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When it comes to arguing about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) there is a big obstacle: the name GMOs describes things ranging from bacteria producing human insulin to super-sized salmons. General claims about GMOs tend to be as crude as asserting that “All mammals are cute”.

00 Panda cub-rat

Two mammals: left, panda cub; right, naked mole rat

The idea that we can support (or oppose) all GMOs as a group is naïve (or mischievous). Individually however, many GMOs can (and even should) be supported. As an example, we will pick one GMO and have a rational discussion about it. The same should be done with the rest,  case by case. Only in this way we can have a truly honest debate. First however, we should recognise the different types of opposition that we will find:

a2 FeynmanRational opposition. This includes concerns of the type “GMOs express foreign genes which can be toxic or cause allergies” or “they can contaminate certified organic crops” or “they promote monocultures”.

b3 Russell– Anti-capitalist opposition. This includes statements of the type “GMOs are produced by big corporations trying to take over the food supply and to dominate the world”.

c4 hippie– Quasi-religious opposition. “Mother Nature knows better and we mustn’t try to improve her, end of the discussion”.

 

Now, we can select a GMO and have a discussion about it:

We will not pick GMOs used in medicine, defending them is too easy (if someone in your family has diabetes or growth deficiency or you are planning to go through in vitro fertilisation, I presume you will embrace bacteria or tobacco plants producing human proteins with all your heart).

We will be bold and focus on a GMO for food production.

We could focus on cheese. Virtually all the cheese in the world is produced using proteins originally from cows now made by yeast; we will talk however, about the most reviled type of GMO: a GM crop.

If we pick a crop like Golden Rice, created by a non-for-profit organisation, that shall take care of anti-capitalist quibbles. But Golden Rice has being profusely defended elsewhere and we are not here for an easy ride.

ArcticWe will talk about a full-blown, for-profit GM crop: Artic Apples. These are normal apples (of the Granny Smith or Golden Delicious varieties) that have being genetically modified to prevent browning by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.

Now, as mentioned above, we need to face 3 types of objections to Arctic Apples: a- rational, b- anti-imperialist, and c- quasi-religious.

Engaging with type-c objections is futile and we will pass over it. Fighting religious fundamentalism is a grim job and it is not our job. People of this confession won’t change their mind (even when reminded that pain is natural and ibuprofen is not). If a group believes that 5 Amish Nature knows better or that they should reject anything that was invented after 1859 AD, we will let them be as long as they don’t try to impose their believes on us. Be wary though of insincere people who pretend to be rational opponents when in fact they are type-C (or B) opponents. This will show up later, when after all rational opposition has been crushed, they will still be against ANY GMO.

Having forgo answering type-c opposition (Mother Nature knows better) we can tackle the type-b opposition (GMOs are produced by corporations trying to take over the food supply and to subjugate the world):

Artic Apples are not produced by a multi-billon dollar corporation. They are commercialised by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a company with 7 employees, owned by its own employees. If anything, anti-capitalists should support this type of enterprise: Companies owned by their employees (remember collectivisation of the means of production?).

At this point however, I have to reveal myself in my true colours: I do not think that capitalism is evil and if a company makes a profit out of a good idea that is fine with me. Communism has been a greater cause of starvation than capitalism anyway. Therefore, the fact that someone wants to make money, from computers, cars, clothes, music, farming -you name it- shouldn’t matter in principle.

This leaves only rational opposition in front of us.

Rational opposition:

-GMOs express foreign genes which can be toxic or cause allergies

Artic Apples do not express foreign genes. On the contrary, they don’t express the apple’s gene polyphenol oxidase. They are normal apples from which the gene that causes browning (polyphenol oxidase) has been silenced using RNAi technology (see my previous post on RNAi). There is NO foreign gene which might be toxic or cause allergies expressed in these apples.

-GMOs can contaminate certified organic crops

Edible apples are clonal crops. They are propagated by two methods: grafting or budding. This means that apple trees are not grown from seeds. No Artic Apple tree will “contaminate” a non-GM orchard (unless someone gets in the orchard and plant an Artic Apple tree).

-GMOs promote monocultures.

Commercial apples are –already- monocultures. We do not eat wild apple varieties; most wild apples are actually inedible. All the apple varieties in supermarkets and shops come from trees generated clonally from older trees. Artic Apples cannot promote monocultures because apples are monocultures (also any variety can be made “arctic” using RNAi).

There may be more rational objections to growing and eating Artic Apples. So far however, I couldn’t think of any other pressing argument which deserves being discussed. This, of course, doesn’t make a case for eating (or buying) these apples but it does show that there is nothing wrong with them. It is just a matter of choice, like buying Pink Ladies or Braeburn apples. If you like Golden Delicious apples and think that having non-browning Golden Delicious is a good idea, then Golden Delicious Arctic Apples are for you, if not, no. However, don’t let anyone scare you into thinking that Arctic Apples are the work or the devil or an instrument of capitalist domination; they are just new sub-varieties of apples and they are also, like bacteria producing insulin or tobacco plants making Ebola-fighting drugs, GMOs. 

Watch a non-browning Arctic Apple not browning:

Note: No, I do not work for Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc nor I intend to work for them. Also, I am a Dad and my wife -a Mum, which for some seems to confer onto her more authority than her PhD- and I would be happy feeding our son Arctic Apples (no, we are not asking for free apples neither).

 

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  • Brendan deLange 17/01/2015 at 7:27 pm

    “Artic Apples do not express foreign genes. On the contrary, they don’t express the apple’s gene polyphenol oxidase. They are normal apples from which the gene that causes browning (polyphenol oxidase) has been silenced using RNAi technology (see my previous post on RNAi). There is NO foreign gene which might be toxic or cause allergies expressed in these apples.”

    It sounds to me like this argument is hiding behind semantics: the RNAi is endogenously produced (unless the apples are continuously supplied with RNA from an external source), so it is the product of an inserted sequence. The fact that the sequence produces an RNA and not a protein (making it not a gene in the canonical sense) deflects from the rational GMO counter-argument: the insertion of exogenous sequence may have unintended consequences. This is fine so long as one goes into the process knowing this and tests for the unexpected.

    How could RNAi have unintended consequences? The possibility that immediately comes to mind is that the sequence has sufficient homology to other transcripts, leading to unintended suppression of other genes. Genes act on genes act on genes in complex networks, and small perturbations can have large downstream effects. Imagine unintentionally silencing a gene responsible for down-regulation of endotoxin production while leaving the gene driving such production intact. Or silencing a gene that protects the organism from attacks by pathogens, making it a ready vector for their transmission. There are many possibilities, and that’s the point: the application of RNAi technology to food crop modification is new and requires further testing, not for the things we know, but for the things that we don’t.

    The point is that to say that the whole of the GMO-caution argument is endogenous production of potentially hazardous foreign proteins is misleading. The real dilemma is this: we are disturbing finely-tuned genetic networks, and we cannot (yet) determine the outcomes of such alterations de novo; we have to wait, watch, and test. Again, the danger is not the things we know, but the things we don’t. You can call this a quasi-religious argument, but it is not. It is an argument from humility, and a recognition of the state-of-the-science. Why are Southern blots necessary to test the effects of a genetic alteration on global protein expression? Because we can’t anticipate it, any more than we can determine the final fold of a protein based solely on its primary polypeptide sequence (hopefully Watson and its ilk will be able to help on this front in the near future).

