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Oh, no! Zombie Hitler is speechifying to death squads!

Mike Adams of Natural News has gone a little too far. In addition to his usual pseudoscience, useless “medicine”, and bizarre diet advice, he’s really pissed off at promoters of GMO foods. Now I’m no fan of Monsanto — corporate agriculture is a self-serving institution where profit is king and locking farmers into second-rate solutions is a business strategy — but GMOs are really not that scary. Yet the Adams paranoia has him ranting away and comparing scientists to Nazi war criminals. Really.

Just as history needed to record the names and deeds of Nazi war criminals, so too must all those collaborators who are promoting the death and destruction caused by GMOs be named for the historical record. The true extent of their collaboration with an anti-human regime will all become readily apparent once the GMO delusion collapses and mass global starvation becomes an inescapable reality.

That’s offensive hyperbole and also cartoonishly stupid — the Nazi accusation is so tired we even have a rule to summarize it — and it’s unjustified. There’s no sign that GMOs will suddenly collapse; they’re just plants with a few genes added, you know, and that it’s done artificially and with intent doesn’t make them any worse than getting the same result by chance recombination and mutation.

But Adams takes the next step.

Interestingly, just yesterday German President Joachim Gauck celebrated the lives of those brave Nazi officers who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. (1) Their attempted Wolf’s Lair bombing failed, but it was an honorable attempt to rid the world of tremendous evil by killing one of the people responsible for it.

This official ceremony sends a message to the world, and that official message from the nation of Germany to the rest of the world is that “it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.”

Obviously, if molecular biologists and geneticists are just like Hitler, then the ‘health’ wackos justified in assassinating them. And the German President has just told everyone that it’s OK! They’ve got both the moral high ground, and the excuse that they were just following the orders of the German leadership!

Comments

  1. thewhollynone says

    I followed your link to Ms. Raff’s article. Very interesting. This Adams fellow does sound a bit off the rails in spite of his disclaimer. Seems like too many people want to be a Glen Beck these days and say whatever, but be held blameless for the consequences.

  2. Anselm Lingnau says

    Just for the record, the German federal president said no such thing as »it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.« The guy used to be a Protestant minister in the GDR, and you won’t find him advocating anyone be killed anytime soon, for pretty much whatever reason. Our Protestant ministers generally go very easy on the fire and brimstone.

    The other thing worth mentioning is that, unlike in the US, in Germany the federal president has nothing to do with the day-to-day workings of the government. He is the ceremonial head of state but is not supposed to engage in partisan politics. In other words, if President Obama thinks he is obliged to kill somebody engaged in heinous crimes against humanity, he calls the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (or for that matter the director of the CIA) to make suitable arrangements. President Gauck has no such power because he is neither the commander-in-chief of the German military (the way President Obama is the CinC of the US military) nor is he entitled to tell the government what they should do. Which means that on an occasion like this he gets to make a solemn speech extolling personal responsibility, conscience, and the rule of law, but that doesn’t imply that what he says is official German policy.

  3. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Oh Holy Heartbreak, Batman!

    Locking people into 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) rate solutions for profit *is* wrong.

    But don’t anyone try to defend this statement by Adams. It’s a monstrosity.

    @Anselm Lingnau:
    The USAliens will be familiar with the role of the German president (and, indeed, the presidents of most democratic countries with parliamentary systems, which is most democratic countries) by comparison to the US Vice-President. Largely the same job.

  4. stever says

    It’s worth pointing out to anyone who gets all aflutter over genetically-modified food crops that all domestic plants and animals have been genetically modified from their wild forms. It’s just that we can do it faster and more precisely now, insteadof relying on luck and patience (as in most of human history) or zapping organisms with ionizing radiation and throwing away most of the results.

  5. Varun Prasad says

    “they’re just plants with a few genes added, you know, and that it’s done artificially and with intent doesn’t make them any worse than getting the same result by chance recombination and mutation”

    This isn’t exactly true though, is it. Sure, whether the genes are added naturally or with intent does not influence the effects of eating the plants, but it sure does make a difference on whether the food is patentable…

    While most anti-GMO types are terribly non-scientific, the real problem with GMO foods isn’t the science, but the fact that it makes it possible for corporations to own our food. And with the increasing monoculture, we may be completely dependent on patented seeds and plants in the not so distant future.

    Which is a scary thought.

  6. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    … the real problem with GMO foods isn’t the science, but the fact that it makes it possible for corporations to own our food. And with the increasing monoculture, we may be completely dependent on patented seeds and plants in the not so distant future.

    Which is a scary thought.

    Yep. I’d be happy to hear that there is sufficient genetic diversity in GMO crops for the long term health of the crop and that increases crop rotation and field diversification were minimizing crop loss without use of pesticides, etc., etc. But until there is data that convinces me that we have a then-current legal scheme sufficient to prevent the imposition of a new feudalism through the periodic introduction of new genes in already patented crops, I’m going to have serious, serious concerns about this shit.

