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And the Prize Goes to … Genetically Modified Foods

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By Timothy A. Wise, Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University. Originally posted at Triple Crisis.

This year’s World Food Prize went to three biotech engineers, all of whom have been instrumental in bringing genetically modified foods to your table.

Inside the Marriott Hotel in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, where the prize’s four-day program took place October 15-18, the message was clear: Technology is the answer to the world’s looming food shortages, and anyone who gets in the way isn’t putting farmers and the hungry first.

And you have to admire the laureates for their candor.

In their prepared press statements, they couldn’t have been clearer about what the prize means to them.

“The committee’s decision to award the World Food Prize to biotechnology researchers,” said Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta in a press release, “will help convey to consumers the value, utility and safety of genetically modified crops.”

The other winners, Marc Van Montagu—one of the pioneers of genetically modified (GM) technology—and Robert Fraley—Monsanto’s chief technology officer—offered similar statements.

“I hope that this recognition will pave the way for Europe to embrace the benefits of this technology, an essential condition for global acceptance of transgenic plants,” said Montagu.

Fraley was less direct but equally unambiguous. “The World Food Prize provides us an important platform to engage in a new global dialogue,” he said.

The other side of the dialogue came not from the World Food Prize conference, but from the street. Down the road from the Marriott, in front of the World Food Prize building, former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower held an open-air press conference to denounce Big Ag’s influence over our food and our government. The organizers called the protest Occupy the World Food Prize.

Hightower called it the “upchuck rebellion” by the “good food” movement against corporate agriculture.

On questions of public health and the environment, the debate is still open. But evidence is mounting, both of public-health concerns (see the recent open letter from scientists) and environmental impacts, such as the rise of “super weeds” resistant to herbicides. So too on the persistent failure of GM crops to increase yields.

Jim Hightower struck a chord with his call to resist monopoly control of agriculture. The World Food Prize committee received a citizen petition of more than 340,000 people protesting the biotech awards.

At the prize ceremony, an elaborate invitation-only affair in the Iowa Capitol building, Fraley accepted the prize “on behalf of all his colleagues at Monsanto,” a company that underwrites the World Food Prize Foundation. He said GM crops were needed as we face the challenge “to double food production” to feed a growing population.

As my recent report shows, such alarmist calls have no empirical basis. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization projects a manageable demand increase of 60 percent by 2050. And we can start by cutting the loss and waste of food from its current level of 30 percent, and the 13 percent of cereals projected to go toward producing biofuels instead of food.

But the warnings sure boost sales, and feed the panic that biotech companies hope will spur us to embrace their controversial technologies.

Outside of the Iowa Capitol building, a small group of protesters denounced the selection of biotech scientists for the food prize. Among them were three farmers, two from Haiti and one from Brazil. Two days earlier, they had been in New York to receive the Food Sovereignty Prize, a grassroots alternative to the increasingly corporate World Food Prize, created by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance in 2009.

In Haiti, the protests are larger and the stakes are higher. After the catastrophic Port au Prince earthquake in 2010, 10,000 Haitian farmers marched to reject a $4 million donation of seeds from Monsanto, arguing that the company was trying to hook peasants on seeds they couldn’t share or replant. In a dramatic show of defiance in the face of widespread hunger, the farmers publicly burned the seeds.

They argued that people have the right to food and the right to choose where their food comes from and what’s in it. This call to “democratize the food system” got no hearing at the World Food Prize.

“We need to make sure everyone benefits from this technology,” said a closing speaker, “the companies, the scientists, the poor who are hungry….”

Who came first on that list, and who came last, was lost on most of the crowd.

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30 comments

  1. Min

    OT, but I thought that I would share. ;)

    I misread the headline as “And the Prize Goes to … Genetically Modified Fools”. I must have been thinking of Congress. ;)

  2. anon y'mouse

    read a few papers a few years back examining this issue. for one, they looked at all of the false claims that GMO’s increase yields and so on.

    for two, the causal reasons for food scarcity in most of these places is the combined prongs of

    -post-colonial land ownership issues: most of the hungry are small-scale farmers on marginal land to which they had been pushed by corps or large (rich) landowners from the more fertile regions
    -cash crops: if you’re reliant upon one thing to make your stake and the price goes down, you don’t have enough money to trade for the food that you need
    -subsidies: countries that have them can manipulate the markets, driving down prices and putting local individuals out of business. why grow what is so cheap, when you can earn more selling cash crops?

    the group most often to be hungry all around the world: small scale farmers

    seems like a deliberate policy to make each bioregion produce the one-or-three things that it would excel at for an export market. selling exclusively for export means importing foodstuffs, and praying that the prices on your cashcrops stay relatively high to maintain purchasing power. in other words, it’s like the gold standard, but for food.

    these articles didn’t even get into the cycle of debt that these farmers can tangle themselves in to participate in all of this.