    To be clear, I am a strong proponent of genetic engineering technology. After all, I’ve chosen it for a career! It has the potential to protect us from pathogens, cure human disease, feed our burgeoning population, and more. I also believe that it can be done safely, but to do that we must first accept that there are dangers, so that we can avoid them. And we must accept that we don’t yet know what those dangers are. So let’s get back to the bench and find out.

    • Sohan Modak 17/01/2015 at 7:40 pm

      Well said Brendon. that should give some food for thought to Ariel and Anuj. The problem is that Geneticv engineering per say is a high school technology but the random aimless shotgun shooting will lead to a dramatic colateral damage to what one may claim post fact as the target. Genetic enginnering has to be well planned on the basis of chromosomal gene location maps along with the compsition of coordinately expressed clusters in order to ensure a target-specific gene insertion and that too has to be assessed for expression effciency and its effect on the ‘coordinate cluster. This is a lengthy process but there is no way getting around it in orderto attain a fail-safe product, something GM-operators don’t have time to spend on !

    • Gary Baker 17/01/2015 at 7:41 pm

      Ok. We are a bunch of smarties. We can think of theoretical ways that RNAi could cause a problem. But far and away any problem would be a failure to thrive in the plant. Who does that hurt? That just makes the plant undesirable, never to see the light of day.

      Sorry, Brendan, but the possibility that RNAi is going to set free an endotoxin is over the top. And even if it did, what would happen? It is not going to turn an apple into Amanita peloides (death cap mushroom)? If the apple gave someone a belly ache, again, it would be an undesirable apple.

      We can not wait infinitum trying to prove a negative. Further testing, further testing. Once you have tested to show a reasonable statistic certainty, it is a waste to go on and on, unless there is a Political reason for the endless search.

      Yes, we need to be careful, but there seem to be those that will never be satisfied, for unscientific reasons.

      • Sohan Modak 17/01/2015 at 7:41 pm

        It good you state that we need to be careful. From the point of view of a molecular biologist, the present state of GMO as products is incomplete, does not address the basic precept behind the effect of a foreign gene, does not represent what is needed to ensure that the product is good for consumption of humans or animals and those down the line in the food chain. If that is not done, sorry it is not acceptable. If it has been done, let them state it fully, share the data with the public, something that will not endanger any patent protection issues and would indeed help alleviate the problem of ‘food for all’ something Normal Borlug did for free. So if one wants to sell something new, it better have been thoroughly tested. Not like animal meat from cattle fed with animal feed engineered with GH gene and the subsequent medically visible and ascertainable consequences downstream on human populations . And this is neither philosophy, nor bickering but just plain requirement of an absolute viable assurance. I say this despite being aware that GMO companies have been using various tactics ranging from graft to threat to plain lies to promote their pockets, something quite along the points raised by Ariel.

    • Ariel Poliandri 17/01/2015 at 7:45 pm

      Some people argue about GMOs like Catholic priests argue about divorce: They pretend to be rational and come up with countless “reasons” to be against it (some of them -as far as I can see- quite good). But they are dishonest, because even if you are able to answer all their quibbles they will still be against divorce. The motive for this is that their opposition to divorce lays not in reason but on belief.

      Brendan, I never said that Arctic Apples where not GM; I said that they do not express foreign genes, and they do not. The RNAi comes within the original sequence of the PPO. Where is the risk?
      – RNA is not immunogenic (neither DNA BTW).
      -If you ever worked with siRNA you should know how specific it is, you change 1 nt in 30 and completely stops working. There are well developed bioinformatics tools for predicting siRNA hybridization.
      – In any case, for this particular RNAi:
      My wife is an apple fan. She eats at least one apple a day. You can imagine, she has eaten a lot of PPO RNAi for the last 30 (let’s leave it there) years. She is still alive and –apparently- healthy like the billions of people who eat apples.
      What experiments should we perform exactly once we are “back at the bench”? Should we perform those experiments with every new thing created by man or just with GMOs?

      Which well-respected and successful scientist will be willing to spend time carrying out experiments that will obviously produce negative results when she might be studying something actually exciting that may go into a good journal? Specially knowing that:
      a – the scientific community, which already knows GMOs are fine, will not give a damn.
      and
      b- that the alliance of mystic weirdoes (like Sohan), hippies and anti-capitalists will not accept her results anyway?

      Every decision that you make carries an inherent risk. Remaining eternally stuck is not free of risk. Not finding any convincing reason no to move forward, I (and many others) rather move forward.

  • Patrick Smit 12/01/2015 at 10:13 am

    To put the discussion into another dimension; why does a GMO label need to convey scientific information?

    It does give scientific information about how the product was made, and there it stops. For most consumers that is sufficient. Consumers have widespread reasons to buy or not to buy certain products. There may be a large group rejecting these groups out of fear and filosofical reasons, and there may be many more reasons I don’t know off.

    But do the scientists and corporations have the right to deny the consumer a choice, a well informed choice? Not everything is science and therefore it could be argued that a GMO label is a sound idea from the viewpoint of the consumer. Most consumers won’t understand the exact function and consequences of the transgene in that product anyway.

    Companies could add QR codes, high capacity color barcodes, or aztec codes to allow an app on a smartphone to give relevant information on the transgene to interested consumers. The app could also reveal the safety tests performed, etc..

    I think we should as scientists not look from the perspective of the scientists (or enterprise) but also from the viewpoint of a common consumer.

    I am not saying that the GMO label is good and should be introduced. But decisionmakers and all other stakeholders should contemplate on the perspective of the consumer as well.

    • Ariel Poliandri 12/01/2015 at 10:17 am

      Initially you seem to make sense Patrick, however:
      Consumers who don’t like GM products can buy the already ostentatiously labelled “GM-free” products; there is no reason to enforce the labelling of normal products. In addition to being pointless, labelling will incur into a cost (not only the ink on the physical label but tracing and validating all the ingredients). That will be passed on to the consumers (i.e. me and my family and vast sectors of the population who don’t give a damn).
      In Britain many fish shops and food outlets sell Halal food to the general public because they cannot be bothered to offer choices. Halal is more expensive though, so Atheists and Christians and Indus end up subsidising Halal food for the Muslims. I do not want to subsidise Halal or Kosher or any other irrational food prejudice. It is not the job of the state to force me doing it; on the contrary, it is the job of the State to protect me from such abuse.

  • Kathryn Paisner 10/01/2015 at 8:47 am

    Humans have a long track record of manipulating the natural environment, for better or for worse. One can only imagine that the early pioneers of metallurgy were chastised by priests for “playing God,” when they first extracted shiny novelties from humble, unassuming rocks. On a fundamental level, DNA manipulation is not particularly distinct from iron smelting: both technologies involve transforming a natural substrate into an unnatural product that is uniquely useful to human beings.

    Any technology can be misused, intentionally or unintentionally. Metallurgy vastly improved the quality of human life, but it also gave us the tools to more expertly destroy ourselves (and our environment), on a far more massive scale. This is why it’s a good idea to have regulatory bodies in place, to ensure that new innovations are safe for general usage. It’s impossible to predict the long-term impact that any new technology will have (could our early Bronze Age ancestors have possibly imagined mechanized warfare?) but that is not a good reason to needlessly impede innovation, in situations where shorter-term results are promising.

