"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

GMO: Genetic Engineering – Claims, Facts, Corrections

1)Claim: Genetic engineering is necessary to feed the world.

Fact: Hunger in the world is caused by poverty, by the simple inability to buy food, not by lack of supply.

Correction: Currently true very well may change in the near future due to lack of available arable land.

2)Claim: Genetic engineering will help developing countries.

Fact: Biotech companies patent their seeds. To protect their investment, the farmers that use the seed sign a contract which prohibits saving, reselling, or exchanging seed. The family farms of the poorer nations depend on saved seed for survival. Biotech companies also patent other people’s seeds, like basmati rice, neem, and quinoa, taking advantage of indigenous knowledge and centuries of selective breeding by small farmers without giving anything in return. The same companies, backed by the U.S. government, proposed to protect their seed patents through the terminator technology. A terminator seed will grow, but the seeds it produces are sterile. Any nation that buys such seeds will swiftly lose any vestige of agricultural self-sufficiency. Furthermore, genetically engineered seeds are designed for agribusiness farming, not for the capabilities of the small family farms of the developing nations. How are they to buy and distribute the required chemical inputs?

A) It is true seeds are patented but Patents expire(~20years)and many countries ignore Patents.
B) Terminator Seed technologies Primary purpose is not to prevent reusing seeds it is to prevent the spread of introduced genes to similar crops and similar weeds although it will also prevent the reuse of seeds.
Note: Complex hybrids nonGM aren’t generally reusable as the seeds produced are not the same as the parent

3)Claim: Genetic engineering will reduce the use of herbicides.

Fact: Genetic engineering develops crops with resistance to specific herbicides. For example, Roundup Ready(tm) crops survive spraying with RoundUp(tm). On the one hand, this allows the farmer to use more herbicide. On the other hand, this leads to herbicide-resistant weeds.

Correction: Esentially true but allows the use of No-Till Farming methods greatly reducing soil erosion, carbon fuel usage, and time. Herbicide-resistant weeds development is still under debate.

4)Claim: Genetic engineering will reduce the use of pesticides.

Fact: This claim is based on the sowing of crops genetically engineered to produce their own pesticides. Such crops produce the pesticide continuously in every cell. Some of these crops (the Bt potato, for example) are actually classified as pesticides by the EPA. The net outcome of sowing pesticide-producing crops is an vast increase in pesticides.

Correction: Bt Toxin is an organically derived toxin from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria. Technically they use various
Cry Delta Endotoxins from Bt. This toxin is essentially a protein based toxin that specifically binds to midgut receptors of specific insects in an alkaline midgut environment.
A) Animals don’t have the proper receptors for binding to occur thus are nontoxic to them.
B) Animals have an Acidic digestive system. Insects have a Basic digestive system. BT Toxins are evolved to resist and function in an alkaline environment and will break down and be converted to amino acids in an animal digestive system and actually provide nutrients to the animal.
C) If i remember correctly the did studies with the Cry Delta Entotoxin in the 1950’s had animals and even people ingest literally tablespoons of the toxin to no noticeable effect(probably would be considered to be unethical under modern standards)
D) Bt toxins being organically derived fully break down over in the environment over time and reduce or eliminate the usage of broader spectrum synthetic pesticides.

5)Claim: Genetic engineering is environmentally friendly.

Fact: The increased quantities of herbicides and pesticides noted above is one strike against this claim. Pollen from genetically engineered crops can be transferred to cultivated and wild relatives over a mile away. This threatens the future of organic crops. It can pass herbicide resistance genes from GE crops to weedy relatives, necessitating the development of more herbicides. Also, the huge areas of genetically identical crops will influence the evolution of local pests and wildlife, and through the food chain, the whole ecology.

Correction: Terminator technology prevent the spread of the Transgenes see above. Genetically identical crops in Not Unique to GM crops. There are currently huge numbers of monoculture or near monoculture crops are in use (eg Banana’s) and will be whether we use GM technology or not.

6)Claim: Genetically engineered foods are just like natural foods.

Fact: There is no natural mechanism for getting insect DNA into potatoes or flounder DNA into tomatoes. Genetically engineered foods are engineered to be different from natural foods. Why else all the patents? This claim is empty sales talk.

Correction: Bt is derived from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria not Insects it kills insects. As for trans-species gene transfer it is thought to occur naturally although at an extremely rare frequency mostly thru viral insertions into genomes.

7)Claim: Genetic engineering is simply an extension of traditional crossbreeding.

Fact: Crossbreeding cannot transfer genes across species barriers. Genetic engineering transfers genes between species that could never be crossbred. Also, crossbreeding lets nature manage the delicate activity of combining the DNA of the parents to form the DNA of the child. Genetic engineering shoots the new gene into the host organism without reference to any holistic principle at all.

Correction: See Correction #6 above. Not all genes are shot into the host organism many transfers are done by the Agrobacterium tumefaciens bacteria and the use of viruses.

8)Claim: Genetic engineering is safe.

Fact: Safety comes from accumulated experience. In the case of genetic engineering, there has not been the time or the public debate essential for accumulating sufficient experience to justify any broad claim to safety.

There is a vast domain of ignorance at the root of the technology:

* The technique for inserting a DNA fragment is sloppy, unpredictable and imprecise.
* The effect of the insertion on the biochemistry of the host organism is unknown.
* The effect of the genetically engineered organism on the environment is unknown.
* The effect of eating genetically engineered foods is unknown.
* There is no basis for meaningful risk assessment.
* There is no recovery plan in case of disaster.
* It is not even clear who, if anyone, will be legally liable for negative consequences.

There is no consensus among scientists on the safety or on the risks associated with genetic engineering in agriculture. The international community is deeply divided on the issue. The claim to safety is a marketing slogan. It has no scientific basis.

The claims for genetic engineering are overblown and misleading. And the polls show that people are suspicious.

Correction: There is consensus of GM safety almost all of the the opposition occurs from people out side of the field. My corrections above point out the chronic use of falsehoods, misinformation, and errors by GM opponents either intentionally, accidentally, or ignorantly. People may be suspicious but that is because of crap like the above link.

2 responses to “GMO: Genetic Engineering – Claims, Facts, Corrections

  1. _ July 22, 2012 at 8:24 am

    There’s some interesting work being done in the field of restoring non-arable land to fertility using grazing herds. Although, considering how bad wheat is for you, I’m not sure if this is a net positive or not.

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