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Most scientists hate the term “Frankenfood” applied to genetically engineered (GE) crops. Activists certainly use it as an insult. But did those activists actually read Mary Shelley’s book?

Scene from Frankenstein 1931

Scene from Frankenstein 1931

Mary Shelley’s creature is not at first a monster of despicable evil; quite the contrary, he is agentile and sensitive creature condemned to solitude and neglect and chased everywhere he goes by bigoted mobs that dislike him only for aesthetic reasons, because he seems to them a monstrosity. Listen at the creature’s lament when, after secretly helping a family of poor farmers, he finally decides to reveal himself:

“The more I saw of them, the greater became my desire to claim their protection and kindness; my heart yearned to be known and loved by these amiable creatures; to see their sweet looks directed towards me with affection, was the utmost limit of my ambition. I dared not think that they would turn from me with disdain and horror.”

It is a rather sad story and you can’t help but feel sorry for the creature chased by prejudiced and ignorant villagers, forced to hide in dark places and to eat whatever comes at hand.

On the left common rice and on the right Golden Rice. From Golden Rice Project

On the left common rice and on the right Golden Rice. From Golden Rice Project

Why would anyone attack and vandalise fields of GE Golden Rice? It is not even ugly; it looks just like any rice, a bit more yellowy. It is more nutritional than conventional rice. It was created by a non-for-profit organisation to prevent children in the South East of Asia from going blind or dying because of vitamin A deficiency. The yellow colour comes from beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, which scientists introduced in the rice. Like most GE crops Golden Rice is a perfectly safe and efficient crop.

(click for peer-reviewed scientific article)Of course, it would be much better if poor children in the South East of Asia could feast on fresh vegetables and fruits, but that is not going to happen. Honest activists campaigning against Golden Rice can learn much about the diet of poor people if they read their fellow middleclasser George Orwell’s The The Road to Wigan Pier. For the dishonest, that doesn’t even matter; their opposition has nothing to do with helping poor people.

globe 2The biggest scientific associations in the world have concluded that human consumption of GE food is perfectly safe. This includes the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) -publishers of Science Magazine the world’s most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific – and the European Food and Safety Authority, among others.The attacks on Golden Rice fields exemplify the ethos of anti-GE activism. They oppose GE crops no matter what, no matter how safe and beneficial they are. GE crops offend their aesthetic inclinations; therefore GE crops ought to be destroyed. They are the torch-wielding ignorant mob chasing a creature that they dislike. Even if GE crops can prevent poor people suffering, even when they don’t hurt the planet or ecosystems more than any other crop, even when they are not sold by multinational corporations plotting to achieve “world domination”, activists oppose them.

Scene from Frankenstein 1931

Scene from Frankenstein 1931

Well, C P Snow left a message for those activists many years before biotechnology even existed:

If you want to turn your backs on the benefits of industrialisation, go hungry and see most of your children die in infancy; you are free to make that choice. I respect you for the strength of your aesthetic revulsion […] But I don’t respect you in the slightest if, even passively, you try to impose the same choice on others who are not free to choose.

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  • Buck 16/03/2014 at 12:50 pm

    You advocate a common, and yet extreme position most obviously prevalent in religious communities, but shared where people have strong emotions, which are used for justification.

    Example: “A vegan biology teacher who pontificates against meat production is abusing their position.” Here, abuse is fallaciously determined by a person being “vegan”, whereas unbiased readers see this as the author’s negative emotional issues with vegans. The author’s self-image doesn’t allow him to see his own emotional bias which tells him “vegan teaching opposition to meat in class must be abuse; Scientific merit of the vegan’s claims are irrelevant to the author.

    Example: The existence of feeling “most treasured” status for a student gift is considered valid supporting evidence. When pedagogy becomes a popularity contest of this type, we may well accept such a justification, but not before.

    It would strike me as extremely odd to treat lingerie photos from grad students as evidence of my scholastic expertise, regardless of how much I appreciate them.

  • Buck 16/03/2014 at 12:22 pm

    @Ariel,

    If molecular biologists were capable of fully defining “expression of a few genes” as you believe, and their health effects, the pro-GMO camp would be in a much stronger position, and anti-GMO critics would lose substantial credibility.

    This is not, however, the case…yet. Thus, animal and human testing still appears the best we have – and it is not prohibitively expensive.

    “Expression of a few genes” could equally describe Albert Einstein or the Black Death. Using such a hand wave to dismiss apparently legitimate concerns is bad science.

    • Ariel Poliandri 16/03/2014 at 2:06 pm

      Molecular biologists are perfectly capable of defining “a few genes” when talking about a particular GMO (something that disingenuous anti-GMO campaigners avoid; they prefer to talk of GMOs in general avoiding specific questions with specific answers).
      In the case of Golden Rice “a few genes” means two genes: phytoene synthase and carotene desaturase. This two genes codify two well characterised enzymes that allow the production of b-carotene in the endosperm of Golden Rice.

    • Mahesh 13/07/2014 at 10:41 pm

      Great piece Gina. For the life of me, I cannot unnsaetrdd why if something is not harmful as is claimed by food manufacturers we shouldn’t know that it’s used. I hope that even in defeat California’s proposition will raise awareness.