  7. says

    One of the regulars at a lunch group I attend resides in an assisted-living community. An assistant arrives at the end of lunch to pick him up and drive him home. Sometimes the assistant arrives early and hangs out for a bit while the group is gradually breaking up. Last week the assistant took the opportunity to “explain” to us that “fat people are starving.” That’s right. It’s because they’ve consumed too much GMO food. Food based on GMOs, you see, have no nutritional value. Therefore people have to eat and eat and eat (all in vain!) to try to obtain vital nutrients even as they obesely starve to death. (I think I’m supposed to insert many, many exclamation points now.) It was quite enlightening and I can’t help but wonder how many of the other employees of my friend’s living community have as much knowledge and expertise on GMOs. (And, oh yeah, they cause cancer, too.)

    That assistant needs to be kept busier so that he doesn’t arrive early.

  8. says

    @Varun Prasad: That’s a legal issue, though, not a biological issue. Unfortunately, because of people like Adams, the GMO debate doesn’t revolve around patents or monocultures, it’s all about “OMG Monsanto is poisoning us with mad science!”

  9. says

    Oh FFS. Adams sounds like the anti-abortion extremists that encouraged people to shoot doctors who provide abortion services.

    NO. Just no.

    Adams is guilty of inciting violence.

  10. David Marjanović says

    They’ve got both the moral high ground, and the excuse that they were just following the orders of the German leadership!

    ROTFLMAO! Day saved.

  11. Leo T. says

    @8: It’s also an issue that’s largely independent of GMOs; seed patents could (and do) just as easily exist for crops that have never undergone any sort of direct genetic modification (as opposed to more conventional techniques such as crossbreeding).

    The same can be said about monocultures. I mean, I’m pretty sure Ireland didn’t have genetically modified potatoes back in the 1840s.

  12. David Marjanović says

    The USAliens will be familiar with the role of the German president (and, indeed, the presidents of most democratic countries with parliamentary systems, which is most democratic countries) by comparison to the US Vice-President. Largely the same job.

    Good idea!

    There are pretty large differences among parliamentary systems. The German president, like the US veep, is elected directly; unlike the veep, he’s the “notary of state”, documenting that laws have come about in a constitutional manner and doing pretty much nothing else except for ceremonial functions. The Austrian president next door is elected directly and is a curious kind of Ersatzkaiser: he has a number of theoretical powers that translate to little in reality. He’s the commander-in-chief of an army that has never seen war (unless we count UN peacekeeping missions). He appoints the government (the administration); in theory he could appoint the Seven Wisest Men in the Kingdom, but a government that loses a vote in parliament is ipso facto fired, so the president always first asks the leader of the strongest party to form a government and present it for mere confirmation. He can even dissolve the parliament – but that triggers parliamentary elections, and if the same majorities form again (or something), the president is automatically fired, so this has never happened. He is able to legitimize illegitimate children (no idea if that’s actually done). Every year he sets a few prisoners free (“Christmas amnesty”). And so on.

    (No women have been president in either country so far.)

  13. David Marjanović says

    The German president, like the US veep, is elected directly

    What the fuck? I’m not legally sane today. The German president, unlike the US veep and the Austrian president, is not elected directly, but by parliament.

  14. numerobis says

    The Austrian president seems like the British Queen: in theory, very powerful; in practice, mostly harmless.

    In Canada we have a level of indirection to make the queen even more useless: since she can’t possibly be expected to sail on her galleon to Ottawa to rule, and it would take too long to send all the laws by carrier pigeon to London and back for her to sign, she names a governor-general (by convention, choosing freely among the recommendation of one person that the prime minister sends her), who has all the no real powers that she has, but only when she’s out of town which is almost always.

    Maybe someday all this extra fluff will save us in a time of disorder, but I’m not convinced. After all, Belgium is doing fine despite its government being in shambles.

  15. AlexanderZ says

    VP #5:

    the real problem with GMO foods isn’t the science, but the fact that it makes it possible for corporations to own our food

    That’s true, but “golden rice” has shown that even when no corporations will in any way profit from a much needed GM crop, Greenpeace and other usual suspects will still do anything in their power to prevent people from getting food.

  16. says

    My main beefs with GMO are the reasons why cropstuffs are being modified.

    Some crops are modified to be highly resistant to very toxic herbicides — which are, not coincidentally, manufactured and sold by the corporations modifying the crops. The end result is that agribusinesses can use greater concentrations of more toxic poisons, with very little inspection to establish that the poisons are completely removed before entering the food chain. Worse, there is evidence that this resistance is spreading into wild plants, creating an arms race of more and more toxic herbicides.

    Some crops are modified to produce high levels of pesticides within the plants. As with all plant-produced products, concentrations can vary widely depending on climate and soil conditions. Given that many of these pesticides have been poorly tested for human safety, or not tested at all, there is no way to know what will happen over the long term. Worse, this practice kills off insects susceptible to the poison while allowing resistant insects to survive and multiply. The result is, again, an arms race that will require our foodstuffs to become more and more poisonous.

    Some crops are modified to be sterile, preventing farmers from engaging in the ancient practice of reserving seed from one season so it can be used the next. This forces farmers to buy seed every single year, cutting the viability of family farming and forcing more and more of the world’s agriculture into massive agribusiness conglomerates.

    Of course, these are not mutually exclusive: Monsanto has several strains of wheat that are both sterile and resistant to the Monsanto herbicide Round-Up. And, of course, all of these variations are patented, so the company can sue for patent infringement if anything does get planted without a license.

    There are more than enough reasons to oppose GM crops. Only the willfully ignorant need to make shit up.

