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GMOs: good or bad?





steep
GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms have made our lives simple in many ways. For example, creating featherless chickens, specific disease-resistant animals, etc. But don't you think artificially modifying organisms is making the concept of Darwin's Natural Selection useless?
menino
Personally, to me, I don't see the need to genetically modify the food that we eat.
It just takes a bit more work to pluck the feathers, and avoid the seeds, so genetically modifying food is just making us a little more lazy.
Ankhanu
How could genetic modification of a few species make natural selection "useless"?? Natural selection applies to GMOs as much as it does to unmodified organisms, once they're in the environment. It's not like anthropogenic genetic manipulation trumps natural processes/pressures on an organism/population.
ocalhoun
steep wrote:
But don't you think artificially modifying organisms is making the concept of Darwin's Natural Selection useless?

Not really, but so what if it is?

Through selective breeding over the centuries, we've done quite a lot of unnatural selection, and that hasn't (directly) caused any catastrophes.

Darwin's not a god, and his writings don't have to be taken as scripture.
sanscha
This is not selection, it is modification. Which is to say that we're putting the genes directly in there (modifying the genome) instead of selectively breeding the organisms. But it is far more similar to artificial selection than natural selection. In natural selection, the organisms that pass on their genes are those that can best survive in nature. In artificial selection, the organisms that pass on their genes are the ones allowed/encouraged by humans to reproduce.

Almost every crop grown today is a product of artificial selection. Genetic modification is seen by many as a logical next step in this process which has gone on for thousands of years.

GMOs crops can do some pretty good things (they may produce more nutrients or require less plowing). But there are many potential problems with them. Very common GMOs are "Roundup Ready" crops, which are immune to the common pesticide Roundup. Farmers using Roundup Ready crops can spray their fields with amazing quantities of Roundup and will only kill the weeds, not the crops. This is certainly convenient. It can lead to larger food yields because fewer crops will be lost to the herbicide and fewer weeds will invade the fields. But there are problems with this. First, it encourages farmers to use more Roundup, which is remarkably bad for the environment. Second, genes are known to jump between different species of plants. (This pretty much cannot happen in animals, but is quite common in plants.) If a Roundup-resistant weed strain evolved, farmers will have lost one of their favorite pesticides.

Also, the companies that make GMOs do not have great reputations. Roundup is made by Monsanto, a company that also made Agent Orange. Lately, GMO producers have been accused of taking economic advantage of farmers. In many countries the law says that a farmer who uses GMO seed must pay the company that produced the GMO every season. Many crops are wind-pollinated and farmers cannot predict or control which strain will be on their fields. Some small farmers have been bullied by these large companies because wind carried GMO seeds onto their fields.
Dennise
steep wrote:
GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms have made our lives simple in many ways. For example, creating featherless chickens, specific disease-resistant animals, etc. But don't you think artificially modifying organisms is making the concept of Darwin's Natural Selection useless?


Darwin's theory on evolution - aka natural selection - is what it is: natural selection. Artificial selection is just that: purposeful targeted artificial tinkering, and does not preempt Darwin's excellent principle. it merely alters the steadfast wandering of evolution ..... good, neutral or bad.
Bikerman
I also have a problem with this notion of sanctifying natural selection as some paradigm of nature which should be 'respected'.
Natural selection is a brutal, cruel and extremely wasteful process. It IS 'wonderful' in the sense that it provides a completely 'natural' mechanism to go from simple to complex - ultimately resulting in us - but it is not necessarily (or even normally) the best methodology for us to adopt.
Iceaxe0410
I don't think genetically modified organisms is making Darwin's natural selection useless. If anything it would simply be speeding up the process by what normally would be hundreds or maybe thousands of years of evolution. Eventually, these same creations will likely continue to help us or start to turn against us. We are forcefully moving various organisms up the natural food chain. It will eventually lead to the destruction and extinction of other organisms. It definitely can wreck havoc on various ecosystems and perhaps even our own health.