  • Anjula Gurtoo 08/01/2015 at 7:49 am

    What is your science and research based argument for GMO?

    • Ariel Poliandri 08/01/2015 at 7:50 am

      Hi Anjula,
      I am sorry; I am not sure what your question is.
      I am a molecular biologist. I presume my “science” would be molecular biology and stem cell biology. The “argument for GMO”: Well, my argument for a particular GMO is in the blog post.

  • Luis Carlos Ramos 07/01/2015 at 1:18 pm

    Dear friends;

    Bad science hurts all because it hurts science against superstitions and unreason. If science and scientists fail in delivering the current proper knowledge we may be left to the darkness of illusions. I believe these following points are relevant in this discussion and would appreciate willingness on them:

    1. Humanity is still far away to claim she has all knowledge in order to live “healthy and peacefully”; that´s easy to check. I rather guess if the amount of knowledge available would be 100%, we may well be below 1%. That rests 99% to our ignorance.
    2. Long term or side effects of anything in a whole population of individuals are hard to be measured in space and time with the current technology we routinely use. See examples of known “miracle” pesticides or other largely used products released in the middle of the last century, which ended up banned from the market for learned reasons.
    3. The majority of the population do not have correct information for lack of proper education. Private sector says it is not their business get involved in education; government sources already do “their best”. In this scenario, suspicions abound within the population.
    4. The common people get most of the “information” from TV, newspaper and more recently, the internet; very little from scientific information. Of course, the “quality” of this information available to them varies a lot, then.
    5. Press and people have the “nasty” habit (for good or bad sake) of tagging things, people, behaviors and certain “words” depending on in which culture we were in. In the current case I am not sure where the word GMO is now settled in this regard.
    6. If seen as a nice world the industry would love to label all their GMO products as such, no matter the cost. On the contrary, they will spend lots of money campaigning to get rid off labelling.
    7. Noticing from what is being doing in the US, for instance, it seems the second case (6.) is chosen. I am not sure if this is the correct action to be taken in the long range; “non-GMO” labels may rise…
    8. Specifically about glyphosate. There are legally allowed amounts in food, which varies in time and place. Long before the soy GMO hit the market, the amount allowed was below 1 ppm in Europe and other countries. Shortly before its release it was legally raised to 10 or 20 ppm in many places (I have not the correct figures at this moment). Of course this was not done on the benefit of the population in general, but for “economic” reasons, I suspect. Who needs more glyphosate in their food?
    9. After some time of using the GMO soy, weed tolerance to glyphosate started to appear, leading to an increasing of use of the herbicide in the crops. The amount left in seeds is not verified routinely all times and in all places but I have read of some samples with 30 or 50 ppm. That was not officially published though, but it is bad and may raise suspicion.
    10. The discord will remain in this scenario if nothing changes. Points to be tackled head on: public education (3.), more food surveillance (9.) and more scientific knowledge (2.)…

    • Ariel Poliandri 07/01/2015 at 1:22 pm

      Dear Luis, you have presented many points. I can even agree with some of them. However, there is a big fallacy: in real life you can never, ever, be 100% sure of anything. If you look for that, you will remain stuck in time (and space; who knows what would happen if you walk 100 yd). At some point -without being reckless- you have to accept the evidence and move forward. Have we not done so countless times, we would still be hanging of the trees.
      GMO is not seen as a nice word not because it is intrinsically bad, but because there is a religious group fervently attacking them.
      As I mention, from a scientific view point, each GMO needs to be dealt with individually. What is wrong (or could REASONABLY be wrong) with Arctic Apples? If nothing is wrong. Why should they be labelled as if there was something wrong with them? What’s next? Yellow stars for the Jews? Bonnets for gays?
      Forgetting for a moment that each GMO should be dealt with individually and generalisations must be avoided: Let me be clear, there is no convincing evidence whatsoever that a commercial GM product have any deleterious health effect per se. Glyphosate is not a GMO; Glyphosate is a chemical; if you want a label “may contain traces of glyphosate” ask for it but a GMO label doesn’t say anything about glyphosate.

      • Luis Carlos Ramos 07/01/2015 at 2:54 pm

        Thanks Ariel,
        I do agree with you; I was generalist just following what’s on the media.
        Of course I understand the problem is not with the technology, but with the left public perception. I picked the case of glyphosate because of soy flour is hugely used in the market in many food products.
        I am aware of people willing to label market foods exactly because of the presence of glyphosate that is almost not used in “non-GMO” crops.
        Of course I prefer specific information on the presence of many “plant defensive” synthetic chemicals. In this case, I keep hearing news extracted from official data on pesticide content (in general) in food so to avoid those with higher amounts whereas the correct choice should be learn the actual presence… Even from natural contaminants, like aflatoxin, is not commonly informed. It seems foolish, but exactly the “GMO technology” would get around this problem by creating “resistant” crops to disease and insects.
        To correct the problem of chemicals in the food we need better technologies for fast and inexpensive measurements. Raman spectroscopy may help this in a short term but it is still not being largely used. Does everybody want this done?

  • Cliff Love 07/01/2015 at 7:32 am

    It seems like this is becoming a hot topic for some reason. Either way, due diligence is appropriate.
    http://www.thelibertybeacon.com/2013/10/27/do-gmo-foods-cause-autism-read-about-the-gmo-crops-autism-connection/

    • Ariel Poliandri 07/01/2015 at 7:44 am

      As I replied to this non-sense on twitter (allow me 140 characters).

      GMOs cause autism? I thought it was vaccines! Or was it the Wi-Fi? Anyway it is obvious now the real cause of autism is GMOs…

      • Cliff Love 08/01/2015 at 7:15 am

        I have chosen to reserve my judgement on the matter as data seems to be getting pulled from many sources and data integrity, let alone conclusions based on sound data, seems to be a concern.

        However, I have taken this position:

        The only type of GMO traits that have been readily distributed so far are agronomic traits. If we use history we can see a disturbing short sighted view on the destruction of efficacy of glyphosphate on several weed species that use to be non tolerant. It was claimed to the highest levels that resistance could be controlled and would be a non issue for the foreseeable future. That was published. But, this trait along with the Cry B3 Root Worm Resistant trait have now been neutralized by new genetic alterations by weed and worm species. Now, we have a new level of agronomic problems to face.

        A certain company introduced the BT trait into the corn market around 2001-03 claiming it killed ECB. Well…..it did…..as long as the worm ate green chlorophyll. If it ate anything else then the worm stayed alive and well. It took a couple years for farmers to be told that information. In the process the seed industry had to answer for this misunderstanding. Misunderstandings like that just don’t go away.

        So, irregardless of data being manipulate, hidden, or expunged….how far ahead can we see? When we begin making new GMO varieties and nature counters with genetic alterations within a matter of one decade in several weed and bug families I then say we had better do a better job reading our crystal ball…or tea leaves….take your pick.

        We are messing with the lives of billions and an ecosystem that encompasses most of the planet. Our view and our stewardship should be equally large.