    1. kimyo

      monsanto, doing god’s work, poisoning mankind in order to save it…….

      see also their canonization of the man responsible for more suffering and death than hitler, obama & dubya combined: norman borlaug.

      borlaug, nobel peace prize winner in 1970, gave us hybridized dwarf wheat. (and, subsequently, an epidemic of diabetes/obesity, widespread auto-immune diseases ranging from psoriasis to pcos, crohn’s to ms. plus, as a bonus, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and epilepsy, oh my.)

    2. brian

      Gluten intolerance is the new version of the ‘repetitive strain injury’ syndrome. When you actually are gluten intolerant it is completely debilitating. The real condition is horrible if you take wheat. Unfortunately a load of idiots are claiming to be gluten intolerant when they are not. It is just another diet/food fad caused by people wanting to sell books.

  3. Nicholas Cole

    Corporate control, neoliberal economics in agriculture, and insufficiently transparent research are all causes for concern, but we need to talk about how profoundly unscientific the anti-GM movement frequently behaves. See, for example, the deplorable way the Seralini study was unveiled, or the recent destruction of golden rice trials in the Phillipines. There’s a letter from scientists condemning that one, too:

    http://www.marklynas.org/2013/10/scientists-challenge-swedish-government-over-funding-of-golden-rice-trial-vandalism/

    I am also seriously uncomfortable with the ideological fervor surrounding the organic or so-called “good food” movement, which often reminds me of the American far-right. A lot of what I read from this sphere seems to say “Monsanto is evil, mutant foods are evil, so we should never do the work at all.”

    Of course, this is a debate I’ve only recently become seriously interested in, and my views are still evolving.

    1. Yves Smith

      I’m seriously bothered by your charge that the concerns of those against GMOs are “unscientific”. The onus is on anyone who choses to introduce new drugs or foods to show their safety. However, as data scientist Cathy O’Neil has discussed at length, even the “scientific” studies for drugs are basically useless due to the cherry-picking and manipulation of data:

      Next, let’s talk about Chetty’s comparison of economics with medicine. It’s kind of amazing that he’d do this considering how discredited epidemiology is at this point, and how truly unscientific it’s been found to be, for essentially exactly the same reasons as above – initial conditions, even just changing which standard database you use for your tests, switch the sign of most of the results in medicine…

      So in other words, Chetty defends economics as “just as much science” as epidemiology, which I would claim is in the category “not at all a science.” In the end I guess I’d have to agree with him, but not in a good way.

      http://mathbabe.org/2013/10/23/the-scienciness-of-economics/

      In other words, your implicit complaint is that the critics aren’t “scientific” which means you assume the proponents are, when that’s not true for a whole host of reasons. See this example from O’Neil on what passes for research in drug land, and there are tons like it:

      http://mathbabe.org/2012/02/15/how-big-pharma-cooks-data-the-case-of-vioxx-and-heart-disease/

      And she further describes problems with analyzing medical data here:

      http://mathbabe.org/2012/11/08/columbia-data-science-course-week-10-observational-studies-confounders-epidemiology/

      And that’s before you get to the fact that 1. most clinical trials for safety are for 4-8 weeks even if the drug is to be taken for a longer period of time and 2. even though the drug companies are supposed to do follow-up monitoring of problems with longer-term use, but that regime is basically useless.

      Unlike drugs, food is consumed over long periods of time. GMOs can do a number of types of harm, see here:

      http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/gm/harmful.html

      And experimental GM corn has killed cattle…some within days of consuming it:

      http://www.nationofchange.org/syngenta-corporation-faces-criminal-charges-covering-livestock-deaths-gm-corn-1340811738

      Genetically modified soy has been linked to the sterility and infant death in hamsters and rats:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/genetically-modified-soy_b_544575.html

      And the agribiz industry keeps tight control over the data and pretty much only lets friendly scientists see it:

      Between 1992 and 2002—the period over which GMO crops moved rapidly from test plants to farm fields to dinner tables, the USDA spent about $1.8 billion on ag-biotechnology research—of which about 1 percent went to safety testing, a Union of Concerned Scientists analysis shows. Meanwhile, the ag-biotech industry uses its patent power to maintain tight control over who researches what—and dominates the research agenda at America’s main ag-research universities.

      http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/09/gmo-corn-rat-tumor

      And the FDA has approved the use of GMOs with no clinical trials. None. Nada.