This is one of the main issues I have with genetically modified organisms, our food supply in particular. You read and hear about new plants that have new traits such as the ability to create their own pesticides. One has to wonder what kind of effect these new plants have on the ecosystem. It would be foolish to assume that this could be contained because there are so many vectors and pollinators that spread the genetic material out over large areas. Eventually, it will displace many of the native plants and perhaps cause more problems in the future. I do worry that it will only speed up the process of other insects to build up new resistances and defenses and start creating "super bugs;" insects that no pesticide or poison can kill. It can easily turn into one of those cheesy horror films. I may be over exaggerating, but the possibility is still there.

In this way, I don't think natural selection will be useless since the same process will be in place. We will create stronger organisms. These stronger organisms will force the adaptation of other organisms to build stronger defenses and we will be left with tougher situations. It will then be up to us to build new technology to counteract these new problems.
Kaitaye
You see, you have a funny kids later. In the food certainly is not anything good out of good crops and the effectiveness of their crops. They use this technology, most companies (see Nestle), also is known to be here any suspicious case. But it's like cannabis - as if doctors say it helps people, but the government is pushing us something else.
Ankhanu
Kaitaye wrote:
You see, you have a funny kids later. In the food certainly is not anything good out of good crops and the effectiveness of their crops. They use this technology, most companies (see Nestle), also is known to be here any suspicious case. But it's like cannabis - as if doctors say it helps people, but the government is pushing us something else.


...


...


... What?
Kaitaye
Sorry for English. I mean that governments and corporations squeeze people crap. You just have to be interested, and you will find many contradictions between their speech and the opinion of experts.
Ankhanu
Well, a good point of practice is to ignore what politicians and business men say, and pay attention to the facts.
Tuvitor
Well, there's always unintended consequences in any endeavor... it's the price of progress. :p

That said, I would much prefer it if we had laws to label GMO foods of any kind, but here in the US it's not mandatory... (at least not in cali, maybe some other states have better laws?)
faginea
My answer to that question it's very simple and short:

Find a GOOD, INDEPENDENT, AND NOT CORPORATE SPONSORED OR PRODUCED documentary on GMO. After watching it, if you are still (or now) pro-GMO I can only assume two things:

1. You're on the GMO business or something related

2. You didn't understand the documentary. Watch it again.

Period.
Ankhanu
faginea wrote:
My answer to that question it's very simple and short:

Find a GOOD, INDEPENDENT, AND NOT CORPORATE SPONSORED OR PRODUCED documentary on GMO. After watching it, if you are still (or now) pro-GMO I can only assume two things:

1. You're on the GMO business or something related

2. You didn't understand the documentary. Watch it again.

Period.


There's a third option:
3. You have a basic understanding of genetics, gene expression and/or gene manipulation

To be clear, the politics and business surrounding GMOs leaves something to be desired, for sure, and many of the companies involved in mass GMO production are less than moral in their dealings... but the science behind GMOs is not scary, it's not flakey, and it's not evil.

The GMO discussion is two-pronged, but most anti-GMO folks only see one.
GMOs aren't a problem per se, but gene copyright, insufficient testing/observation, and monopolizing GMO contracting are.
Ankhanu
Here is a decent (highlighted) post off of Reddit distilling the GMO issue to it's basics; I know people don't like links, so I'll quote it here. There's a lot of familiar content there Razz

lucilletwo on Reddit wrote:

As another lefty and sciency person, I've had this frustrating conversation with probably half my friends by now. I think the fear of it stems primarily from a lack of understanding of what GMO actually is/does, so it's become a conversation around basic intro-level education more than anything else. It reminds me a lot of having to explain the concept of evolution to someone who fought against it but didn't understand what it actually claimed. At this point it goes basically like this:

GMO is a form of technology which allows scientists to take small segments of genetic code from one organism and insert them into the genetic code of another organism. These segments of code are responsible for producing certain characteristics in the original organism which it evolved naturally over millions or billions of year. This is a technology which could be used to create organisms that would then be used for good purposes, bad purposes, neutral purposes, etc. In this way it's no different than any other technology, in that it can be harnessed for the purposes of the user.