  • Alan Carpenter 14/03/2014 at 10:40 am

    In the United States, the National Academy of Sciences defines (yes defines!) the state of scientific knowledge. Only if you have incredible qualifications should you stand before a class of students and opine your personal beliefs. It is a remarkable abuse of the bully pulpit given to teachers to state that GMOs are harmful to humans or that global climate change isn’t happening. Unfortunately, I see teachers in Seattle who argue vehemently, based mostly on some Luddite fear of corporations, that climate change is happening but that GMOs are poison. In neither case are they qualified to editorialize. Simply choosing to do a unit on consumer chemicals recognized as safe by the FDA biases the students against testing protocols. A vegan biology teacher who pontificates against meat production is abusing their position. What about the students whose parents believe fervently the opposite of your beliefs? You disenfranchise them in their own classroom! That is wrong. Our job as scientist/teachers is to voice the accepted position of the experts and keep our personal beliefs to ourselves. Else, you bully the weak. Note that I am a Professional Environmental Engineer as well as a teacher, and one of my most treasured momentoes is a small anti-evolution book from a fundamentalist Christian girl thanking me for respecting her beliefs.

  • Tom Billings 11/03/2014 at 6:29 pm

    It’s not like Golden Rice, or any other GMO, goes untested. Indeed, the latest incident in the Philippines involved locals hired and led by international abti-GMO groups. Their purpose was to destroy precisely the test fields the Philippine government required before Golden Rice was introduced in that country. The destruction was done to *stop* testing. This is a thugs’ veto!

    Testing “similar to drugs”? Who do you know that is willing to pay the $1.25 billion that is the average to get a drug through the full FDA testing regimen, for every new breed of plant, whether GMO or not? Quite simply, GMOs have the same threat level to humans and the local ecology as a new cultivar that any other new cultivar would when produced by the older standard breeding methods using the patient placement of pollen from one plant into another plant’s blossom. There is no difference in threat level, biologically. The patent process is the same as well.

    I have had anti-GMO folks here in Portland admit flat out that their opposition to GMOs is based on their desire to keep industrial society from influencing agrarian cultures who are still “traditional”. This is the sort of anti-industrial activity that multiculturalism was invented to produce. It has nothing to do with concern for poor people and everything to do with the desire to live without other people having the same levels of industrial wealth we do.

    The last argument with these folks is always about “insecticides generated in the plants”, when this is not new either. What do they think nicotine is for, as far as the tobacco plant is concerned? What do they think caffeine is for, as far as the tea plant and the coffee plant is concerned? Many commercial crops naturally have their own insecticides throughout the plant. The war between plants and insects is far older than genus Homo, much less Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

  • Buck Field 11/03/2014 at 6:28 pm

    There is absolutely nothing “wrong” with Golden Rice by itself, in the same way there’s nothing “wrong” with arsenic, a shark, or radiation by themselves.

    However when on the one hand, GMO’s are claimed as not needing testing similar to drugs because they are “from nature”, but on the other hand are “unique human inventions” subject to patent, it seems fair and reasonable to be suspicious.

    • Ariel Poliandri 11/03/2014 at 6:30 pm

      Buck,
      Is always rational to be suspicious but you need to be suspicious rationally. The fact that you want to test GE food as a drug points to two possibilities:
      Either
      1 –You need more knowledge of molecular biology.
      Or
      2 – You are dishonest regarding your reasons to be suspicious of GE food.
      If 1-
      GE plants express all the normal plant’s gene plus one (or a few) extra gene(s), nothing else. As long as the products of those new genes are deemed safe there is absolutely no reason to assume that the new plant will be toxic in the same way that there is absolutely no reason to assume that the sun will not rise tomorrow. When they added lemon to Coca Cola they didn’t test it as a drug, it was just Coke with lemon juice. If the products of the new genes are new to human consumption, they should be tested like any new food additive. B-carotene is not a new additive.
      If 2-
      Well, why wasting time arguing? you will fight to keep Gaia “pure” no matter the consequences.

      • Karsten 14/07/2014 at 4:52 am

        There is always some sort of inutrdsy defender on threads about GMOs. the difference between GMOs modified for Bt and spraying the plants with Bt is vast. Spray will wash off, it will degrade in weather. the Bt gene inserted in the plant cannot be washed off, it does not degrade. In fact in some studies, these BT producing genes were transfered to gut bacteria.Human cells are damaged by Bt toxin in the lab, there is no doubt about that- probably the same lock & key’ you describe here. The same way it damages the stomach cells of insects.We want decisions made by science. Not the Multinational corporations who have a mandate to make a profit, not the government agencies that are composed of inutrdsy insiders.All independent tests show organ damage, increases in cancer and infertility in animals fed GMOs. Farmers have increased production, decreases in illness and increases in herd fertility when they switch to NON GMO grains for pigs, chickens and cattle.You will no longer be able to hide behind the FDA and the USDA. There are excellent scientific reasons GMOs are banned in the EU. We are the only industrialized modern nation that does not require labeling of GMOs, and it is coming here sooner or later. Prepare for that.