      A friend who was a biomedical engineer who had worked for the NIH and hardly a health nut (she had no problem eating potato chips and M&Ms, which are anathema to that crowd) was outraged about GMOs 20 years ago. She said it was a large scale experiment being conducted on the population with no consent and no controls. She went to some lengths to avoid GMOs until she concluded it was too hard.

      Now having said all that, a lot of the anti GMO types use the “every stick to beat a dog” approach and will accept any anti GMO study as gospel even if it was badly designed or controlled. But it’s pretty hard to do decent, well controlled studies (there’s not a lot of money to support research when it won’t produce a product or promote an industry agenda). So while they may at times get screechy or get excited about sloppy studies, the flip side is you are effectively demanding a standard of proof they can’t and should not have to meet, given the inability to get the relevant data from the Monsantos of the world and the considerable difficulty and cost of doing independent, long-time-frame research. The burden of proof should be on the corporate producers, not on disenfranchised, unfunded consumers.

      1. MB

        I have been afflicted for years with GI issues, severe IBS, yet testing negative for any allergen or gluten intolerance. Over time, I have manifested a microvascular heart condition (Microvascular Dysfunction), was deeply handicapped in my life, subsisting on nitroglycerin (micros couldn’t supply heart w/oxygen), beta blockers and xanax to deal with exertion/emotion that provoked symptoms. Though I have genetic propensity for atherosclerosis LP(a) – mild, this was a separate layer that has been incomprehensible.

        When you get desperate enough you’ll try anything, so I have. For the past 7 months, I consume nothing but organic/grass fed/wild protein, vegetables and fruits and some fermented foods for pro-biotic nutrition. Olive oil, organic (preferably sprouted) nuts and seeds and infrequently, honey. I use pure straight herbs – no blends, salt/pepper, lemon, garlic to season. I drink water and herbal tea only.

        I deleted from my diet: ALL grains, all breads, all soy, all nightshades (tomato, potato, peppers, eggplant), eggs, dairy, sugar, soft drinks, coffee, artificial anything, “natural flavors”, fillers and additives and all alcohol.

        The result? I immediately had a dramatic increase in energy, I lost 35#, my belly pain evaporated and it flattened, I look 10 years younger and most importantly – NO CHEST PAIN / ANGINA. The micros in the heart & throughout the body are part of the circulatory system..just like the larger vessels.

        Technically speaking, I follow a modified version of the unfortunately named GAPS diet (Dr. Natasha McBride). It is close to Paleo and there is a Dr. Gundry who is demonstrating similar efforts and success.
        —————
        GMO foods have engineered amplified lectins which are toxic to pests(increase foods yields) and seem also incrementally toxic to people’s guts. When you assault the gut meal after meal, snack after snack, year after year, the gut eventually does not filter waste from nutrients as successfully. You fail to have “tight junctions” in the gut. Since 1/3 of your blood supply enters the gut after eating to process and filter nutrients back to the body and waste out, toxins also circulate. I suspect this is why I have felt so chronically ill.

