world citizens, to cowtow to our corporate overlords and kill off the labeling of GMOs in our food.

    Big Obvious News: Labeling GMOs infers NOTHING about their health effects, fitness for consumption, impact on world environments, exploitation of farmers or loss of native/heirloom varieties. All it does is let people know that GMOs are in the food. That's all. It's the corporations that are reading more into GMO labeling than is actually there.

    IOW: Label GMOs. That's what We The People worldwide want. Stop the political/corporatocracy baloney and just do as we demand.

  52. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Therefore, Don't Label GMO Food... NO!

    We know full well where this unrelated study is going: It's going to inexplicably be used as an excuse to ignore the demands of the vast majority of world citizens, to cowtow to our corporate overlords and kill off the labeling of GMOs in our food.

    Big Obvious News:

    Labeling GMOs infers nothing about their health effects, fitness for consumption, impact on world environments, exploitation of farmers or loss of native/heirloom varieties. All it does is let people know that GMOs are in the food. That's all. It's the corporations that are reading more into GMO labeling than is actually there.

    IOW: Label GMOs.

    That's what We The People worldwide want.

    Stop the political/corporatocracy baloney and just do as we demand.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An argument for some regulation and oversight...

    To start, I'm not anti-GMO.

    That said, I don't buy the argument that they're all safe, almost implying that there's absolutely nothing to worry about.

    Eventually the same folks that are brought us tainted baby formula and more recently plastic rice, these same lovely folks will determine that they can make food crops pest resistant by splicing in genes from (hyperbole alert, for example) the Box Jellyfish that encode some toxic protein. Loving looking food, to bad about the weird toxins added. We'll figure it out after who knows how many get sick.

    It seems to me that somebody somewhere should be reviewing these on a project by project basis. Especially when it becomes such a common technique that everyone is doing it.

    This risk is absolutely hypothetical, but in the longer term it's inevitable.

    Keep in mind trade treaties that'll ensure these items are traded around the world.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: An argument for some regulation and oversight...

      "It seems to me that somebody somewhere should be reviewing these on a project by project basis. Especially when it becomes such a common technique that everyone is doing it."

      OK, now who PAYS for it? The customers won't because they're penny-pinching as it is, and the companies won't do it because they have investors to please, plus if anything does hit the fan they can cut and run before they're caught.

  54. Pompous Git Silver badge

    Truly hilarious

    One thing commentards haven't remarked in this thread: the single biggest factor affecting crop yields is water. Not fertiliser, not GMO/hybridisation, not pesticides, water.

    A hydrologist I saw give a presentation some years ago showed that humanity was then already sequestering more than 50% of rainfall for energy and crop use. So-called "carbon pollution" has a profound effect on photosynthetic efficiency. Halving available CO2 doubles the water needs of a crop. Conversely, the increase in CO2 during the 20thC has resulted in ~15% increase in crop yields. Any number of commentards here seem to be both in favour of increased crop yields and vehemently opposed to them.

  55. soretski

    kaching! big money behind study, big money behind article, big money behind comment section

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      "kaching! big money behind study, big money behind article, big money behind comment section"

      Where's my cheque, then?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As it ever was, when the discussion enters the endgame the "Shill card" is played.

        Though I must also admit while there is such as thing as BigOrg I believe some of it is owned by BigAg and BigFood

  56. HKmk23

    Well if GM worked, then why....can no-one...

    Come up with a GM grass for my lawn so I only have to mow it once a year?

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Well if GM worked, then why....can no-one...

      Because we dont need it :

      http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grass-not-require-mowing-52979.html

  57. Pompous Git Silver badge

    Tasmania's GMO canola

    Biosecurity Tasmania report volunteer GMO canola plants are still turning up 15 years after the trial.

    http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/biosecurity/product-integrity/gene-technology/former-gm-canola-trial-sites-audit-reports

    Looks like the USA has similar problems:

    Earlier this year, an Oregon farmer discovered wheat growing in his field that had been genetically engineered to be resistant to the weed-killer glyphosate. Months later, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is still trying figure out how the wheat got into the field, Nature reported.

    Genetic tests by the USDA determined that the wheat matches MON71800, also called Roundup Ready wheat, a glyphosate-resistant wheat developed by biotech company Monsanto. No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for growth in the U.S., although Monsanto did field trials of its Roundup Ready wheat in 16 states including Oregon between 1997 and 2005.

    Upon hearing of the contaminated wheat field, South Korea and Japan initially halted imports of US wheat, but South Korea has now resumed them. Tests indicate that the US wheat supply is generally free of genetically modified plants.

    http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/36582/title/Escaped-GM-Wheat/

    I suppose losing the Japanese market doesn't much matter when the yield from that wheat field is so much higher than it would be growing conventional wheat. After all, it's yield that's important, not sales...

  58. Dropper

    Why

    Are GM products limited to veggies? Where's my 100% bacon pig? There's an ongoing bacon drought in the US and not a single scientist is working on the solution.

    I can't for the life of me imagine how the US is consuming more bacon than it produces what with portion sizes being a healthy 5-6 slices per breakfast, but if this continues we'll be reduced to rasher-ning.

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