  17. kaleberg says

    It’s this kind of thing that gives war criminals a good name. Wasn’t it another German war criminal, Fritz Haber, who developed the mechanism now used to fix nitrogen for over 1/2 of all crops grown these days? If this goes on, we’ll be celebrating War Criminal Appreciation Day, as nauseating as it sounds.

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    Had the Wolf’s Lair bomb attack succeeded 70 years ago, Germany would have replaced an increasingly unstable and self-taught military leader with one better trained and more realistic. That by itself would not have changed the final outcome of World War II, but quite likely might have made it drag on even longer, with greater destruction and higher casualties on all sides.

    The plotters may deserve recognition for their courage and good intentions (though not for their planning, competence, or luck), but by 1942 Hitler had become more of a liability than an asset to the German war drive. Those celebrating the Allied victory should also build a monument to Dr. Theo Morell, the quack whose toxic treatments contributed greatly to Hitler’s growing incapacitation in his final years.

  19. AsqJames says

    AlexanderZ @16,

    Greenpeace and other usual suspects will still do anything in their power to prevent people from getting food.

    While that may be a little harsh, Greenpeace are currently trying to get the new EU President to sack his Chief Scientific Adviser over her advice on GMOs (see here). This would be the same Greenpeace which produced a report titled “Dealing in Doubt – The Climate Denial Machine vs. Climate Science” castigating those who, for ideological & financial reasons, refuse to accept what scientists are telling them.

  20. wilsim says

    @GregoryinSeattle #16.

    I agree with almost everything you wrote, except this part

    “Some crops are modified to be sterile, preventing farmers from engaging in the ancient practice of reserving seed from one season so it can be used the next. This forces farmers to buy seed every single year, cutting the viability of family farming and forcing more and more of the world’s agriculture into massive agribusiness conglomerates.”

    Which has been shown to be false.
    Farmers buy seed year after year, for example, corn/maize, because commercial corn is a hybrid of two distant lines and the second generation will not be the same as the original. Farmers know that if they save the seed from these hybrid crops that each subsequent year of saving and using the seeds will render poorer crops.

    From Monsanto themselves – http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/terminator-seeds.aspx

    My google-fu must be broken because I cannot seem to find a link regarding use of saved seeds vs buying new every year.

  21. kieran says

    If I grow barley on a commercial level I do not save seed! This is only a common practice among subsistence farmers not commercial farmers in the US or Europe.

    There is smart GM like the wheat produced by Rothamsted which produced a pheromone to attract aphids predator when attacked.

    Then there is dumb GM which is making your crop roundup ready, it’s pretty much the equivalent of over use of antibiotics. Weed species can and have become round up resistant not through gene transfer but just over use of roundup.

    All of what we eat has been modified through selective breeding and I fail to see a major difference between targeted gene manipulation and a camel hair brush. Ones a lot more accurate but still requires many years of breeding to see if you’ve successful pretty much the same as traditional means.

    Teagasc in Ireland got threats for it’s blight resistant potato, which had a gene from a wild variety of potato inserted, if it had been done through traditional crossbreeding it would’ve have been hailed as a break through but since it used gm tech it was nearly ripped from the ground before testing could occur

  22. lorn says

    “[H]einous crimes against humanity” … makes you sound so virile … manly. I know a couple of women who would find that sexy, in a nihilistic sort of way.

  23. chrislawson says

    Sigh. Every few months when a GMO post goes up on FTB we see the same old fallacies trotted out. I think things are improving, but by gum it’s slow.

    1. Monsanto owns the Roundup brand, but it no longer owns the patent on glyphosate. Their last patent expired in 2000, which means the conspiracy theory that Monsanto is just trying to lock users into Roundup use is now 14 years past its expiry date.

    2. Using herbicide-resistant crops actually *reduces* the use of herbicides. If you understand anything about agriculture and evolution of resistance, you will understand why this is so. Essentially, if Monsanto promotes overuse of Roundup, then herbicide resistance will make glyphosate useless (thereby ruining the value of both Roundup and Roundup Ready GMOs).

    3. Even if Monsanto has a complete lock on its patented seeds, there are thousands of non-patented seeds out there that farmers have been using since long before GMO technology was even thought of.

    Again, like PZ, I’m not suggesting we sit around a campfire with Monsanto and sing “Kumbaya” together. Monsanto is a powerful multinational corporation with significant intellectual property holdings that have a major influence on environmental management. But all of the problems with GMO technology are political, not scientific, and it’s dishonest of GMO protesters to pretend otherwise.

  24. Dylan Moses says

    Then there is dumb GM which is making your crop roundup ready, it’s pretty much the equivalent of over use of antibiotics. Weed species can and have become round up resistant not through gene transfer but just over use of roundup.

    I’m not saying this is necessary wrong but I think it is more complicated than you state. Herbicide resistance in weeds are produced by non RR crops as well. In fact in this blog post by a weed researcher suggests gm crops are no worse at producing “super” weeds. http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2013/05/superweed/

    Add to that glyphosate is more environmentally friendly than other herbicides and round up allows fewer applications saving fuel.

  25. AstrySol says

    @chrislawson #26

    Yeah, it’s so frustrating (although much better than last time already).

    And this article from Skepchick is so damn right.

    I want the Religious Right out of my bedroom and the White Liberal Food Police out of my kitchen. Is that so much to ask?

    Obviously for now it’s still too much. But I can hope, right?