        My “scientific, uncontrolled” study has demonstrated this, but I suspect you won’t find too many people willing to do this study, unless they are VERY ILL!. A friend of mine said, “when you mess with people’s food, they can’t deal with it, because food is linked to everything”. There’s not much documenting in animals. They can’t really explain the subtleties of what they are experiencing, and we have barely been able to understand this in humans, if in fact there were moneyed interests motivated to provide the opposite from Monsanto’s POV. I view Monsanto’s interests as very similar to Big Tobacco’s science; probably buried, unless some scientists with consciences willing to sacrifice paychecks emerge. A few selected of my many links in an attempt to assemble the puzzle:
        —————
        http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/05/11/scientists-discover-bt-toxins-found-in-monsanto-crops-damage-red-blood-cells/
        —————
        Acquired microvascular dysfunction in inflammatory bowel disease: loss of nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016508503006991
        —————
        Lectins: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/lectins/#axzz2cVuHrOI7
        —————
        The human gut biome needs a proper balance: fermented foods can help – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916122214.htm
        —————
        Tight junctions and vascular permeability (lung/asthma?) (and gut!)
        http://books.google.com/books?id=ULIPkwhQuG8C&pg=PA201&lpg=PA201&dq=claudin+microvascular+permeability&source=bl&ots=jPun-R3FIc&sig=6RT26yvGdlkJLpC44VyEAy3HAGs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=b4_2UZ7UCMSfiQLKnoCQBQ&ved=0CFIQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=claudin%20microvascular%20permeability&f=false
        —————
        When our food is raised on antibiotics…can this help or hurt you? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130901154157.htm
        —————
        Bacteria-Immune System ‘Fight’ Can Lead to Chronic Diseases, Study Suggests – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120802141529.htm
        —————
        Since Eczema is now considered an autoimmune manifestation, the “GLUE” that helps the epithelial and endothelial cells is part of the picture – tight junctions in the bowel must have cellular integrity: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130826123140.htm
        —————
        Gluten/celiac/IBS and eczema: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/understanding-eczema-to-treat-it/?_r=0
        —————
        GMO Wheat – why it could be toxic to you:
        http://www.realfarmacy.com/why-80-of-people-worldwide-will-soon-stop-eating-wheat/?fb_ref=recommendations-box-widget
        —————
        Sugar Toxic to Mice in ‘Safe’ Doses, Test Finds
        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130813111722.htm
        —————
        Nutrient absorption in the small intestine: https://www.boundless.com/biology/digestive-systems/the-components-of-the-mammalian-digestive-system/nutrient-absorption-in-the-small-intestine/
        —————
        Intestinal Bacteria May Fuel Inflammation and Worsen HIV Disease
        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130710155728.htm
        —————
        A comprehensive directory of food additives: http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#sodiumb
        —————
        Everything you eat affects your body and brain chemistry – depression? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130610223722.htm
        —————
        Over active immune response often kills people – not the actual pathogen. If your gut/body is chronically assaulted w/toxic foods, develops chronic diseases, the immune system is stressed and goes haywire:
        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120727082518.htm

        http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/jacob-teitelbaum-md/candida-eliminating-yeastfungal-overgrowth

        I could keep going, but I’ll stop here.
        Sign me ~ Markedly diminished ANGINA and a healing GUT.

        1. MB

          Correction: (micros couldn’t supply heart w/oxygen)

          Should read (micros couldn’t supply heart w/nitric oxide).

          1. MB

            And, I forgot to write that in the past 7 months, I have needed nitroglycerin only 3 times (it used to be daily for a number of years) and no xanax at all. I have my life back. My cardiologist told me “we should cut my pravastatin to 10 mg and to keep doing what I’m doing”…

      2. brian

        There is another story about Monsanto and GMOs.

        Monsanto owns several fresh cut flower concerns. These are the flowers people buy everyday at kiosks and flower shops across the US.

        One feature of fresh cut flowers is that they do not last very long. They wilt. You have to buy fresh flowers. Good business.

        We understand the science behind wilting. Without going into details, the plants produce ethylene gas which is detected by the cells in the plant.

        In the late 80s/ early 90s some scientists discovered a method of suppressing the response to ethylene. Effectively they could stop the flowers from wilting for a long time.

        Monsanto bought this technology, and promptly buried it. This was done to protect their fresh cut flower business.

        Moral of the story is that Monsanto only likes GMO technology when it suits them.

      3. holygrail

        The claim “GMOs are toxic” is a much stronger claim than “some GMOs can be toxic” or “corporate interests might get in the way of health priorities”. The whole GMO debate seems to be about claiming the first while offering (many times weak) evidence for the second.

        GMO is merely using engineering organisms. They could have been produced by evolution, it’s the same process, we just guide it in GMOs. Of course however they were produced, they can be toxic or not and we should be careful with that but I don’t think it’s rational to say “GMOs are bad” the same way it’s not rational to say “evolution is bad”.

        The evidence obviously also points towards that. If you wanted to make the first claim, it would be on you to prove that every single GMO organism is bad for you. You would have to take _all_ common and approved GMO crops and falsify the staggering amount of approval studies made independently by many countries and many scientists and institutions. You would have to prove many highly trained people in universities and research facilities not only wrong, but intentionally dishonest. For the most common crops in corn or soy beans, which are a huge % of the grain produced nowadays and have been very thoroughly studied and tested, finding toxicity would be nothing short of extraordinary. The case for this is very weak I think.

        Now, of course this doesn’t mean that some strains might be harmful or that Monsanto is not a slimy corporation that has created harm. It doesn’t mean some research might have been dishonest. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need to label, etc. But I think it does mean that GMO as technology has been proved and validated and the case shouldn’t be against that technology but against the use of it.