        • Ariel Poliandri 08/01/2015 at 7:16 am

          Cliff,
          Glad that you climbed off the cornice of “GMOs cause autism” and step on the “some GMOs have problems” stool. The later is a reasonable quibble the former was –I felt- an insult to our intelligence almost as bad as claiming that vaccines cause autism.
          As I’ve said we need to deal with each GMO separately. I talked about Arctic Apples, which are nor RoundUp-ready or use Bt technology. What would be the logic of putting Arctic Apples in the same bag with RouncUp-ready and Bt-expressing GMOs?
          I will not waste too much time defending commercial GMOs because it is not my job; I will step in though, if I think that they are being used as a scaremongering tool to attack biotechnology or -more broadly- science, capitalism or Western culture.
          Claiming that RoundUp-ready and Bt crops are bad because ultimately organism become tolerant doesn’t seem very reasonable to me; it would be like claiming that antibiotics should not be used because ultimately bacteria become tolerant, but discussing the problem is fine.
          Some people have a beef with glyphosate (roundup); some people have it with Bt, and that’s fine with me. But if they are honest and want a label they should ask for a glyphosate or a Bt label. These labels will convey reasonable information. A GMO label will not.
          As for the lives of billions: if some cult stubbornly insist that we must remain stuck in the past and reject every innovation –just in case- we will be messing with their lives indeed.

      • Cliff Love 08/01/2015 at 2:21 pm

        Ariel, your points are all well taken. However, the stakes are very high. Higher then you or I or anyone else till now have experienced. I submit that the ways and ethics by which man has made lesser business decisions and policies are now being tested beyond their limits. Science is good and man’s creativity is only inherent and must not be stymied. However, as I have thought over the years….”To whom much is given, much is also expected”. If the Board of a large R & D company wants to peruse world sized changes then their size of ethical behavior should be just as large.

        That is the challenge that we are now facing and it is showing it weaknesses through what I placed in my last posting. We have a problem and we will reap and perhaps are reaping intended, hidden, or unintended consequences. I will leave each person to decide which one of the three it is.

      • Luis Carlos Ramos 09/01/2015 at 1:32 pm

        Yes, Cliff; the behavior of corporations are determined by their shareholder’s board, that is towards profit. On this regard, the soy GMO was a great shot for Monsanto. The Bt was also a very good one, too. However, both are having similar problems now in their field crops or weeds, as arising of insect or weed resistance. Of course there are too many options to tackle these problems, but that may not be immediately profitable to corporations – that is another problem. So, other ventures to improve food quality and other features affecting farmer’s cropping profit may keep in a second plane. Producing novel plants with these new technologies are not a task for individuals as plant breeding is, but for big business. Maybe that will change in a foreseeable future.

      • Cliff Love 09/01/2015 at 1:32 pm

        Excellent, Luis. That is precisely one of my concerns. The Land Grant University System that was put in place in the United States was established by the US congress back in 1862 & 1890 through the Morrill Acts. It was a brilliant move that provided solid, consistent research that would be disseminated through the Cooperative Extension Service to the farmer. It was a huge program. In my opinion, it has become a ghost of what it once was. It is not necessarily any one persons fault. Times change, societal demands shift, politics change and so does the intent of the program.

      • R.Easwaramurthy 09/01/2015 at 9:05 pm

        ” What would be the logic of putting Arctic Apples in the same bag with RouncUp-ready and
        Bt-expressing GMOs? ”
        “But if they are honest and want a label they should ask for a glyphosate or a Bt label. These labels will convey reasonable information. A GMO label will not.”
        Good,you accept there are reasons(a,b,and d) why these Bt and RR crops are feared and
        unacceptable and need some labels.The logic I don’t understand is why don’t they deserve
        GMO label when you yourself labeled them both as GMOs !

        • Ariel Poliandri 09/01/2015 at 9:06 pm

          Well that’s a bit disingenuous R.Easwaramurthy [RE]. I said that glyphosate and Bt were feared; I never said that they were unacceptable. That came out of a twisted logic.
          The fear of GMOs as a group is born out of ignorance or nature worshiping, is originated in environmentalist’s scaremongering. I oppose compulsory labelling as I oppose any law derived from religious fundamentalism.
          A GMO label would be even sillier than a kosher or halal label. Those labels -together with the organic label- carry no scientific value and are simply designed to please some religious group. But at least those labels don’t force the rest of the humanity to comply with them. A GMO label is more like a goy or haram label: unscientific, useless and compulsory for anything that is not kosher or halal.
          If you have problems with SOME GMOs need to spell them rationally and clearly -with a solid scientific argument- and ask the authorities to deal with them or to label them.
          There is no prove whatsoever that GMOs in general (I would even contend in particular) have a negative impact on human health. That would be the only reason for a compulsory label.
          You are free to choose whatever irrational believes to follow, that’s your right and prerogative. Keep them to yourself though; you cannot force feed me, my family, and society with them.

      • R.Easwaramurthy 10/01/2015 at 10:02 pm

        Ariel,as Luis put it,our knowledge of what we know is just a fraction and the rest is world
        size.We know the origin of species,but no one is not sure about the origin of life.Just
        forget science for a while and compare the three people a.doing organic agriculture,
        b.engaged in ordinary conventional farming and the c.growing GMO crops.Farmer ‘a’ is
        right in his own way of thinking,he is a nature lover,he thinks inorganic inputs are not needed because soil itself has the resources enough to nurture plant growth,growing high
        OM in soil facilitate N2 fixing,allow good root micro flora,mycorrhizae communities and
        also make his crop resistant to pests and diseases.He sprays plant extracts that repel
        pests.According to him all plant protection chemicals are potent toxins.The ‘b’ category is
        one who thinks he is a man of science.He tests his soil for every crop and apply the
        inorganic inputs according to the advice,he sprays all chemicals that are recommended for pl.production and protection.He also care about the soil and its health.He believes in crop rotation to gain maximum productivity as the farmer ‘a’does.The ‘c’ farmer has vast
        lands,more than thousands of acres.His main problems are weed control and pest managements that are very crucial to be attended as soon the sign starts,otherwise he has to loose his whole crop.For him the GMOs are at hand.He chooses the monocropping
        because it gives him good market price.
        Of all the three,the organic farmer is the vulnerable in terms of survival.his produces are
        eco-friendly,no herbicide or pesticide residue problem,more healthy,no exploitation of
        natural resources ect.ect.but his productions are the minimal.The conventional farmer
        uses every factory produced farm chemical to improve his production maximum,for him
        his production is more important than anything on the world.He spends high on inputs
        but harvests are not always assured.The GMO farmer always harvest good,and he spoils the environment more than the farmer ‘b’.
        Therefore,denying a label for the organic farmer’s produce is in every way not justifiable,
        he deserves a label for his hard work and his produces.On the same principle,the GMO
        farmer needs a label for all the benefits he gains and all the environmental damages he causes.More over all agricultural products need labels on their contamination levels of
        herbicides,Bt or other pesticides in a fair way to treat all three farming communities on an equal level.