  26. lochaber says

    I’m somewhat glad this discussion is hitting most of the major GMO-controversy talking points, as all too often, many of the discussions I’ve come across seem to ignore a few points or so, and just hit on their own special favored pet-peeves.

    All too often, I feel like the pro-GMO folk tend to ignore some of the legal/political problems with the corps pushing GMO stuff.

    And then all-too often, the anti-GMO side just doesn’t seem to have any clue how biology, or even science works. : /

    One question I’ve heard brought up (although rarely…), but not answered, is how GMOs involving genes to produce certain proteins from vastly different taxonomic organisms; how will that affect people with food allergies? Granted, if this could be an actual issue, I think there could be a fairly simple legal work-around that would just involve proper labeling or something. Unfortunately, if the current attitudes prevail, I could see there being a lot of opposition to necessary labeling for issues like this.

    If anyone knows anything about this issue (hopefully nonissue?), I’d appreciate some input.

  27. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    As I understand it, and IANAB, some proteins simply couldn’t cause allergies, if eaten.

    Maybe it’s a protein common to animals and plants which is fundamental to a biological process and so organisms that negatively react to it (in an allergic or other sense) just plain die (for mammals, the egg may get fertilized, but the resulting cell won’t be a viable blastocyst and it’s likely no one will ever know fertilization occurred).

    Maybe it’s a protein with a structure that before hitting the bloodstream is readily broken down into amino acids, which are, of necessity, safe.

    Maybe it’s a protein that doesn’t break down to amino acids before hitting the bloodstream, but there is a breaking down into smaller pieces, and those smaller pieces are known to be safe.

    Or maybe it’s that our immune systems have limited classes of proteins that they recognize because nearly/ all pathogens will have one or more exposed protein within that class, so recognizing limited classes is sufficient to target pathogens. Given that, one could simply identify whether the protein falls into a class that he immune system is even capable, theoretically, of recognizing – the first step before reacting.

    Any or all of those could be correct, I don’t know, but I suspect that some mechanisms like these are responsible for limiting potential allergens. Someone who actually knows their crap could then regulate the transfer of genes that are potential allergens differently from genes that (for whatever reason, including one of the above if I’m accidentally correct) have no potential to spark an allergic reaction.

    But I don’t even know how tanning happens, much less how to describe, from leukocyte production to death, the factors and processes of anaphylaxis. So grab your sodium hydroxide and your hydrochloric acid and mix ‘em up. No titration! You’re going to need a lot of reaction product.

  28. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    David said: The German president, like the US veep, is elected directly

    Then David said: What the fuck? I’m not legally sane today. The German president, unlike the US veep and the Austrian president, is not elected directly, but by parliament.

    I thought you simply dropped a “not”.

    The US veep is NOT directly elected.

  29. originalantigenicsin says

    @29 lochaber

    GMOs involving genes to produce certain proteins from vastly different taxonomic organisms; how will that affect people with food allergies?

    When eaten these proteins will induce oral tolerance. This tolerance can of course be broken or the mechanisms leading to oral tolerance can be impaired. But there is no dependence on taxonomic distance to the proteins in “normal” food in the development of allergies (because that isn’t something the immune system can recognize). Of course there is the possiblity of cross-reactions for people who already have one or more allergies. Again, this isn’t dependent on taxonomic distance, but on similarity between epitopes .

  30. Anselm Lingnau says

    The US veep is NOT directly elected.

    Neither is the German Federal president elected »by parliament«. We have a »federal assembly« that is convened every five years specifically for electing the president (and nothing else). This consists of the members of the Bundestag (the directly elected chamber of our parliament) plus the same number of delegates elected by the state legislatures. These delegates can essentially be anybody – not just politicians but usually also other prominent public figures such as artists or athletes –, and they’re allowed to vote as they wish, but the makeup of the federal assembly normally follows the proportions of the individual legislatures because every party gets to nominate however many people and they tend to pick ones who they’re reasonably sure will vote for whoever it is that the party in question favours.
    Normally the person who ends up as Federal president is an elder-statesman type of character (in spite of attempts to the contrary we haven’t had a female president so far) and is not supposed to be partisan. To be eligible for the post one must be a German citizen and at least 40 years old. The current incumbent, Mr Gauck, was elected after the previous president stepped down after allegations of corruption during his tenure as prime minister of the state of Lower Saxony (of which he was recently acquitted in court); Mr Gauck, who is not politically aligned and after the German reunification used to be in charge of the agency administering the leftover Stasi records, was put forward as a consensus candidate by a very broad coalition that included most parliamentary parties except the very right-wing and left-wing ones, and won the election by a very wide margin.

  31. Anri says

    chrislawson @ 26:

    Again, like PZ, I’m not suggesting we sit around a campfire with Monsanto and sing “Kumbaya” together. Monsanto is a powerful multinational corporation with significant intellectual property holdings that have a major influence on environmental management. But all of the problems with GMO technology are political, not scientific, and it’s dishonest of GMO protesters to pretend otherwise.