        One last note, perhaps your argument was instead that even if the technology *can* be ok, we can’t be held responsible to control it. I hear the same argument against nuclear energy all the time, we shouldn’t use it because we’ll surely screw up. I think it’s bleak and I don’t agree with it but at least it’s reasonable.

      4. Nik

        I’m not making any assumptions about big-ag being “scientific” and I have plenty of skepticism reserved for corporate actors and neoliberal agriculture, which remain responsible for widespread poverty in the developing world.

        However I don’t think that just because the other guys don’t live up to the right standards of transparency and accountability means that the opposition gets a pass, and I’m surprised that you’d say they should not have to meet certain standards. It was on this website that I read a critique of the lack of transparency in Rolling Jubilee. In science, it seems to me that we have to require a burden of proof from anyone who makes claims about the impact of their research to the general public.

        I see you’ve linked the Seralini study I mentioned, which was about tumors in rats fed GMO corn. The manner this study was released in is deplorable from a scientific perspective. It was released to only a handful of reporters who were required to sign NDAs, and unveiled in a press conference designed to create the biggest possible media circus before peer-review of the results could take place. Large sections of data were omitted because, according to the authors, they would take up to much space. While plenty of photos of the GMO rats were included and paraded through the public, a high number of rats in the control group also developed tumors, and no pictures were included of them. When the full data was finally made available for peer-review, long after the media and public had passed judgement, it turned out to be highly suspect.

        And then there’s Golden Rice, a GMO variety with the ability to provide vitamin-A to impoverished populations in SE Asia. GR is not owned by any “evil” corporation, and the intention is for the seed to be given away after field trials and testing are completed. Vitamin-A deficiency causes blindness in between a quarter and a half million children in the developing world because their diet consists mostly of cheap, nutrient deficient rice varieties. I’ve read repeatedly that Golden Rice should be opposed because the solution to V-A deficiency is to lift people out of poverty with balanced diets, which is a compassionate impulse. However this solution could be decades away, and every year children and women are going blind and dying. What legitimacy can we assign to the vandalism of Golden Rice field trials in the Phillipines when so many will be damaged the longer ideologically-motivated activism blocks the regulated, studied introduction of this technology?

        I believe that regulation and research are woefully underfunded and ineffective in this sector. GMOs are not inherently safe or harmful, and proper research can be done to identify when consequences arise. For example, allergenic properties expressed in GMO soybeans in Brazil were caught, and the strain was never sold. (http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/386/1317.full) Transgenic crops have the potential to combat vitamin deficiencies, resist blight, prevent spoilage, and more. In the current environment of fear and outright rejection, many of these benefits may never see the light of day. The herbicide and pesticide treadmills are also concerns, but ones that can be mitigated and managed by best practices that take techniques from the organic movement and combine them with benefits like reduced tillage (http://www.wssajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1614/WT-08-038.1).

        None of these benefits will ever be realized if many in the anti-GMO/organic movement get their way. Much of the opposition I see is ideologically-driven, prone to misrepresent research and spread misinformation like the long-standing lie that Monsanto sells “terminator” seeds to Indian farmers. We should fight for the responsible application of science and logic in agriculture, just as we do in the climate movement. I’m bothered because that’s not what seems to be happening.

    2. diptherio

      Well, we can say that the corp. officers of Monsanto, if not evil, are at the very least pretty unscrupulous. Price fixing, suing organic farmers whose crops have been contaminated by GMO pollen, etc.

      http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=574
      http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/10/us-monsanto-organic-lawsuit-idUSBRE9590ZD20130610

      And let us not forget the track record…remeber the “Green Revolution” of the 1940s-60s?

      http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/08/green-revolution-cullather

    3. AbyNormal

      Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops 1/2013

      n the course of analysis to identify potential allergens in GMO crops, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has belatedly discovered that the most common genetic regulatory sequence in commercial GMOs also encodes a significant fragment of a viral gene (Podevin and du Jardin 2012). This finding has serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers. This is because there are clear indications that this viral gene (called Gene VI) might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance.

      What Podevin and du Jardin discovered is that of the 86 different transgenic events (unique insertions of foreign DNA) commercialized to-date in the United States 54 contain portions of Gene VI within them. They include any with a widely used gene regulatory sequence called the CaMV 35S promoter (from the cauliflower mosaic virus; CaMV). Among the affected transgenic events are some of the most widely grown GMOs, including Roundup Ready soybeans (40-3-2) and MON810 maize. They include the controversial NK603 maize recently reported as causing tumors in rats (Seralini et al. 2012).