        • Ariel Poliandri 10/01/2015 at 10:03 pm

          Organic is “healthier”? Why? How? That is a myth. There is no convincing evidence whatsoever for that.
          There is no evidence that GM crops have a negative impact on human health neither.
          No effect on human health, no label needed.
          As for chemicals:
          http://www.sci-phy.com/chemophobia/
          Your religious or aesthetic views about the wholesomeness of organic farming are yours and you cannot impose them onto others. Let the multi-billon pound organic industry label their own products; that’s part of the catch anyway.
          I will follow the advice in my own blog post and stop the discussion here.

      • vije ray 11/01/2015 at 8:59 am

        Ariel,
        Lets take your assumption that organic has no “evidence” of being healthier

        (actually there are enough and more arguments and research papers by some very well acknowledged Scientists and Doctors if you would only care to Google them)

        Lets Take your assumption that GM crops have no “evidence” that they have a negative impact on human health.

        (the same search for that goes too, I can give you links like the way you have given about chemophobia)

        But what I want to emphasize here is converting and patenting “Science” as a religion and a dogmatic following of faith of which religion you have appointed yourself as the Messiah

        Just look at what you are saying, even if we admit for the sake of argument what you say about evidence is accepted, just how does it make you the savior of science and truth and make what you are saying THE TRUTHS? Just because as you say evidence is not there;does it mean what you are trying to ram down everyone’s throat becomes God’s own truth? your own version of it?

        A champion of science and truth should at least be rational. You yourself admit that there is no evidence and this kind of argument with a couple of unsavory adjectives thrown in for good measure are supposed to be your Argument?

        It’s good that you have decided to follow your own advice in your blog post. But I hope you read this before you do that.

        Science needs evidence, BOTH WAYS either to prove or disprove. and it is it’s own biggest critic don’t push it into the realms of dogmatic religion. The absence of evidence means just that, nothing more, it does not automatically become an untruth.

        • Ariel Poliandri 11/01/2015 at 9:00 am

          Vije,
          There is no convincing evidence whatsoever that organic food is healthier.
          When doing your research, don’t use Google. As useful as Google is for other things, it contains tons of un-filtered pseudoscientific BS. Use PubMed (the US national library of medicine), that’s what scientist use.
          Read reputable peer-reviewed journals. REPUTABLE journals. Even PubMed contains data on bogus “peer-reviewed” journals. Check the journal’s Impact Factor, a measure of how real scientist value and read the journal.
          Here’s a guide on detecting bogus journals:
          http://bit.ly/1q82Spj
          If you are interested in absolute “TRUTHS” then your field is theology, not science. All scientific truths are tentative and subject to change. It doesn’t mean that they can be disregarded.
          I don’t know what “evidence in both ways” means. GM crops have been grown in the US and Canada for over a generation now and, people are fine. There is no rational argument for which expressing a foreign gene in a crop will have, per se, a negative effect on health (discounting that the gene is toxic or allergenic for what there are validated test already).
          Now, if you are interested in philosophy you must know that in science you can never know that something is true, just that is false. If you cannot prove that something is false and it works, then you go along with it. If you think that GM crops are unsafe you need to prove it. If you can’t prove that GM cops are unsafe plus GM crops have been grown for decades and everything is fine, then we have to assume they are safe until evidence on the contrary –if ever- is provided.

      • R.Easwaramurthy 11/01/2015 at 9:16 pm

        There are several papers on weeds developing resistance against glyphosate and insectes
        against Bt crops.If you don’t believe those works,go out and look for yourself,or talk to the
        farmers doing GMO farming.
        All organo mercuric and most of the organo chlorides are banned in agriculture in several
        countries,Do you think they are good chemicals but got victimised by the miss campaign.
        of environmentalists.You think that there is no truth in it ? Can you eat the food that got
        dusted with Agrosan,BHC or a crop sprayed with DDT?
        “Your religious or aesthetic views about the wholesomeness of organic farming are yours and you cannot impose them onto others”.If the above words are intended for me,I am
        sorry you have some syndrome of which you are suffering from.

        • Ariel Poliandri 11/01/2015 at 11:12 pm

          You are being disingenuous again: Neither herbicide nor insecticide resistance affect human health. No effect on human health, no need to label; that is clear. Otherwise we will have to label all sorts of things: how much CO2 is produced while growing and harvesting the crops, how are they transported, etc.
          Bt (together with some more nasty insecticides some of which have been even banned now) are allowed in “organic” farming. Didn’t you know that? Rotenone is also used. Whatever is deemed “natural” by organic theologians is allowed.
          Complaining about a herbicide because its long term use generates resistance is like complaining about an antibiotic for the same reason. Besides, why do you care? You are not planning to use them are you? So what is it to you if they become ineffective?
          The way you underestimate farmers as if they were idiots who don’t know how to run their farms is offensive.
          Allow all kosher producers to label their commodities as they wish. Forcing normal people to label things that in no way affect human health, just out of a religious prejudice, is wrong.
          Also, not all GMOs express Bt or are RoundUp ready –like the apples I talked about in my original post.

      • vije ray 11/01/2015 at 9:16 pm

        Ariel,
        ” you must know that in science you can never know that something is true, just that is false. If you cannot prove that something is false and it works, then you go along with it.”

        What exactly does “Science” mean to you? Do you seriously mean what you say there on top?
        This kind of a definition can mean anything, everything, or utter non-sense depending upon how subjective you decide to get.
        Call me whatever you feel like, but what I know of Science is that it is objective, demonstrate-able, repeatable and logical when dealing with physically existing objects say like crop, soil, chemicals, etc. When it comes to non-physical objects like say a theory or a probability it has to be deemed proved and held as truth by applications of the theory on physical objects by logical arguments until it is proved otherwise by a more feasible argument, say like the big bang theory or the string theory.
        As far as our arguments about the methodology and application of inputs into a very physical phenomena of growing food for consumption by living beings is concerned I don’t see what you are trying to say.
        It is obvious and very simple, GM has not proved itself to be dependable because the claims made by the researchers fell flat. I am referring to the worm-resistant corn and cotton in as recent as 2014 crops. They were infested by worms and huge tracts of corn in the USA and cotton in India were lost. This proves one simple scientific fact to me, and that is; adequate research has not been done on it and the so called scientific claims made by the peddlers of these wares were con artists under the camouflage of scientists,
        and therefore I will assume that adequate research has not been done or if done then it has been willfully suppressed on the health hazards of these products. And I would consider it prudent and quite scientific not to let myself act as a lab guinea pig for field tests, thank you. Why are you so vociferously demanding that I allow myself to be experimented upon?
        On the other hand I will decide to follow the age old method which had fed my ancestors through the ages quite adequately and kept them quite healthy and the soil and the water and the climate very sustainable until the 60 s when humans decided to manipulate artificially everything in nature without adequate Scientific research or data, which has ended up in the deterioration of the soil water and the air (I don’t have to provide you with data from reputed journals for this do I?) on the same woolly definition of scientific prudence that you have given and I quote ” If you cannot prove that something is false and it works, then you go along with it.” One thing has never been proven and never will be because the question has never arisen and that is organic food being harmful and it has worked so I will go along with it. Your grand parents and mine as well as their fathers and people before them were quite healthy and through the existence of you and me today have proved it,
        I have a very simple way of detecting BOGUS stuff, I see it with my own eyes and test the claims. I don’t have to rely on either peer reviews or reputed journals. For example, like I said earlier worm resistance was claimed on corn and cotton by “reputed” scientists and were “peer reviewed” in “reputed journals” (including probably PubMed) and they failed to resist worms and cost Agriculturists millions of dollars in losses. I wont even think too deeply or scientifically or philosophically about what I have decided about the claimants. I don’t have to for it is so obvious. All the people who made the claims are nothing but CON ARTISTS including the people who supported them like their PEERS and JOURNALS and anyone who is still doing it today is SUSPECT. They LIED.
        I wouldn’t call a person who lies neither a scientist nor a philosopher, I wouldn’t even call them DECENT.
        You are just trying to obfuscate a simple matter by trying to use flowery language and silly jargon

        • Ariel Poliandri 11/01/2015 at 11:12 pm

          I follow the standard definition of science by Popper.
          Vije, you can carry on hanging of the trees like your ancestors did. I’ll go with science; it will never be perfect but it’s better than remaining stuck in the past (I repeat: of hanger, pain and early death).