  • Alan 10/03/2014 at 5:08 pm

    David, you claim to be a scientist, so please give me the scientific basis for your position that Bt is harmful in corn, but not when sprayed by organic farmers?

    Also, I’m curious to know your scientific rationale for ignoring the findings of the NAS, AAAS, Royal Society and many other professional scientific bodies who’ve said that GM crops/foods are just as safe as conventional crops/foods. Citing a couple of obscure papers hardly trumps the NAS.

    • Aarti 13/07/2014 at 10:24 pm

      Melissa I think we are absolutely mainkg progress on getting awareness of the issue but we have so much work ahead of us. The natural food supporters don’t have the endless budgets that the chemical manufacturers do so it’s an expensive battle. I hold hope that enough of us care.

    • BJ53 26/10/2014 at 10:43 pm

      Just jumping in to ask one rhetorical question. Have any of these “governmental agencies” lied to us in the past?? It would take a great deal of time and research, let alone the fact that very few of those involved will tell the truth for fear of retribution.

      • Ariel Poliandri 27/10/2014 at 7:14 am

        Neither the AAAS nor the Royal Society are governmental agencies and they have been very critical of governments in the past. As for their trustworthiness, it is interesting how some greens embrace these societies’ views on climate change and other environmental issues and then accuse them of being part of a governmental/capitalist conspiracy when it comes to GM crops.

  • Balaganesh Kuruba 09/03/2014 at 7:55 am

    The complications with GE golden rice is as minimal as it can get for to accept it ., however , I believe the same cannot be implied to other varieties of GM food introduced by Monsanto ., as it’s tested and proven for it’s effects on the soil being deleterious ., “. But yes ., compassion towards something or anything different is to be encouraged among people.

  • Tania Brenes-Arguedas 09/03/2014 at 7:54 am

    Well put! and I love the real Frankenstein analogy. If only the mobs had ears or common sense.

  • Saveria Volta 09/03/2014 at 7:53 am

    I completely agree

    • Mateica 13/07/2014 at 10:17 pm

      The science gives us edeinvce or clues information that can guide future experients or be used by others. Regulators and policy makers (i.e. politicians and politics) control legislation. Some information they use comes from science, much comes from special interests groups.If we believe that the precautionary principle is an important standard, then we, the public need to become familiar with the information (I prefer that which comes from science), critically analyze the implications for our health and the environment, and then unite to pressure our ELECTED officials to do the right thing. If they don’t then we shouldn’t re-elect them.

  • Krishna Kumar 09/03/2014 at 7:52 am

    good

  • Olivier Zava 07/03/2014 at 9:57 am

    Dear Milan,

    You forget to mention that we can do better with, for example, medicines produced by GMOs (insulin, monoclonal antibodies and all recombinant proteins to cite a few) …

    Sure the question of should we go all in with GMOs won’t be solved by this discussion (it’s been lasting for years and will continue).

    DISCLAIMER: In the following, I’ll be outrageously controversial:

    The very purpose of agriculture since it’s invention lies on the genetic modification (for example by forcing crosses between non related breeds, I think about wheat here) and selection of the most profitable product. GMOs are then a logical (and more controlled) step in the process …

    That being said, again benefits/costs should be (and are) discussed as partially as possible and citizens kept informed and actively participate in the discussion (destruction of GMO crops are definitely not a way to express one’s concern).

    • Aelly 13/07/2014 at 11:57 pm

      The pesticides are in the corn’s DNA and can cause heltah problems. The pesticides are designed to explode the stomach of insects, and so people are getting food allergies from leaky intestines from the pesticides, when their immune system attacks the food that leaks out because the pesticides are damaging their organs. That is my lay-person’s understanding of it, I admit that I have not done extensive research, but that’s scary enough for me to take a step back from GMO foods!

  • Milan Palian 07/03/2014 at 9:56 am

    Have we come back to the stage where it is necessary to convince people that food must be safe? Or that we should not wantonly destroy the environment? Paul labels this “EU eco-nonsense” and I for one, am proud that the EU insists that the survival of the human race is more important than the careers tied to any specific technology. We can do without GMO, but not without healthy food and a healthy environment.

  • John Buchanan 07/03/2014 at 9:55 am

    A very strange analogy Marta, internet use does have some environmental disbenefits, and some social ones, but it is unlikely to lead to decimation of species by over industrialised processes and individual hazards hazards of internet use can be mitigated against by most users, which is the the case of GE foods they can not be, finding GM free soya is very difficult these days. In short the risks of internet use are minimal and the benefits are widespread, the same can not be said about GE, and it is unlikely to be the case whilst proponents of the technology such as Ariel spout rhetoric and belittle and abuse instead of demonstrating that their is a lack of risk and responding to legitimate concerns.

  • Marta Roldan 07/03/2014 at 9:54 am

    John,
    ” I am quite willing to accept any new beneficial technology where it’s use is proven to be safe,…”

    Whereas Internet technology has not be proven to be safe, and concerns about it can be very dangerous have been already raised, I strongly recommend you not use it any more.