      The researchers themselves concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI “might result in unintended phenotypic changes”. They reached this conclusion because similar fragments of Gene VI have already been shown to be active on their own (e.g. De Tapia et al. 1993). In other words, the EFSA researchers were unable to rule out a hazard to public health or the environment.

      In general, viral genes expressed in plants raise both agronomic and human health concerns (reviewed in Latham and Wilson 2008). This is because many viral genes function to disable their host in order to facilitate pathogen invasion. Often, this is achieved by incapacitating specific anti-pathogen defenses. Incorporating such genes could clearly lead to undesirable and unexpected outcomes in agriculture. Furthermore, viruses that infect plants are often not that different from viruses that infect humans. For example, sometimes the genes of human and plant viruses are interchangeable, while on other occasions inserting plant viral fragments as transgenes has caused the genetically altered plant to become susceptible to an animal virus (Dasgupta et al. 2001). Thus, in various ways, inserting viral genes accidentally into crop plants and the food supply confers a significant potential for harm.

      The Many Functions of Gene VI
      Gene VI, like most plant viral genes, produces a protein that is multifunctional. It has four (so far) known roles in the viral infection cycle. The first is to participate in the assembly of virus particles. There is no current data to suggest this function has any implications for biosafety. The second known function is to suppress anti-pathogen defenses by inhibiting a general cellular system called RNA silencing (Haas et al. 2008). Thirdly, Gene VI has the highly unusual function of transactivating (described below) the long RNA (the 35S RNA) produced by CaMV (Park et al. 2001). Fourthly, unconnected to these other mechanisms, Gene VI has very recently been shown to make plants highly susceptible to a bacterial pathogen (Love et al. 2012). Gene VI does this by interfering with a common anti-pathogen defense mechanism possessed by plants. These latter three functions of Gene VI (and their risk implications) are explained further below:
      http://www.independentsciencenews.org/commentaries/regulators-discover-a-hidden-viral-gene-in-commercial-gmo-crops/

      1. susan the other

        GM food has been happening for a long time and they still do not know how to test for the safety of their product?? In spite of the complex science they employ? This stuff is very complex and they know how to achieve a certain result – but they don’t know how good that result is. Their immediate goal is just to sell more herbicide. Pretty amazing. With all of their expertise you would think safety would come first. Makes me conclude they are remiss for a reason. That the implications of all of their little oversights are way too serious to even mention, let alone test. And now trade agreements reinforce this irresponsible lack of scientific protocol. This industry should not be allowed to function privately, using privacy to shield their bad practices. The government should be in total control of this science. There should be no private incentive, no private profit, which encourages this behavior. GM food should not be “traded” by private companies ever. Etc.

  4. Yonatan

    So, in summary, Monsanto awards itself a prize and says how wonderful the company is. Everything they do is for purely noble causes. Those causes being greed and power

    1. Jagger

      I guess I am the only one who has never heard of a World Food Prize. Is it sort of like a Pulitzer? If no one else has heard of it, is it still important?

      At some point, it seems there is just no more room on my plate for one more catastrophe.

  5. DakotabornKansan

    “If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.’” – Henry Kissinger

    Vandana Shiva on the militarization of agriculture:

    “War and agriculture came together when the chemicals that were produced for chemical warfare lost their markets in war, and the industry organized itself to sell those chemicals as agrochemicals. Then, when gene splicing was worked out as a technique in public systems, the corporations realized here was something that would work wonderfully for them. Not only would they get to sell more chemicals, but now, by genetically modifying seed, they could for the first time say, “We are creators and inventors of plants,” and redefine seed as an invention covered by patents and therefore collect rents and royalty. If every farmer, every year has to buy seed – which is the main reason for pushing GMOS – it’s huge profits.

    The techniques themselves are militarized, come from war, including the fact that the only way you can move a gene that doesn’t belong to an organism and you have to cross the species barrier – which can’t be crossed by reproduction – you can only do it by using a gene gun, which is war at the genetic level, or infecting a plant with cancer, which is biological warfare. So the war mentality is at the heart of the technology.

    And then the industry that grew powerful and rich through wars (Monsanto and Dow Chemical both manufactured Agent Orange) is its final step of the militarized mindset, the militarized world coming together, is that imposing these toxins, the GMOs – an agriculture that nobody wants, food that nobody wants – can only go the next step by an absolute militarized society, where police states are created to police farmers.”