  • Bernard Madé 07/01/2015 at 7:21 am

    Good points. I agree we need to go on case-by-case basis with the GMOs. Same thing with new chemicals. Some will be ok some will not.

    So a GMO label does not give any scientific info on the safety of a product to the consumer. However, the consumer has the righ to know if they want to know. If consumer want to know whether a product contains chemical x, even if the authorities think it is acceptable, so be it.

    Not allowing labeling sends the message that governments or companies have something to hide. I see it as part of the education process. As long as the labeling is clearly explained.

    • Robert Terry 07/01/2015 at 7:23 am

      Perhaps the only label worth supporting is one that states a food contains NO GMO, since that is a good deal more verifiable than trying to tell you how much of each GMO is in the ones you do eat.

    • Ariel Poliandri 07/01/2015 at 7:41 am

      As Terry mentions, GMO labels are allowed. In fact many companies use them (generally the ones that market non-GMO products). Allowed doesn’t mean compulsory. Compulsory labelling for things that bare no proven health threats is irrational and must be avoided because it sends government-endorsed wrong signals.
      -be afraid of science.
      -any group making unreasonable demands will be heard if shouting loud enough.
      Labelling with the specific genetic traits introduced into the particular GMOs used for a particular product would be more informative although –again- unnecessary, unless there is evidence that one of the traits –somehow- may affect someone.
      If we are going to compare GMO material with “chemicals”, first we will have to define “chemicals” in a way that stretches the common definition of chemical ad ridiculum (because literally everything will be contained in that definition, rendering it pointless).

  • Kathryn Paisner 06/01/2015 at 11:32 pm

    This is one of the most intelligent, focused, and accessible discussions on this subject that I have ever encountered. Thank you.

  • Lynne Tagawa 06/01/2015 at 11:10 pm

    Some good points here! However, to most Americans, “GMO” refers to corn or soy, and such a label on a box of cornflakes gives real information. Most people I know realize that it’s not the modification per se that’s bad–the devil is in the details. I tell my students about human insulin–they need to think clearly on the subject. (However, I confess to a private image of Monsanto as the Big Bad Wolf LOL.)

    • Ariel Poliandri 06/01/2015 at 11:11 pm

      Thanks Lynne!
      I know that for many people GMO = Monsanto. That is not true! Even when it comes to GM crops…
      I confess however, that I find all the hate poured over Monsanto odd. Yes, it is a big “faceless” corporation but Whole Foods’ revenue is about the same as Monsanto’s and Whole Foods is actually selling snake oil and nobody hates it.
      In any case, I will be happy if people can take it to Monsanto without boycotting science. A GMO label doesn’t provide any health advice and sends the wrong massages:
      -be wary of science.
      -any group making unreasonable demands will be heard if shouting loud enough.

      • Lynne Tagawa 07/01/2015 at 5:19 pm

        I have not researched the role Monsanto plays except that I know they sell both seeds and RoundUp. As usual, things are always more complex that they first appear. I happen to like Whole Foods, though most of their stuff is expensive and I rarely go. The nice thing about capitalism is having choices. Their presence has caused more mainstream markets to carry more things that I prefer–reasonably priced organics, for example (a whole ‘nother subject!)

        As a science teacher, I am wary of science. In our culture, science is frequently trumpeted as an absolute authority. Those who don’t know science seem to put more stock in it than scientists! I teach my kids the scientific method, and I love the history of science so I teach some of that too. I show them how science is empirical, inductive logic, and not absolute truth. Models are constantly tweaked by new data, and even then, like it or not, there is the human element. Since scientists are human they are often slow to embrace new ideas (e.g. H. pylori causing most ulcers). It took a while. Some areas of science are even politicized, polarized, bent, stapled, and mutilated.

        But I do sympathize with your statement–I don’t want folks to be turned off to science either. In sum, the GMO label is something that some folks want. Many don’t care. Monsanto and other companies might not want it. I do want it. For now, buying organic accomplishes the same thing–when I can afford it.

  • Gary Baker, Esq., MT 06/01/2015 at 4:41 pm

    On the news yesterday I heard a politician suggest that everyone has a right to know if a product is GMO, and there ought to be labels. In the next breath he admitted that almost no one knows what a GMO is. In any case, he said, until GMOs are proven safe, there ought to be a label.

    I am all for information availability, but the information should be useful. If everyone is afraid of GMOs (e.g., frankenfood) without a reason, what good is a simple “GMO” label? Maybe it would be better to label GMO products like any other products. That is, where there is a known hazard, e.g., allergen (peanuts), toxin (cigarettes), health issue (hydrogenated oils), it should be on the label, case by case.

    I see little chance the general public will ever understand GMOs generally. Where there is a significant issue with a GMO product specifically, the media and pundits can raise the issues (e.g., on Good Morning America) and get the specific useful information out so consumers can make an informed choice.

    • Ariel Poliandri 06/01/2015 at 5:40 pm

      I agree with you Gary. A plain GMO label without information about what trait was introduced by which method is superfluous. I would even argue that it sends wrong massages (be wary of science; whatever prejudice is too entrenched, it must be automatically accepted; etc.).

      • Sohan Modak 07/01/2015 at 9:55 am

        Wow, the dialogue between Gary a nd Ariel sounds like Bob and Ray of the famous Radio programme, each involving in a lengthy discussion and then agreeing with the other and patti ng each other’s back! The fact is that GMO is based on faulty gene insertion at an unknown chromosomal site is in itself a fraud considering that genes act as a cohort and not single entities. Therefore, to what extent insertion of a foreign gene, e.g., Bt, affects the cohort expression has either not been studied or not told to the public. Afterall, as long as there is moolah, who cares ! GMO-products must indicate their GMO origin and whether the procedure included testing the expression of the cohort and if yes, what were the actual (I mean publishabvle in refereed journals like nature, Cell, etc) results!