    • Sheila 14/07/2014 at 4:26 am

      it sounded silmiar to it.He said it acted like bugs but not like bugs you’ve ever seen or heard of. He had these strings (or whatever!) coming out of his body and he said it reacted and behaved with some sentience. Creepy. Even creepier, he said it was even inside unopened canned foods, in sealed frozen foods, ice cubes..everywhere. He asked ME how can that happen? I said I don’t know organized microorganisms? Can they do that? When he put certain skin sanitizer on his hands and afterwards his entire body (cuz it worked) he said black threads came crawling out of him in great numbers tons of them he said the tub was full of them. He was revolted. He was freaking out as he described it to me begging me to believe him.. I did but in horror. My brother is not a nut. Not even close. He was terrified but apparently free of it as well as the staph, after all the weeks of sanitary conditions and antibacterials coursing through him for over 7 weeks he got another MRI and was cleared for takeoff. HOPEFULLY he is free of it. He did NOT go back to his apt in Orange, nor did he take ANY personal belongings from there. I flew him from LA to Denver last Friday with only the clothes he got from Rancho. I told him LEAVE it behind. Do not look back. Sounds almost biblical we’re not religious and we’re not hypochondriacs. This was real. We don’t know if that is also what led to the staph attack and takeover of his body.What I found very interesting about this Kaiser WARNING against GMOs and I’m SURE I’m not the only one who noticed is that KAISER PERMANENTE in Northern California is the very same health organization the CDC asked to research Morgellons for them in their recent Morgellons study which was inconclusive, and basically remained unclear and unhelpful as to its origins, treatment and pathology.The CDC continues to describe it as an unexplained dermatological condition likely due to mass hysteria delusional parasitosis. Yeah right, my perfectly sane brother (who’d never seen nor heard anything about Morgellons before) and tens of thousands of others all over the country and the world are imagining all this? They really expect us to believe that? No. There’s something horribly wrong with the food supply. We have to stop this. My brother won’t even read or research more about Morgellons (he knows next to nothing about it as he’s been hospitalized for weeks) until he’s written his own experiences so they don’t taint or influence his own full, clear personal recollections. I agreed that sounds like a good idea. In the meantime I’m researching it and am truly scared for the world. I am afraid they’ve gone too far. I never liked the idea of this type of gene manipulation (for profit). It always struck me as going way too far with insufficient knowledge, wisdom and prudence. Now I know why. And I’m modifying my buying and eating habits 100%.Kaiser Permanente maybe isn’t going public with what they found because as someone else mentioned earlier . THERE’S NOT ENOUGH NON GMO FOOD SUPPLY TO GO AROUND at this point. So instead they’re very quietly, gently and let’s say diplomatically? warning their own customers not to eat GMO foods. Well I’d advise EVERYONE to listen cuz these same patsies just finished telling the CDC they don’t know what’s causing ALL THESE PEOPLE to have freakish infected skin sores all over their bodies and THINGS that look like little nanomonstrosities coming out of their skin all over California and other especially active GMO cultivation areas; Texas, Florida So America, welcome to the brave new world Pandora’s box is now open for business and is sitting on the breakfast, lunch and dinner table. Your kids are eating out of it . BAN IT BAN IT BAN IT and while we’re at it OFF WITH THEIR HEADS. Hopefully one day nature can recover from these evil little men at the top playing God with all of us with apparent impunity. What have they done?

  • John Buchanan 07/03/2014 at 9:50 am

    Ariel,
    you are clearly incapable of reasoned debate or discussion, as well as incapable of examining scientific evidence. GM/GE is not allowed to be cultivated in the UK due to the government having taken an evidence based approach to the unacceptable risks of its release. And resorting to personal attacks is the sign of a very immature character. Goodbye.

    • Ariel Poliandri 07/03/2014 at 9:51 am

      It was not based on evidence it was based on prejudice and the present government is trying to end the EU eco-nonsense, what I am glad of. Cheerio.

  • John Buchanan 07/03/2014 at 9:45 am

    Ariel,
    you accuse others of religious fervour yet appear to express as much zealous fervour yourself in regard to the promotion of GE food, there is no scientific evidence that I am aware of that demonstrates we actually need or derive any benefit from this product, other than as a motive for profit. However there is clear evidence of increased use of pesticides, increased loss of biodiversity, and detriment to third world countries by the use and promotion of these technologies. I am quite willing to accept any new beneficial technology where it’s use is proven to be safe, I am, however, unwilling to accept a technology is safe purely on the say so of a corporation, or it’s supporting government.

    • Ariel Poliandri 07/03/2014 at 9:49 am

      Here you see how they work their mischief:
      Despite knowing that Vitamin A deficiency is a serious problem and that the post makes reference to the study published by the American Society for Nutrition proving b-carotene in Golden Rice is an effective method to deliver Vitamin A, denier says: “there is no scientific evidence that I am aware of that demonstrates we actually need or derive any benefit from this product”
      Despite repeating at least three times on this discussion that Golden Rice is on an “open patent” and that it is produced by a non-for-profit organisation and having a link to http://www.goldenrice.org in the post, denier continues:
      “there is no scientific evidence [] other than as a motive for profit.”
      And beyond Golden Rice:
      Despite the fact that the whole idea of pest-resistance GE crops is reducing the need for spraying insecticide (hence only killing/repelling the pests that feed on the plant rather than the insects that live around the plant), deniers will go on with their mantra:
      “there is clear evidence of increased use of pesticides”
      At least in recent years, the most educated activists cut down on “health risks” “cancer” and other scarmongerisms.
      But what is extremely offensive is that Anti-GM campaigners always conclude:
      “I am quite willing to accept any new beneficial technology where it’s use is proven to be safe”
      What they really mean is:
      “I am contempt living in my middle class bubble paying for over priced “organic” food. I don’t care how beneficial for human kind GE can be. Leave Mother Earth, oh great Gaia, alone!”