    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/14784-activist-seeds-of-gm-foods-war-vsearth-planted-by-military-industrial-forces

    “The right of corporations to force-feed citizens of the world with culturally inappropriate and hazardous foods has been made absolute in the globalizing economy. The right to food, the right to safety, the right to culture are all being treated as trade barriers that need to be dismantled. We have to reclaim our right to nutrition and food safety. We have to reclaim our right to protect the earth and her diverse species. We have to stop this corporate theft from the poor and from nature. Food democracy is the new agenda for ecological sustainability and social justice.”—Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply

    Vandana Shiva is an icon of the anti-GMO movement and has been fighting the seed corporations for decades. Be sure to visit Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya, a network of seed banks and farm schools across India that has created awareness on the hazards of genetic engineering and biopiracy and food rights in the face of globalization and climate change @ http://www.navdanya.org/

    “And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.” – Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

  6. AbyNormal

    Documentary: *Seeds of Freedom* charts the story of seed from its roots at the heart of traditional, diversity rich farming systems across the world, to being transformed into a powerful commodity, used to monopolize the global food system. (screw the nobel. we’ve blackmailed starving countries with our seeds…creating a new ring of hel!. USA USA USA)
    http://vimeo.com/43879272

    “If manufacturers are so sure there is nothing wrong with genetically modified foods, pesticides and cloned meats, they should have no problems labeling them as such. After all, cancer will kill one in every two men and one in every three women now alive, reports Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Like our ancestors, we act in ways that will bemuse future societies. The military-industrial complex lubricates the mass-agriculture system with fossil fuels. Tons of heavy metals and other hazardous, even radioactive, waste is sprayed on American agricultural soil.”
    Adam Leith Gollne, The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession

    1. Bob

      Want labeling? fine. But a GMO/No GMO label is not very useful. If you want it to be useful, should know the pedigree of the seed. Has it just been crossbred using very traditional methods? How about radiating seeds? If it’s a GMO, what was put in it. A yes/no label alone is not really informative, it’s just a political statement.

      You’d not believe the amount of things that change the genetics of a plant that you can do while still saying that your produce is organic.

  7. TomDority

    I do not believe any good can come from screwing around with our symbiotic relationship with the plant, animal, bacterial, viral and chemical make-up of the planet. Every living thing has adapted to every other living thing, and depends to a degree on every other living thing over the long term.
    We genetically modify a crop and test only it’s effect upon mammals. The effects a genetic change designed to kill or ward off other species, other bacterium, other food chains is suicide. The plant depends upon the bee, we depend upon our inner co-inhabitants to digest our food and to keep our bodies defended against all manner of things.
    What we call human – this container – is in fact made up of 40% human stuff – the other 60% is other known species. Our gut – used to digest food is mainly a bunch of other organisms that break everything down for us so that we can absorb it – turn it into energy for our living. Introducing a genetically altered substance into our gut causes all sorts of problems – little domino effects amongst the zoo of life that allows us to digest food – the crop that depends on a zoo of life that lives in, on, above the soil has its own network of critters beyond the bee that allows it to grow.
    I wait for the day when studies are not so myopic – the GMO industry does not wish to have studies that are broader in scope – I am sure they know the tremendous knock-on effects they would find when broad based studies are done – it is why they are so guarded – take the money and run IBGYBG mentality.
    Adaptation of life to environmental change (even changes in plant, animal, virus, bacterium constitute environmental change) is correlated to the complexity of the life form. The more complex the life form – the slower it is to react to the environmental change. This is why the simplest life forms have had the longest run on this planet.

    So, basically, without study or thought, we go on in blissful ignorance while the trigger gets pulled on the loaded gun at our head.

  8. kevinearick

    Tourism: Artificial Food, Shelter & Clothing

    We’ll skip the trinket thing…Manhattan…Indians…but it’s all about the diminishing return of false branding…in a sea of prohibition…a fool and his money…

    Think about all the processing make-work energy that goes into manufactured food. The only way real food can cost more, to ensure the empire selection, is to bake real estate price inflation into the product. Funny, how manufactured food, real food, and restaurant food are all seeking the same price level, through regulation, now that the ponzi is decelerating.