We have in fact been modifying plants and animals to suit our needs since the dawn of agrarian civilization, by selecting for agriculture which randomly mutates in a direction we find beneficial (bigger produce, more pest resistance, etc). The difference is that in the past we had to rely on the random nature of mutation and then pick the best, while with GMO we can intentionally grab genetic code which has already evolved in other ecological niches and use it wherever it makes sense.

So, what can we do with GMO?
Create healthier agricultural products. Inserting genes that code for the retention/production of nutrients like Vitamin A, β-Carotene, Iron, Iodine, etc would allow us to turn staple calorie-rich foods into healthier "superfoods".
Create more robust agricultural products. This could take the form of natural pest resistance (to drastically reduce the use of pesticides, which have harmful side effects), resilience in the face of droughts and temperature extremes (reducing waste), and longer lasting produce (reducing spoilage).
Boost yields in every dimension. More produce per land used, more produce per fertilizer used, more produce per water used, more food per CO2 expended by farming equipment, etc. To be clear, this is a green initiative. More food with lower footprint.

So, why do people fight against it?
Mansanto. This company gets a terrible name due to their business practices (creating expensive dependencies, suing farmers, aggressive IP litigation, etc). Unfortunately this negativity has bled over to GMO as a general technology, because they are such a huge name in the industry today. Think of it like cable companies... everyone hates their cable company, but it's not because we hate cable or internet, it's because we hate the poor customer service and obnoxious business practices of our company specifically. Today Monsanto is the big name in GMO, and they suck. But that doesn't mean GMO sucks.
Fear of unforeseen consequences. One common claim is that crop blights would do more damage resulting from lack of genetic diversity (the claim is often made that GMO crops will all be the same so they might all get killed off at once if the right disease hits). This one is particularly misguided in my mind because GMO is creating genetic diversity faster than we've ever had it before, and because it gives us tools to target and fight blights we've never had before. If we have to rely on the arduous and random process of natural mutation to increase genetic variance in our products, we are approaching the danger of crop blights with one hand tied behind our back.
Argument in favor of customer choice. The "natural living" idea is big and growing in western culture, and along with it things like all-organic, vegan, paleo, etc diets. One of the arguments against GMO from this side is that it will reduce their ability to chose a "natural" lifestyle as GMO products proliferate and become commonplace.
GMO as a technology could be intentionally used for nefarious purposes (engineering of more effective biological weapons, for example). This is completely separate from agriculture, though you will find some people that argue against researching GMO technology at all out of fear. This is not a viewpoint I hold.

The bottom line? GMO as a technology is not intrinsically good or bad. It has the potential to do very many good things and to avoid every one of the bad things depending on how it is implemented. It also has the potential to do just the opposite.

So, why do I support the concept of GMO? Besides all of the potential benefits of developing GMO agriculture I already listed, ultimately we live in a global society, which means we certainly aren't going to stop companies and governments around the world from developing and harnessing this technology whether we like it or not. So what do we do to prevent the Monsantos of the world from screwing us over? Throw ourselves into it head first and foster an environment of competition, innovation, and oversight/regulation. Embrace and invest in developing this technology for good, so that we can be healthier, feed more people around the world (not just empty calories, but nutrients as well), and do it all with lower impact to the environment.