    Let me preface this comment with a disclaimer that may be longer than the message – my apologies for that.
    I work at Monsanto. Not, strictly speaking, for Monsanto – I’m contracting – but (save for my personal finances) that’s largely a distinction without a difference. I am not, however, involved in PR or anything like that, nor am I being in any way recompensed for my efforts posting here. My boss doesn’t know I post here, and wouldn’t care if he did. There are corporate guidelines for social media interactions, and I’ve read them, they pretty much boil down to “Be polite, factual, and personal and Let people know where you work”.
    That all being said, if this information makes me a paid shill in anyone’s opinion, I urge them to ignore my comment on this – or any – topic. Thanks.

    Ok, it’s actually worth noting that Monsanto is not the only producer of GM seeds in the world – they certainly don’t have a monopoly – and that the bulk of their business is conventionally bred seed varieties (which is to say, seeds that have been treated with mutagenic chemicals or radiation and then cross-bred).
    Monsanto is easy to use as the ‘face’ of GM crops by their opponents, as the corporation certainly produced some ethically worrisome products back when they were a chemical company.
    That’s not what they produce anymore, but the taint of it still clings to the name.

    It’s also worth noting that Monsanto can’t sell what farmers ain’t buyin’.
    So, if you’re concerned about GM crop proliferation but assume the seed companies are too powerful to stop, contact your local farmers and discuss their seed purchases with them. Inform them of what they are actually buying and planting*. That’s perhaps less attractive from a PR perspective, but if farmers don’t buy GM seed, it won’t get sold, won’t get produced, and won’t get researched.

    *(This presumes, of course, that you know more about the ramifications of the food production than the people actually doing the food production, which is certainly possible.)

  32. imaginggeek says

    One question I’ve heard brought up (although rarely…), but not answered, is how GMOs involving genes to produce certain proteins from vastly different taxonomic organisms; how will that affect people with food allergies?
    It wont. Food allergies are a mis-directed immune response against an antigen (usually a protein, but can be other things) found in a food item. Unless the person had a pre-existing allergy to the protein(s) added in the GMO food the risk of allergy would be no different than the risk of allergy any time that person tried a new food of any sort (which, needless to say, is quite low – otherwise we’d all be dead).

    Our non-responsiveness to food antigens is due to a process called “oral tolerance”. Its a somewhat complex process, but the short version would be that the immune cells in our guts produce an environment where the “default” immune response is to tolerize against antigens (e.g. immune cells that react to consumed antigens are either rendered inert or are outright killed). As such, any food-derived antigens should lead to a near-permanent non-responsiveness to that food. Immune responses in the gut are limited to situations where there is signs of damage to the gut in addition to foreign antigens – e.g. epithelial damage plus signs of infection. Believe it or not, there are actually cells in your guts (M-cells) whose sole job is to pump intact bits of food and bacteria across the gut epithelium so that your immune cells can encounter them – something to keep in mind the next time a wellness expert starts ranting about having a “leaky gut”…

  33. says

    I will just weigh in to reinforce a couple of points. Actually existing GMO crops aren’t drought or salt tolerant or neutriceuticals or any of those other purportedly good things claimed by advocates. They do one thing and one thing only, and that is increase the use of pesticides, specifically glyphosate in the case of Roundup Ready crops and insecticides in the case of crops that produce their own. All the latter does is save you the trouble of spraying and remove the option of using less if it isn’t needed. All the former does is make you use more glyphosate. After a while the pests become resistant and the GMO crops are worthless.

    So it isn’t just a matter of making farming more capital intensive and locking farmers into a contractual relationship with Monsanto that disadvantages them financially, although that is true. It is a matter of environmental damage and yes, pesticides are toxic to humans as well as invertebrates and fish. (BTW the “inactive” ingredients in Roundup include toxic surfactants which kill fish larvae, among other harms. They aren’t even regulated.)

    So yeah, this guy with the Nazi analogies is over the top, but the industry should be criticized, and the regulatory regime is inadequate. Those aren’t nutty opinions, they require serious discussion and consideration.

  34. imaginggeek says

    After a while the pests become resistant and the GMO crops are worthless.
    The oldest still-approved GMO crop – roundup-ready soyabeans – has been grown since 1996 and remains valuable today – and, as others have noted above, with no worse outcomes in terms of resistant pests than non-GMO equivalents. I’d say your claim doesn’t pass the reality test.

    Many GMO crops are enhanced for more than pesticide resistance. High-yield canola (more oil from less panted area) as well as canola with a modified oil composition are both common. Non-chemical resistance to viral and bacterial pathogens is available in many crops. Drought-resistant sugar cane and sugar beets with increased sugar content are available, and so forth.

  35. says

    Glyphosate resistant weeds are more and more prevalent. And the properties that you mention account for a tiny fraction of GMO crops. Yes, maybe some of these crops are available but that’s beside the point. They are scarcely used. A given GMO crop may or may not be a good thing in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t make GMO crops immune from specific criticisms in specific cases, nor does it demonstrate that the industry as a whole is a net benefit to humanity. Maybe it could be, but so far it isn’t.

  36. Ewan R says

    Normal disclaimer up front, I work for Monsanto, the views contained herein are entirely the product of my own mind and not those of my corporate overlords (lizard or otherwise)
    Gonna jump on a couple of things PZ says first, and then continue through the comments in typical tl;dr fashion.

    profit is king and locking farmers into second-rate solutions is a business strategy

    Nobody is locked into anything. Farmers purchase seed from seed companies based on the return it will bring them, not because they’re locked into anything – likewise they purchase traits based on similar needs. If Monsanto had the capacity to lock farmers into a system then everyone would be using SmartStax seeds and only using the highest priced hybrids. As things stand there is huge demand for VT2 and VT3 in regions where farmers see smartstax as overkill and oddly enough those are offered up for use (because farmers get kinda upset if a company tries to dictate anything to them, and will happily tell their seed rep to go stuff it while he calls the Pioneer guy out to furnish seed). So while you chide Adams for his cartoonish stupidity and hyperbole (which undoubtedly he has in spades) you may also want to check your own (far muted) version thereof.