  • Olivier Zava 05/03/2014 at 8:06 pm

    The debate around the Golden Rice and GMOs in general illustrates clearly the peculiar position of science (in general) in the society and the importance of communication (if not education).

    In that context, media, non profit organisation and governments should play a greater role in order to promote and stimulate a constructive discussion around those questions. Unfortunately concensus and neutral thinking don’t make any buzz those days.

    To come back to the initial article, it goes without saying that the development of such technologies can benefit to the whole population only if it is properly understood, accepted and controlled (in this order). Hence, if the above mentioned blog article points genuinely to a lack of information that impairs the development of a solution for malnutrition, its judgemental tone can only lead to rejection by the very person it should have informed on the Golden Rice.

    Maybe the improvement of scientific communication to enrich political debates could be a good proposal for the Horizon 2020 FP …

    • Ariel Poliandri 05/03/2014 at 9:56 pm

      Oliver,
      It seems to me that your faith in communication greatly exceeds mine. I do not expect to convince eco-loons of the benefits of genetic engineering more than I expect to convince orthodox Jews that eating pork (at least from a scientific perspective) is perfectly fine. I had an argument with a Muslim about pork a few years back; despite the fact that this was an educated person, I could not get him to accept that pork is not more impure than lamb (I did not wanted to make him eat, just him to accept that it was fine for others to eat it). So I’ve given up on religious fanatics and concentrate in rational people. The main problem is that religious fanatics are extremely loud and dangerous whereas the general public is quiet and passive. My object is to convince the public that if they don’t act the fanatics will get the upper hand.
      I am sorry that people who are willing to believe that GM crops -related only by the generic term “GE” but expressing very different treats and produced by disparate technologies- all cause cancer and diabetes and every single calamity in the modern world are beyond my persuasion skills. Perhaps a super-communicator will be able of convincing them. But I doubt.

      • Kimo 14/07/2014 at 3:56 am

        I feel the same! Like everything is a risk. I have heard about the areinsc in rice too, and that’s worrisome. I just ordered some organic canola oil so at least my home cooking can be controlled as I transition to a non-GMO kitchen. Thanks for reading and thank you for the article about rice!

  • Milan Palian 05/03/2014 at 8:04 pm

    Marta:
    The biggest beneficiary of the opposition to GE is, precisely, Monsanto… because the impaired competition from non-for-profit organisation able to produce GE.

    I think non-for-profit organizations should concentrate on non-patented solutions where Monsanto cannot compete with them. All such approaches are systematically ignored by commercial companies, leaving the field wide open for non-for-profit organizations.

    • Ariel Poliandri 05/03/2014 at 9:56 pm

      First: Golden Rice is under an open patent like Linux, ANYONE CAN USE IT and modified as he pleases.
      Second: Scaremongering about “safety” is deplorable. GM crops have been grown in the US for over 20 years. Have the US imploded? Have all American develop cancer? Are middle class Americans (people who can afford health insurance) less healthy than their GM-hating Europeans counterparts? No.
      Some people are religious fanatics that deny the benefits of using condoms (they are not 100% safe against AIDS they will cry); some are religious fanatics (from a different denomiation) and deny the benefits of using GE. The simple fact of bundling ALL GE crops in the same bag even when they express different genes (or no genes at all) shows at best complete ignorance of molecular biology and at worst plane dishonesty.

  • John Buchanan 05/03/2014 at 8:04 pm

    I disagree Marta, there is no clear scientific evidence that GE foods provide any benefit other than as a generator of profits, little evidence exists to demonstrate that they are safe to release into the environment, indeed the evidence available suggests the opposite. So your claim of “no reasonable doubt about it’s safety” is clearly not borne out by the evidence from places where it is extensively gown.

  • Marta Roldan 05/03/2014 at 8:02 pm

    The biggest beneficiary of the opposition to GE is, precisely, Monsanto… because the impaired competition from non-for-profit organisation able to produce GE (just as Ariel realizes: “even when it can help poor people in the developing world and even when there is no reasonable doubt about its safety”), is just what Monsanto needs for monopolizing the GE Market.

  • Ronald Havelock 05/03/2014 at 6:10 am

    Tom Billings has it right, I am afraid. The science establishment, which includes the administrative leadership of AAAS and NAS, BTW, has been infested with Luddites. This is particularly true in Western Europe where GM products are anathema to many just because they are “not natural.” German Chancellor Merkel, seemingly in thrall to the fanatical green party, vowed to stop making nuclear energy. If she thinks carbon-based energy is somehow dangerous, she will never meet her country’s energy needs with wind and solar, no matter how hard she blows. “Sustainability” is an ideology, nothing more. If we turn our backs on science and the bounty it provides, we are asking civilization to commit suicide. First to go, of course, are the poor and the least developed countries of the world.