"It reminds me a lot of having to explain the concept of evolution to someone who fought against it but didn't understand what it actually claimed." - Man, I've certainly thought exactly this a few times about the subject/discussion.
Vanilla
Ankhanu wrote:
Here is a decent (highlighted) post off of Reddit distilling the GMO issue to it's basics; I know people don't like links, so I'll quote it here. There's a lot of familiar content there Razz


Use to have a teacher who was a pretty decent guy, but hated GMOs. His reason was the Monsanto one. But he was speaking to a whole class how GMOs were bad for everyone and how we should stand against them and I was like "Are you freaking serious??" See, this is hating without even knowing the facts. I tried to argue but his reply was always "Monsanto is evil therefore GMOs are evil!". Think about it: 30 future vets being influenced by his fear of Monsanto.
Ankhanu
Yeah, it's kinda scary how prevalent that sort of thing is.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro- nor anti- GMO; it's a technology and the applications of said technology and how that influences ethics are nuanced. There is good, responsible application of the tech, and there is irresponsible application of the tech. BUT what I do aim for is people objecting or supporting for the right reasons... the business of GMO and the science of GMO are separate discussion points. I'm perfectly fine with the concept of GMOs, but, recently a job was posted working with Monsanto... I've been unemployed since August, but I refused to apply due to my business ethics. Damn I could use the job money, though Razz

Even the subject of GMOs that won't produce viable seeds is a nuanced topic. Most see it as a simple abuse of power by Monsanto, forcing poor farmers to be reliant upon their product, unable to save seeds for subsequent years... However, from an ecological standpoint, you couldn't hope for much better; these GMOs wouldn't (meaningfully) escape into the surround ecosystems, couldn't hybridize with the wild or non-GMO populations, and couldn't spread... they would be contained to where they're planted... that's great! Of course, the business aspect is the main focus, as, perhaps it should be, but things aren't entirely clean-cut.

Rage against Monsanto... but don't mistake the topic of GMO with Monsanto and its business practices.
joshuajack
I have always wanted to know what exactly are you talking about, please explain to me?
Bikerman
Support those claims or the posting will be deleted. I have heard this sort of thing from various protesters, but when I checked on Monsanto I found NOTHING to even get close to these accusations of dishonesty.
You are also deeply confused. Monsanto engineer some GMOs but they are just one player and their GMOs are neither parasitic nor designed to be human.

On these boards if you accuse, you SUPPORT the accusation or is falls.
rafaht
My study area is Biotechnology and I study very much GMOs and bioethics.
For answer of your question, I say depends. In a some cases, GMOs can be reflect on benefits to society, like the vegetables with a prague resistant (diminution of agrotoxics), more plant growth and decrease of production lost.
Bacterial and fungal GMOs permits modifications to improve the efficiency of some activities of those organisms, like better productions of determined products with much substrate or extreme conditions. Permits too create organisms that degrade the bad components for others organisms, like the xenobiotics (bioremediation organisms)...
GMO permits too make viral and bacterial organismos without the virulence factor, to more studies of these organisms, as well as, decrease of virulence factor. Permits too produce medications for humans and animals, like Human Recombinant Insulin, Growth Hormons, enzymes to diseases like envolves the defficiency of this, etc...

The application of this technology, if observes the bioethics aspects and legal aspects, will be benefits and bring gains to population that use this tech.
Iceaxe0410
I think GMO's could go either way. There is opportunity for negative effects, but overall it aims towards positive outcomes. Negative effects might include unintended consequences such as changing the ecosystem around the crops. It's obvious that crops cannot be contained 100% and start affecting local life and maybe even globally. Unfortunately, I don't think there is any way to really know for sure until the long term effects start to show themselves.

In the end, it might be our main defense against insects and pests that build resistances to chemicals and pesticides. At the same time, it could also speed up the process by limiting our options. If anything, I think the negative effects will likely not show itself for quite some time which may give us enough time to develop new methods or technology to prevent or combat those negative consequences.
Bikerman
[Mod]
Please note, your opinion is worth as much here as mine is - and that is nothing. Support assertions with data and cite appropriately, but don't just post 'I think X' because I don't care and nor will any scientist.
[/Mod]
Agil1ty
steep wrote:
GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms have made our lives simple in many ways. For example, creating featherless chickens, specific disease-resistant animals, etc. But don't you think artificially modifying organisms is making the concept of Darwin's Natural Selection useless?


It's good, as we also study many diseases with GMOs... Protein knockouts and stuff..
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