    Now on to the comments somewhat…

    #6 – Crip Dyke

    Yep. I’d be happy to hear that there is sufficient genetic diversity in GMO crops for the long term health of the crop

    GMOs don’t alter the genetic diversity of the crop at all, corn and soy are as diverse as they would be with, or without genetic modification (I currently work in breeding, and we have very diverse germplasm – constantly being developed to be resistant (through conventional breeding techniques) to whatever the new upcoming threats to crops are (I believe that Goss’ wilt is the big one at present)

    #17 Gregory in Seattle

    Some crops are modified to be highly resistant to very toxic herbicides

    Seems that each time this debate come around you have had some sort of memory reset, that or you don’t actually read any responses at all. Currently the predominant herbicide for which genetic modification has been used to provide resistance is glyphosate. To characterize glyphosate as very toxic is utterly stupid.

    which are, not coincidentally, manufactured and sold by the corporations modifying the crops.

    How Machiavellian of them. Although glyphosate is now off patent and has been for some time – farmers can purchase glyphosate from whatever source they wish. Also all the big players in ag biosciences are currently developing traits with resistance to herbicides they don’t actually manufacture themselves, so your point isn’t entirely true.

    Given that many of these pesticides have been poorly tested for human safety, or not tested at all, there is no way to know what will happen over the long term.

    More silliness, this time on Cry proteins – we know how Cry proteins work. They are only active in the alkaline gut of insects. They also specifically target a protein only found in the guts of a certain subset of insects. But hey, why let decades of scientific literature on Cry proteins get in the way of a good story right?

    The result is, again, an arms race that will require our foodstuffs to become more and more poisonous.

    I note you conveniently ignore a couple aspects here. First, that the introduction of Bt crops led to massive reductions in the use of broad spectrum insecticides (ie our foodstuffs became less poisonous, although this is a rather meaningless distinction as the levels of insecticide in end product would be utterly insignificant anyway – what is more important is that applicators and non-target insects are less impacted) Second that it is utterly possible and indeed probable that other methods which are equally non toxic can and will be developed to replace older modes of action (there are already new modes of action in development for corn root worm, for instance, which have no plausible method of toxicity to humans and work by an utterly different mode of action) Arms races are a given, true, but that doesn’t mean one needs to simply give up, one keeps working on outsmarting the opposition and developing strategies that delay resistance as much as possible.

    Some crops are modified to be sterile, preventing farmers from engaging in the ancient practice of reserving seed from one season so it can be used the next.

    You are a liar.

    Monsanto has several strains of wheat that are both sterile and resistant to the Monsanto herbicide Round-Up.

    There is no GM wheat on the market. You are, once again, a liar.

    Only the willfully ignorant need to make shit up.

    This would explain why you’ve made shit up.

    #36 cervantes

    Actually existing GMO crops aren’t drought or salt tolerant

    Mostly true… Droughtgard from Monsanto does actually contain a drought tolerance gene (which is used in conjunction with bred for drought tolerance)

    They do one thing and one thing only, and that is increase the use of pesticides

    Except of course if you look at insect resistant crops in which case they reduce the use of pesticides. The increase in herbicide use is only true on a pounds of active ingredient measure however, and not, it would appear, on an environmental impact level (the RR system is less impactful than the herbicide regimes it replaced) – I’d rather apply more and have less impact than apply less and have more impact (I would, for instance, take 500mg of ibuprofen rather than 50mg of Oxycodone to relieve a headache)

    All the latter does is save you the trouble of spraying and remove the option of using less if it isn’t needed

    (referencing IR crops)

    Well, it has also been massively economically advantageous to US agriculture as a whole, as well as massively reducing spraying of toxic insecticides in cotton production in India and China. But who cares about any of that right?

    All the former does is make you use more glyphosate. After a while the pests become resistant and the GMO crops are worthless.

    Does one not use something because at some future point it may no longer be worth using? Seems a rather odd approach to me.

    locking farmers into a contractual relationship with Monsanto that disadvantages them financially

    Ah, the old “farmers are stupid” approach – if farmers were disadvantaged financially by the adoption of GM crops… farmers wouldn’t adopt GM crops.

    It is a matter of environmental damage

    It can be. Roundup and other glyphosate formulations are less environmentally damaging than the systems they replace. Insect resistant crops have massively reduced the use of broad spectrum insecticides protecting non-target organisms and applicators from some pretty harsh stuff.

    (BTW the “inactive” ingredients in Roundup include toxic surfactants which kill fish larvae

    News at 6, surfactants disrupt unprotected cell membranes, biologists profoundly unimpressed by a piece of common knowledge, I guess however you’ll be suspending your use of dish soap (amusingly enough a common farmer formulation to replace roundup uses store bought glyphosate concentrate, dawn dish soap, and ammonium sulfate)

  37. David Marjanović says

    Dr. Theo Morell, the quack whose toxic treatments contributed greatly to Hitler’s growing incapacitation in his final years

    Fascinating! I didn’t know most of that.

    the new EU President

    President of the Commission, that is – very vaguely equivalent to a prime minister.