    The Fed has been pumping the top and the bottom credit ends to simulate wealth effect, $10 jobs chasing million dollar real estate, wiping out the middle class, with massive subsidies, far exceeding Big Ag, for real estate, paying for empty rooms the way it pays corporate farmers not to farm, destroying local agriculture, which sells out for the inflated money and against the associated taxation, losing everything in the next iteration with lost purchasing power, and a left addicted to credit.

    And where is the destination of FB Zuckerberg – real estate, auto and insurance inflation, trained F-ing seals in a zoo. Don’t make decisions based upon other people’s money and expect not to find your self in the empire noose, playing the extortion game for a living.

    You tell your ‘friends’ you are going to Mendocino for the weekend, and you have to come back with good ‘stories’ and pictures to back them up. So you pay $250 for a substandard room with a view in an otherwise empty hotel, eat crappy food for $100 served up by druggies living in the adjacent ghetto, and buy a $50 souvenir sweatshirt that disappears in the washing machine. The standard of romance in this world is how much stupid money you can acquire and spend, on stupid, to impress stupid.

    Like everything else in this supply-side economy, print first and ask questions later, there is an abundance of over-priced clothing. Brands are rolled out with quality and price, which immediately head in the opposite directions with increasing credit. Buy some cheap Nike sweats for the label image and force Russell to increase price and reduce quality, and then complain.

    If you want to see the middle class operate, and distribute clothing to reset the local market, set up a free clothing swap bank. The lower middle class, with no storage, drops off, and the upper middle class, with storage, picks up, long before the poor gets any opportunity, re-enforcing artificial scarcity.

    Don’t give up and don’t throw anything away. Many use clothing and household linen as a source of material stock. As the upper class sees the stock grow regardless, it unloads its storage. You will have more clothing than you know what to do with and everyone will learn something about quality, as those who consistently trade up over time reboot a real market.

    Food, shelter and clothing are substandard for a reason. Insecure people, chasing money, hoard, and the empire pays them to do so. You can still employ its money by discounting accordingly, or you can employ anything that it locally convenient to provide whatever feedback signal you want for your community.

    In the long run, a complete empire cycle, it really doesn’t matter to labor. The herd always falls back into the churn pool. Investment is about positioning your self to ignore the short run, ignorance. Sedated people seek to avoid work with passive investment, losing metabolism, and grow contemptuous of work, which is just fine for labor, in the long run.

    Quality at price requires time, which the empire rules out with prohibition regulation, chasing paper, getting further and further behind, throwing it away on peer pressure anxiety, competing to avoid work, faster than you get it. The Fed is printing into a vacuum because more and more people are ignoring it. And the Fed doesn’t want to taper because it could not isolate the next transmission in the process of QEinfinity. It got caught in a bluff.

    Looking beyond your self, and your community, for change is like fixing your mirror because you do not like the reflection. An empire is a reflection, a shared perception, nothing more than an extension of gravity. Take it seriously at the cost of your identity.

    The tourist economy is a dead end, for all things stupid, Disneyland to infinity, the smallest gear, scaled to consume everything, irrespective of perspective. Disneyland for Nazis, those competing to avoid nature with technology at all possible cost, is not an economy, but roll out whatever theory you like to make it so.

  9. oriole77

    I’m perfectly fine with GM foods. I really could care less. Even if they were labeled, I would eat them. I think there are way more important things going on than the GMO boogeyman.

  10. Elliot

    Two good articles, well sourced and linked, debunking the need for and putative benefits of GMO’s:

    First, from those not very wild-eyed folks at the Union of Concerned Scientists:
    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/

    and then Charles Eisenstein:
    Genetically modifying and patenting seeds isn’t the answer
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/09/genetically-modifying-patenting-seeds

    bonus link:
    “Numerous studies show that when organic agriculture is practised well, it can bring double or triple the yields of conventional techniques.” http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/files/GreenRevUP.pdf

    Too, that the ludicrous golden rice crapola completely ignores that (not only would you have to eat a couple of kilos of it per day, daily/weekly/yearly, to benefit from it) in the tropics where it is supposed to prevent blindness by supplementing the diet with vitamin A, many common native foods are full of vitamin A, fruits and vegetables both.

    I will end with the sad note that a GMO bluegrass has been quietly approved for release very recently; grasses being wind pollinated, that’s especially nasty, IMO.

  11. Chmee

    ““We need to make sure everyone benefits from this technology,” said a closing speaker, “the companies, the scientists, the poor who are hungry….”

    Who came first on that list, and who came last, was lost on most of the crowd.”

    Yes, and who benefits first. I would argue it’s only the first two.

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