  • Tom Billings 04/03/2014 at 7:09 pm

    Seylf, you do not understand the nature of our troll, David. It is not that David has studied a bit of science that is significant. It is that he has absorbed the academic progressive’s worldview long ago, and will fight anything that keeps its fulfillment at bay.

    David is as much against Golden Rice as he will be against any financially deployable nuclear power plant. They both represent 2 things. The first is the continuation of industrial society. The second is the building of the networks and power plant infrastructure by *private* means, that will keep industrial society, and 6 of the 7 billion people on this planet, alive.

    Notice that David quickly abstracts the discussion to GMOs in general, and then focuses on one that he objects to because it is made by a private profit-making corporation. He *does*not*want*to*talk*about*Golden*Rice*! He does not want to talk about the lives it could save. He wants people to focus on the things he hates openly, and then conflate them with Golden Rice.

    Thus, he hopes to keep an exemplar of private technical development from supporting what he and people like him have quietly hated ever since I saw grads walk out of college into the new-born EPA, privately pledging their lives to the destruction of industrial society. In the same way David does here, people spew horrors about nuclear weapons, when confronted with the good that Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors can do for nations that cannot afford $100/barrel oil. These exeplums are quite similar, and equally hated by folk like David.

    David doesn’t much mind the kids dying, that Golden Rice could save. That will let him pursue his real profession, as an ostrologoi, a “bone-gatherer”. He can then rattle the bones of those children to get government funding for one more thing (mandatory vitamin dispensing) that can, with Golden Rice, be done by Civil Society. In particular it can be done by the marketplace, outside the coercion of governments. To David, *that* is intolerable!

  • Selyf Morgan 04/03/2014 at 7:08 pm

    The ‘discussion’ between Ariel, David and Josef is very depressing to read. If this is the level of debate that you are capable of I suggest that you keep it to the bar room and not to inflict it on members of this discussion group. Throwing insults is not a proper way to conduct debate and if you truly believe in the power of evidence then why make assertions about each other’s capacities (e.g. being a ‘loon’). The only saving feature of the interchange is that it illustrates very well that scientists are just as capable of emotional outbursts as any other member of society and don’t always conduct their affairs in a wholly rational way.

    • Augusto 14/07/2014 at 10:12 am

      The organic band-wagon has gone out of ctnorol . Organic is available almost everywhere in Ca. Yes it 2-3 times the price of traditionally produced food. but it is one’s choice. TO REQUIRE labeling , makes it no longer a choice. If organic, and non GMO’ choose to label their food as such,more power to them, and if the public chooses to buy their products, that is their right. BUT TO REQUIRE ALL OTHERS to adhere their preferred standards is un-realistc. Food priceswould definitely rise, and worse which 20-30%of the world’s population should be denied food. Starvation world wide would definitely occur

  • Wuver Alfred 04/03/2014 at 5:52 pm

    For us in Africa we need to understand the issues better as there are no local experimentation results to rely on. This must be looked at dispassionately. Currently in our country there is a debate on GM food but I notice most contributors do not base their comments on empirical evidence. Mostly politics. But the poor farmers need to be able to get the seeds of GM crop. Can they afford?

    • Ariel Poliandri 04/03/2014 at 5:54 pm

      Hi Alfred,
      I understand your position. The main problem is that biotechnology/genetic engineering offends the religious views of many people in the West; therefore they will not pay attention to or will disregard science. The best source for scientific information is the US National Library of Medicine (PubMed) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
      PubMed is an index of over 22 million citations for biomedical literature from life science journals, and online books. PubMed DOES NOT provide links to activist blogs but links to scientific papers, (many of them peer-reviewed before publication).
      You can enter PubMed, search for “GM crop” or whatever and then weight the scientific evidence. Most paper will say that GM crops are perfectly safe. There will be a few papers claming that they are not. You can go with the vast majority of scientists and accept that GM crops are safe or you can read the papers that claim that they are not and try to make sense of them. The last choice will require some background knowledge about molecular biology. However, just by common sense you can detect “scientific” papers that are trying to sell you rotten fish. I while ago I posted in my blog how to detect bogus scientific papers:
      http://www.sci-phy.com/detecting-bogus-scientific-journals/
      Basically though, if the claims are too extraordinary but the paper is not all over the main stream news, you should be suspicious. Also you have to be suspicious of papers that, without showing any mechanism, claim extraordinary connections such as “GM wheat is the cause of the obesity epidemic”. You have to ask yourself: Really? Not the buckets of fried chicken? Not people eating chocolate like pigs while siting around all day? Is GM wheat the cause of the obesity epidemic?
      Hope this help
      PS: Also always ask for mechanisms. Is not enough someone saying this or that causes cancer. Really? How? What is the mechanism?