    Anyway, the petition against sacking the science adviser and abolishing the very post is here.

    The US veep is NOT directly elected.

    Well, there’s the electoral college in between, but the prez and the veep are on the ballot in (nowadays) all states and DC. In Germany you don’t even get that; when you vote in a parliamentary election, you have pretty much no idea who your preferred party will nominate next time the president’s term expires.

    One question I’ve heard brought up (although rarely…), but not answered, is how GMOs involving genes to produce certain proteins from vastly different taxonomic organisms; how will that affect people with food allergies?

    Phylogenetic distance has nothing to do with allergies.

    If you’re already allergic to rice, you’ll obviously be allergic to golden rice; if you’re already allergic to β-carotene, however, you’re probably dead in the first place…

    Allergies can develop to anything and everything, though it’s easier with proteins.

    This consists of the members of the Bundestag (the directly elected chamber of our parliament) plus the same number of delegates elected by the state legislatures.

    I knew that the federal assembly elects the president; what I didn’t know is that the delegates from the state legislatures don’t form a chamber of parliament. In Austria, the federal assembly (which, guessed it, has almost no functions) consists of the “national council” (Nationalrat, the ordinary chamber, whose members get their jobs following elections; in theory a bit like the US House of Representatives) which makes the laws, and the “federal council” (Bundesrat; in theory a bit like the US Senate, but the members are delegates from the state legislatures) which has to confirm the laws before they’re passed to the president for his signature (but can’t, in practice, do much to prevent that from happening, and almost never tries).

    and yes, pesticides are toxic to humans as well as invertebrates and fish

    Different pesticides are so different that it’s completely impossible to make blanket statements like that. I’m not surprised, though, that many contain surfactants, and that surfactants can mean trouble.

  38. anbheal says

    Farmers aren’t “forced” to buy any seed they don’t want to buy? At some abstract existential level that may be almost true, but in the real world it’s demonstrably false. At least the real world outside of the US, Canada, and Western Europe. Across great swaths of the anti-developed

    world, agricultural contracts (most often with Monsanto) are part and parcel of deals with the World Bank and IMF and USAID. Those farmers get Monsanto seeds, period. And then Monsanto has the fucking chutzpah to charge them royalties on their saved seeds (which, as mentioned above, is much less of an issue among imperialist/colonialist countries). The government may subsidize the original purchases, but then toss the burden of ongoing royalties onto the farmers’ themselves — who then find themselves in a position, the following year, of being told: “pay Monsanto their annual royalty for planting the seeds from YOUR crops this year, or get fined/jailed for violating our international treaty obligations”.

    Cultivation at gunpoint, establishing perpetual debt. It’s utter bullshit that these farmers have another choice.

    And it’s a damn shame, because GMO crops would do a lot of these regions a whole lot of good.

  39. Ewan R says

    Across great swaths of the anti-developed

    world, agricultural contracts (most often with Monsanto) are part and parcel of deals with the World Bank and IMF and USAID.

    Citation needed. Which countries, which crops? The closest thing I can figure here is that you’re talking about something akin to how Brazil runs at present – there is a system in place that allows farmers to either pay for the trait up front, or to pay for the trait at the grain elevator (they will sign here that either they use RR or do not, and pay accordingly – testing may be done to establish that the transgene is not present if you say it aint) – farmers pay on a value share basis however, so while they will have to pay for the trait (imagine paying for something that adds overall value to your operation) they also get the benefit of having the trait.

    ” It’s utter bullshit that these farmers have another choice.”

    Grow non-GMO beans or corn… literally that simple.

  40. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Ewan R:

    I very much appreciate you adding to the discussion.

    When you say that the seed are genetically diverse, can you tell me anything about how the diversity arises while ensuring the transgene’s presence. It’s not that I don’t believe you (any more than I don’t believe anything on the internet), but I’m genuinely curious about how one keeps tight genetic control over one trait while permitting broad variation in the rest of a genome.

    @anselm lingnau:
    That was awesomely fascinating, thank you. I’ve really only looked at English-speaking governments in any depth, but I do plan on doing a more systematic comparative analysis of the executive split in parliamentary systems later.

  41. Ewan R says

    #43 Crip Dyke

    Genetic traits tend to be developed in only a handful of test lines. Predominantly, I feel, because one has to develop slightly different transformation (the process of inserting a gene into an organism) protocols and end up with different transformation efficiency (the number of successful transformations per attempt) line to line – so one will try to select something that is close to current elite performance but works well for transformation also.

    So in early GMO testing there is essentially no diversity, which I feel is where concerns come from.

    This, however, would make for a terrible business model.

    Take corn for instance. Corn in the US grows in a number of distinct “relative maturity” regions – the further north you move the lower your relative maturity region is – relative maturity is an approximation of the number of days between planting and maturity. The US spans approximately RM75 through RM120 (with tropical corn having even higher RM) – all of this is driven by genetics – now, if your test transformation line was an RM 90 – it’d be utterly useless in RM 75 and RM120, and pretty damn useless anywhere outside of the RM90 zone.