        • Ariel Poliandri 07/01/2015 at 10:11 am

          Sohan, mate, you must become a philosopher. You seem to experience extreme pleasure picking up words and arranging them in a way that seems to make sense but it is -for anyone confident enough to give them a thought- pure fluff.
          What do you mean by faulty gene? How do you define faulty? The gene integrates, protein or RNAi is produced how is it faulty? I transfect cells all the time and they express quite well even heterologous genes. We know where, in what chromosome, and what part of the chromosome genes integrate. In order to know that, you can do an old fashion Southern Blot (invented in 1975 before even I was born) all the way down to sparing a few quid in next generation sequencing.
          Nature and Cell used to publish this kind of stuff 30 years ago. They won’t publish it anymore because they only publish breaking research not infinite technical repeats.
          And regarding all the fluff about your gene “cohorts”: I’m not even going to waste time with that.
          A GMO label is useless unless you provide information about what trait was introduced. Even then the label is pointless and counterproductive if the trait hasn’t been proven to have a negative impact on human health.

      • Sohan Modak 07/01/2015 at 1:19 pm

        Ariel, I like that. Lets go through a sesson in Molecular biology of gene expression. In all cells, pro- or eukaryotes, genes are expressed as a cluster, not necessarily a physically linked cluster, but a functionally linked cluster. this is called as coordinate gene expression. in such a scenario, one or more genes dominate the expression profile while others show quantitatively intermediate or unique expression. At the same time the predominantly expressed genes necessarily affect that of others so that when the major expressing sequence shift occurs, the accompanying group exhibits quantitative change in expression. This was first recognized by MIT group looking for the abundence classes aof mRNAs in seventees and confirmed nowadays by microarrrays. The point here is that, when a foreign gene is inserted at an “unknown” locus/location, one woukld be necessarily changing/affecting the candidate genes participating in the coordinately expressed and functionally linked gene cluster. What is important is that whether this happens or not has to be checked when any foreign gene in inserted, regardless of the purpose of the manouvre. It is my contention that this was never done with Bt gene, or that, if done, the results with hard data were never revealed and it is not possible to assess whether or not a faulty gene expression did or did not occur. of course, one can play games on the word, faulty gene, but i have meant and explained is that change in the m,embership of a coordinately expressed gene cluster can lead to recruitment and dislodgement of members/genes that may give rised to either favourable or unfavourable or unchanged result. Again, this question has never been asked in the manner molecular biologists ask and answers, if any, have not been provided. In short, insertion of a foregin gene may also lead to side-effects by unspecified proteins/products that may have cumulative bad effects on the consumer. Hope you and Gary have understood what is meant buy my objections despite which you guys are gung-ho about GMO! i am not against but certainly against bad science or lack of science, something that happens often with technologists. Remember how the first civilan jet plane, ‘Comet” turned out to be a disaster because technologists believed in themselves and didn’t give science a chance. We are already seeing dramatic effects of GMOs leading to excessive production/presentation of growth hormones. Monsanto does not want to tyalk about the fact that when bt gene activated late in cotton in India, the bolworm had to be killed using “special” pesticides sold by Monsanto at 50 times the price, thereby leading to farmers; bankrupsy. thus, even the timing of expression of the inserted gene must be controlled well before the product release because, just like cell cycle there are multiple chronologically regulated synthetic and degradative processes and their regulation muust be assessed in the presence of a foreign gene. Of course, GMO confederates can claim that they don’t know where to look for. Sure, that is the scenario supporters of GMO are ccounting on, as if good old hybrid varieties based on tolence to temperature, pH, salinity are not enough, an area that most new world agronomist have dropped out from.

    • Sohan Modak 07/01/2015 at 1:20 pm

      Incidentally, if you don’t know the MIT scientist was Sheldon Penman, whose work you can easily refer to.

      • Gary Baker, Esq., MT 07/01/2015 at 5:11 pm

        Hi Sohan. I hope you at least liked car talk. I am a big fan. See http://www.biopatent.com/cars.html I always listen to them on my Sunday run.

        I am not Gung-Ho for GMO, only agree that the labels idea would be unfair and not provide useful information.

        As far as cohorts, and such, we are principally talking food. We are not randomly inserting genes into people. If the Bt gene “activated late” in an Indian farmer’s cotton, then it was a standard cotton plant until it was finally expressed. I doubt late activation made the bolworms special. These are the same worms the farmer always had. Anyway, this is the nature of science and technology. The event provides a positive result to be looked into, and improvements (or warnings) made. When the Comet crashed due to metal fatigue, lessons were learned that went into all jets at the time. Should we never have had jets, or should we learn our observations of rare events? Railroads had an even more horrific history. Should we not have trains? The history of GMOs has been far less eventful than most other new technologies.

        Bt has been in cotton and saved farmers more than the rare losses caused. It is hard to defend “RoundUp Ready” crops (so it is the outlier GMO poster child of anti-GMO groups), but it has probably lowered food costs by billions. Some genes have spread to adjacent crops. A positive (identifiable) result. Something we can do something about. But this does not make the corn poison. In fact, there have been billions of servings of the corn without adverse effects. Still, this huge statistic, yet still does not prove the negative demanded by some.

        I am just talking about the usefulness of labels here. I know GMOs can be bad. If there is something demonstrably wrong with a GMO product, there should be a warning (not that anyone reads them – have you ever read the front of a flat screen TV owner’s manual, they are apparently very dangerous).

    • Sohan Modak 07/01/2015 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks Gary, i appreciate your comments. Yet, I realise that you have cleverly sidestepped my objections concerning the effect of foreign gene insertion on coordinate expression of a functionally linked gene cluster. There it is. Any way, it si also becoming increasingly clear that worms are mutating and acquiring resistance to Bt, something that is also quite n the way genetics works. So the race between new genes and new resistance acquisition process will go on. But, then, the original issue was raised considering what was put on the label, which i understood to invoke whether or not the whole truth was revealed about the product, GMO plant in this case. the answer is NO and the reasons are there to see, especially considering huge profits to be raked by the MNCs inspite of the loss of biodiversity through monoculture practices, etc.and the cycle goes on and on. I rest my case at that.

      • Anuj Mankad 08/01/2015 at 7:19 am

        Dr. Modak, you say “The point here is that, when a foreign gene is inserted at an “unknown” locus/location, one would be necessarily changing/affecting the candidate genes participating in the coordinately expressed and functionally linked gene cluster. ” No, not necessarily, especially with the new, more targeted techniques used today. Even with the original techniques, (as stated by others above) by using a combination of Southern blots and microarrays for gene expression, one can determine where the new gene has been inserted and if there are gross changes in the expression of other genes due to the insertion of the “new” gene, so issues about gene expression variation can be controlled (or at least cataloged and understood) to a great extent. New genes can even be inserted, through targeted homologous recombination, into specific regions of a chromosome that have no surrounding genes or regulatory elements. (I believe such gene-poor regions do exist in most eukaryotic genomes, even if they are rare.)