    • Angelina 14/07/2014 at 3:08 pm

      Bt is used in both organic agucrilture and GMOs, so why aren’t you concerned about the Bt in organic? This is the same tired argument that is used for nuclear contamination, when someone asserts you get as much radiation from a granite countertop as you do from injesting radioiodine from Fukushima.There is a huge difference between a topical application that gets washed away in the rain or in your sink, and having the toxin incorporated into every cell of the food you eat.And if you can’t understand that, then you need to avoid granite countertops and eat food produced downwind from Chernobyl or Fukushima.

  • Joe Matthews 04/03/2014 at 3:32 pm

    It’s true that the monster’s real problem isn’t the monster. It’s people and the accidents of life. People don’t handle surprises well.

    Now expand your GM experiments to cover the world. What if you’re wrong? We have centuries of experience with grain, but only months (years) of experience with GM.

    Sure, the company can continue to operate as long as it can deliver fresh viable seeds, but that means eventually everyone must become either a customer or stop farming. Monsanto comes to take your crops when one of their pollen grains fertilizes one of your flowers and you save seeds, like you’re supposed to.

    • Ariel Poliandri 04/03/2014 at 3:33 pm

      This is not about Monsanto Joe; Monsanto does not produce nor control Golden Rice.
      I don’t understand. If you reject progress and change what would be the answer? Staying always as we are? Will going backwards be even better?
      What is exactly wrong with Golden Rice? Precisely what? Not wrong with capitalism; not wrong with industrialisation. What is wrong with Golden Rice?
      What is that you call “my” GM experiment exactly? Scientists introduced a gene to produce b-carotene, one enzyme, in rice. What could be the reasonable consequences of that? Will people pick up the gene into their genomes? Will it be transmitted through the germinal line? Will human kind become orange? That will not happen.

  • Milan Palian 04/03/2014 at 3:15 pm

    Ariel, you said “Some people believe Monsanto is evil. Shall we reject biotechnology because of Monsanto? So, if every big corporation is evil and GSK, Merk and Pfizer are all despicable, shall we reject vaccines and antibiotics as well?”

    I find this argument really strange, you seem to be willing to put our food and health into the hands of organizations, even if we were to believe them to be evil, knowing that they have the funds and influence to implement evil schemes. Surely, you must understand that if we really believe them to be evil, we cannot and must not allow them such control over our health and food supply?

    My own view is that evil is just lack of supervision and accountability. The problem is that supervision seems to be ineffective after a certain level of capital concentration is reached. As it grows, the company’s ability to thwart controls increases and eventually they overpower and bypass government, scientific and medical institutions. After that they begin to act in their own interests and come to be perceived as “evil!”.

    Science has no solution to this problem, it is a political issue.

    • Ariel Poliandri 04/03/2014 at 3:16 pm

      Milan,
      Can you oppose Monsanto without opposing GE or do you think that you have to oppose both?
      If you want to oppose Monsanto, to me that is like opposing Ford or Apple; it doesn’t make sense. But it is politics and it is up to you. Now, if you oppose GE even if it is produced by a non-for-profit organisation and even when it can help poor people in the developing world and even when there is no reasonable doubt about its safety, I find that opposition regrettable.

  • Milan Palian 04/03/2014 at 3:14 pm

    Doctors are now starting to identify modern wheat as the main cause of global obesity. The conventional wisdom was: too many calories and too little movement, however, studies have shown that even people eating within recommendations regarding calories and activity are increasingly overweight. Doctors have found out that a no-wheat diet often eliminates the problem.

    Modern wheat was produced using primitive forms of genetic engineering. Seeds were left to mutate randomly in a nuclear power station, and then planted, with a subsequent selection for desirable characteristics. Yields have exploded, as our health deteriorated. It took 50 years for us to start make the connection. How long will it take us to make a connection between some hypothetical undesirable effect of Golden Rice or other GMOs? How many millions or billions of people will be affected?

    At the same time, companies producing the seeds e.g. Monsanto, have been shown to be socially brutal and irresponsible, and the legal system has been shown to be unable to function correctly under the influence of billions of dollars.

    Proponents have chosen to ignore these very real problems, at the same time labeling any sceptics with really nasty labels. We do not have the framework to adequately test these new organisms, we do not have the democratic institutions able to withstand such richly funded assaults on their independence and we do not have sufficient honesty in the scientific and political classes to be able to trust them.

    Hence, I believe such organisms to be unusable for us, at least at this stage of technological, economic and political development. Were there to be more political and scientific honesty, they could be evaluated, but as it is, the risk is unacceptably high.

    We risk placing our food supply into the hands of a global monopoly, that has the proven ability and proven willingness to override all scientific, political and judicial controls. I am afraid it is a no-go, regardless of the scientific argument, which is still inadequate.

  • Marta Roldan 04/03/2014 at 3:09 pm

    Who can assure it´s no risky to prevent research to develope “super” seeds?. Precautionary principle needs of Science to be properly applied.

  • John Buchanan 04/03/2014 at 3:08 pm

    The issue for me with GM is the introduction of mutated species into the environment where we don’t know what the effects are likely to be, and the rise of super weeds and increased use of pesticides where GM crops are grown already. Precautionary principle needs to apply and also polluter pays principle if found to cause other issues.