    So how do you get around this? You have an awesome cool trait (lets assume that you do, even if you don’t find the current trait offering in ag to be either awesome or great) that works jsut fine in an RM90 line… and will not be commercially viable unless you can expand it to work in all geographies.

    Well, what you do is pass it to breeders (who working independently are creating lines to work in their specific geography, and to whom diversity of testing population is key to getting a nice bonus at the end of the year (because sans diversity one does not improve lines)) and say – breeders do your magic!

    Breeders will take your RM90 line and cross it with one of their lines (say an RM120). They’ll take the offspring of this cross and cross it back to the RM120 line again. They’ll keep doing this until they essentially retain the trait and nothing else from the RM90 line (they may use marker assisted breeding to speed up the process) – this whole process is currently probably one of the sticking points of current GMO strategies – random insertion into the genome means that introgressing (the breeding process I just described) one trait is relatively easy, two or three traits is a little tricky, and up to ten is doable but begins to give breeders nightmares. Hopefully in the next few years methods will come online where you can insert to exact spots in the genome, allowing stacked traits to literally sit end to end (or near enough) and vastly simplifying the process of trait integration.

    These same methods are used to move “native” traits around between varieties – find a drought tolerance “gene” (probably a QTL…) in a wild rice variety – this is exactly how you’d move it into commercially viable lines – you keep what you want and breed out the rest.

  42. Anselm Lingnau says

    I knew that the federal assembly elects the president; what I didn’t know is that the delegates from the state legislatures don’t form a chamber of parliament.

    There is the German »Bundesrat« (federal council), which is the other chamber of the parliament. The first chamber, the Bundestag, is elected by popular vote, while the members of the Bundesrat are nominated by the state legislatures (much like in Austria). Each state gets to send a number of delegates to the Bundesrat, and that number – 3 to 6 – depends on the population of the state in question. The delegates must be members of the state’s cabinet. The idea behind the Bundesrat is to give the states a say in legislation that either concerns the federal constitution or impinges on state finances or matters that are otherwise legislated at the state (rather than federal) level. The Bundesrat must concur to that kind of legislation; for other types of legislation it may register an objection which the Bundestag can overrule.

    The »Bundesversammlung« (federal assembly), whose only job is to elect the federal president, is a third constitutional body that is distinct from either chamber of parliament (apart from the members of the Bundestag being automatic members of the Bundesversammlung) and only ever convenes every five years, or whenever a new president must be found. Incidentally, there is no campaigning and no speeches in the Bundesversammlung; they come together and vote and then leave again. The president must be elected by an absolute majority (at least 50% of the delegates) during the first or, if required, second ballot; if no candidate is elected that way, in a third ballot a relative majority (i.e., more votes than all other candidates) is sufficient.

  43. Nick Gotts says

    Of course nothing justifies the stupid and wicked claims of such as Mike Adams. But golden rice is not quite the story of selfless labour aimed purely at relieving human suffering that such as:

    That’s true, but “golden rice” has shown that even when no corporations will in any way profit from a much needed GM crop, Greenpeace and other usual suspects will still do anything in their power to prevent people from getting food.- AlexanderZ@16

    and

    Which is a shame, as golden rice is the textbook example of creating GM crops the right way, for the right reasons. – Gregory in Seattle@18

    would have us believe. The following is from a NYT article that is by no means unfavourable to the crop:

    In a decade of work culminating in 1999, two academic scientists, Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, finally switched on the production of beta carotene by adding daffodil and bacteria DNA to the rice’s genome. They licensed their patent rights to the agribusiness company that later became Syngenta, on the condition that the technology and any improvements to it would be made freely available to poor farmers in the developing world. With the company retaining the right to use it in developed countries,/b>, potentially as an alternative to vitamin supplements, Syngenta scientists later improved the amount of beta carotene produced by substituting a gene from corn for the one from daffodil. [Emphasis added]

    According to IRRI itself:

    Syngenta also arranged royalty-free access to the patents and intellectual property, held by several biotechnology companies, for a number of key technologies used in Golden Rice… The package contained proprietary technologies belonging not only to Syngenta but also to Bayer AG, Monsanto Co, Orynova BV, and Zeneca Mogen BV.

    IOW, anyone who tells you “golden rice” is uncontaminated by corporate agriculture:

    a self-serving institution where profit is king and locking farmers into second-rate solutions is a business strategy

    is either ignorant or lying. Now suppose “golden rice” becomes widely accepted, a marketable product on an international scale, on the back of partially publically-funded research. Who do you think will be growing it? Poor farmers in the Philippines?

  44. Anselm Lingnau says

    Now suppose “golden rice” becomes widely accepted, a marketable product on an international scale, on the back of partially publically-funded research. Who do you think will be growing it? Poor farmers in the Philippines?

    This is unlikely to happen simply because people in places where there is real money to be made for »big agriculture« from selling rice don’t generally need their vitamin A supplemented, and they have this irrational fear of GMO in the first place that tends to limit the market. On the other hand, there are major PR gains for the biotech companies involved when they make »golden rice« accessible to subsistence farmers with no strings attached.
    Incidentally, anybody in the Philippines who manages to make more than US$10,000 a year – the point at which a commercial licence is required – from selling golden rice is no longer a »poor farmer« by definition (according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2009 the average annual family income in the Philippines was less than US$5,000).

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