      • Anuj Mankad 08/01/2015 at 7:24 am

        Furthermore, it is extremely disingenuous to constantly use Bt toxin or Roundup-Ready crops, or anything Monsanto does for pure profit, as examples with which to denounce or induce fear about a general bio-technology. The fact that certain corporations seem intent on misusing or misappropriating the use of the technologies for the sake of creating a market for themselves does not mean that the technology or its use is harmful by itself. There are hundreds of specific uses of gene transfer from one organism to another, which fall into a number of categories, including to make crops more drought resistant, to add nutrients by making one crop plant produce nutrients found in other plants, to make certain fruits ripen more quickly (even if one can argue that doing so reduces the nutritional value and flavor somewhat) and others. Constantly referring to the production of a pesticide that prevents insects from making their exoskeletons or the conferral of resistance to glyphosphate to allow extremely excessive herbicide use, in any and all arguments about GMOs, simply because these are the most common corporate uses of genetic modification, is like denouncing rocket propulsion by constantly referring to nuclear weapons. If GMOs are to be labeled, then the label must include the source of the gene, the recipient of the gene, and the specific phenotype(s) and expected side effects (if any) of the gene. Anything short of this adds to the ignorance and misinformation spread among the general public, instead of being informative of useful. If we are supposed to label any and all GMOs with a generic label simply based on what might happen as a result of the careful insertion of a specific gene, then we should label all organisms that have been modified genetically using any technology, including the latest CRISPR/TALENs/ZFN technologies, as well as the oldest of technologies. In such a case, the use of the term “GMO-free” must be banned, since almost none of the crops we eat today are the same as they were when they were first eaten by our ancestors. Through selective breeding, we have chosen specific alleles and expression patterns of clusters of genes for hundreds of crops, without any idea of the consequences of the expression of genes linked to the ones we have selected by phenotype. In fact, if you are worried about the effects of the change in expression of clusters of endogenous genes due to genetic modification, may I suggest that we label all wheat as GMO, since our ancestors cross-bred several species of cereal grain to create the “modern” wheat plant, which is allo-polypoid. After all, very few people, if anyone, knows the effects this cross-breeding had on the expression of clusters of thousands of genes that were combined together. Adding a single gene or set of genes under control laboratory conditions is not likely to be dangerous unless the modifications were done without the proper controls and extensive tests that are just part of good science. In other words, we can actually test whether “insertion of a foreign gene may also lead to side-effects by unspecified proteins/products that may have cumulative bad effects on the consumer.” So, if we advocate for anything, it should not be to add blanket, uninformative labels to GMOs, but that researchers who create GMO crops conduct thorough scientific testing on those crops before releasing them and that the public be educated about what genetic modification actually involves, instead of fearing what they do not understand.

      • Sohan Modak 08/01/2015 at 7:27 am

        Mr. Mankad, your proposals for what can be done are interesting, but the issue is that these are not done, or if done the data and results not provided as the proof. Here, being an active practitioner of cellular, developmental and molecular biology for over 4 decades and actually seeking bioinformatic solutions to phylogeny and gene annotation, I will simply ignore Ariel’s flimsy remarks about philosophizing ‘fluff;. Yes, technologies like CRISPR are novel and interesting, but are these useful in diagnosis and still a distance away from being used for Genetic Manipulations. Most of GM Corporates sing the preset songs about how GM is going to solve the problem of food scarcity and entice populations to justify their cost-effective schemes. Yes, there are gene poor regions on chromosomes. Does one know what are these meant for? Or, does the absence of coding sequences there, mean that these are ‘junk’ regions ? And, did you think about the implicating these in coordinate gene expression? Most GManipulators don’t care to and try to understand the problems faced by gene annotators. In fact, you hopefully know that, thanks to defective annotation pipeline, even human genome has yet to be fully annotated,. Furthermore, most don’t care to recognize that the so called non-coding RNA are a product of pre-mRNA processing and not necessarily de novo transcripts. Whatever, coming back to the discussion on GMO, the lack of proper molecular biology and process screening is not only worrisome but dangerous because it pretends to save human lives potentially at the cost of loss of biodiversity. Here I will just mention the events such as ‘pollen transport’ and random or even environmentally drive n mutations leading to ‘acquisition of resistance’ which is not profitable to GM operators to discuss. This is particularly disconcerting since guys like Ariel Pollandri appear to engage in discussions in favor of GMOs while acting like fly-by-wire operators to promote interests of Corporates. Incidentally, your write up is interesting and please do keep in touch to tell me how much of that is being actually done or at least in the pipeline. Surely, you know that the industry will do the minimum essential to get their product on the market place and don’t give hoots to long term effects of what they market. As can be said, “Once you are hooked on cigarettes all manufactures have to do is to advertise better and more efficient filters, better tobacco treatment processes, sexy advertisements etc. to ensure that you stay hooked on” !

        • Ariel Poliandri 08/01/2015 at 7:43 am

          Sohan,
          Answering fundamental question about “life” is not the business of companies. Your insistence in that they should do so is disingenuous.
          As for guys like me: fare enough, I like science AND capitalism. I think they go hand in hand. Without capital there wouldn’t be research. Who do you think paid for your 40 years as a researcher? The government? Where did the government get the money from? So you can call me a “fly-by-wire operator promoting interests of Corporates”.
          For me you are a Ying-Yang monk who sprinkle his sermons with some scientific sounding words and concepts to mislead the public about the dangers of science while the faithful rejoice.
          We still don’t hove a field theory that successfully bind gravity and quantum mechanics, yet we managed to land probes on comets, to communicated instantly with people on the other side of the planet, ant to treble our life expectancy as compared with our organic-food-eating ancestors; pretty impressive.

      • Sohan Modak 08/01/2015 at 2:25 pm

        Oh, yes, thanks for the confession ! For me, the pursuit of the scientifically verifiable queries and findings is not only satisfying but constitutes the force to establish new gold standards of a different kind. i mean, not the kind the freewheeling corporates selling boodle and Alladin’s lamp that explodes. It is scientists who in their of search of the finite go through the battle of more losses and only when comes a win, corporate cultures home in. Whatever, to summarize, GM vendors are selling stuff whose long term effects have not been studied, let alone understood. If that is the path you are taking, too bad!. May be, this is a consequence of serial incidents of frustration in dealing with scientific enquiry! I will leave it at that because, not only I know what I am saying about GM, but do so after having acquired necessary lab/manual skills to achieve it. I hope you know, or learn, how to clone, sequence, grow, fructify……

    • Sohan Modak 07/01/2015 at 9:07 pm

      Oh, yes, Gary, the Comet was replaced by better designed Jets. does that mean that we need to have fatal events to reveal errors and then scratch brains to correct these? that is a no brainer. Unfortunately, that is the way technologists or technogeeks work. In contrast, scientists while being equally prone to mistakes are always in the trial and error and verification/vetting mode before giving a ‘relatively’ definitive answer to a series of querrries in an attempt to establish facts. Unfortunately, despite the warning by the inventor of gene cloning, the techies backed by huge capital inputs and efficient commercialisation pipeline didn’t care to do that with GMO, or Comet or other examples that you or have so correctly dispensed or exist in umpteen number of cases.

      • Ariel Poliandri 07/01/2015 at 9:07 pm

        Sohan, you do realise that if it were for people like you there wouldn’t be any progress because we would remain stuck in endless contemplation? I am not a psychologist but I will risk saying that you know this, and you don’t care because you consider progress distasteful.
        And please, cut down with all the fluff about “coordinates”, “cohorts”, “non-linear multifactorial supercalifragilistic elements” I may share your interest in philosophy but we are dealing with real life issues here. When you add new halogen lights to a car you don’t waste time testing how it affects the shape of the back sit. You just test the lights and if they work, you move on. This has been the philosophy that made the West the most prosperous hemisphere.

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