    • Ariel Poliandri 04/03/2014 at 3:17 pm

      It seems to me that the “precautionary principle” is the eco-loon WMD against progress. It is quite a disingenuous trick. Oh, you cannot be 100% sure of what the consequences will be so we shouldn’t allow it. Well, how can anyone be 100% sure that rejecting new technologies will not lead to stagnation and extinction (of humans not bees)?
      Anyway, no one can be 100% sure of anything, ever. You have to minimise risks and move forward.
      Is there any real reason to oppose Golden Rice apart from dislike of change or the striving to keep Gaia pure? That is the question.

      • Becky 14/07/2014 at 2:41 am

        Can someone exlapin to me the downside of genetically modified food? I’m mot being a smart ass, I’m serious. I hear people say they want to avoid it, but I’ve yet to hear what is actually wrong with it? If two strains of corn which are less suseptible to desease are cross pollinated to create a strain which is super resistant (and therefore doesn’t need chemical spraying) isn’t that a good thing? What am I missing?

  • Mary 03/03/2014 at 9:55 pm

    Huh. Someone with your credentials should know that GMOs are not necessary for monocultures. There were monocultures before GMOs, there are monocultures of plants for which there are no GMOs, and your conflation of those concepts is as bogus as the rest of your claims.

    I enjoy your conspiracy claims though–it’s new to me that you can’t publish the papers. I wonder what I read all the time…hmm. I’m surprised that plant science researchers haven’t mentioned this. That’s a good conspiracy–very tight–well done.

    And it’s pretty strange about Japan. They are the largest per-capita importers of GMOs, actually. You’d think they’d stop that if all the problems they find (cleverly hidden in Japanese journals) were true. Are they using this to harm their population then? How do you explain that lifespan?

    That GMO rose they developed is lovely too. I’m surprised they’ve put all that effort into the cholera vaccine in rice, or that pollen allergy treatment (I read those papers in English though–is that some kind of diversion to throw us off track??)

  • David Rivkin, PhD 03/03/2014 at 7:58 pm

    Ariel. My associate here at JHU said you should read these two articles from Japan on GMO golden rice, cancer and diabetes. That is a clear answer to your question about the very top of research around the globe.
    日本ジャーナル疫学ゴールデンライスGMOインスリン加速
    日本ジャーナルがんゴールデンライスのGMO膵臓癌
    He told me he will find the many studies on BtCorn as well proving my point.
    It would be very good for you to do your research before you attack people falsely and personally for no reason, when you are wrong. Educating you is clearly not easy since you dont have an open mind. I suspect you are paid by agribusiness, all corrupt that they are.
    As you know, it is illegal to publish any information or make statements disparaging agribusiness in the USA and many other countries now, so you cant find much but Japan certainly is the opposite.
    As I have said 3 times now, monoculture alone is damage to ecosystems and potentially to human life.
    Josef, if you look into Chiist U. at all you will see there it is just like Georgetown, Notre Dame, USF and a great many other religiously founded universities.
    There are many people of no faith, Jewish or Christian who (like me) are not interested in religious dogma and we work there to promote good science education.
    There is a reason I am a Fulbright Specialist, as this is the kind of work I do. It is Science based and not money based, unlike the GMO-agribussiness push. Clearly you choose to be blind to reality, and real science when it goes against your business interests.

    • Ariel Poliandri 03/03/2014 at 7:59 pm

      Did I understand right? Did you say that you are not religious?
      Thou liest! Thou art an eco-loon bent on keeping Gaia pure (and in the process hurting millions with your lies. But those are just martyrs for the greatness of Gaia aren’t they?)!
      But people had enough of this trifling:
      They can chose:
      Being rational, understanding that each GM crop is different and requires to be assessed separately. They can follow the advice of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publishers of the most prestigious scientific journal of the world “Science”) and the advice of the National Academy of Science (America) and the advice of every major scientific association in the world (including the EFSA).
      Or
      They can follow the advice of eco-loons from University of Blah that are yet to produce a SCIENTIFIC paper published in a MAIN-STREAM scientific journal (of course in the international language of science: English) showing evidence of Bt Corn causing cancer. And then to explain what is wrong about Golden Rice beyond the fact that it would be a “monoculture” just like plane rice is.

      • Mikell 14/07/2014 at 4:09 pm

        it’s great that kaiser is doing this, but the wteirr might want to consider the fact that kaiser permanente is a *nonprofit* corporation, which means any augmentation’ of its bottom line goes back into operating cash flow and *not* to share holders, as their are none. it is the return to share holders, and the resulting impact on stock price, that motivates for profit corporations to value profit over all other potential outcomes. this is really great news, but the lack of research about kaiser permanente is unfortunate.

  • Schmidt Josef 03/03/2014 at 7:56 pm

    Ariel: This will never become a serious discussion. David Rivkin is known for this since years. By the way, just look carefully into the website of Chiist University (?) then you can tell. Its definitely a believers organization. Josef

  • Robert Krampf 03/03/2014 at 5:43 pm

    Great article Ariel! The anti-GMO folks try to lump all transgenic organisms together for a single attack. If you insert different genes into different organisms, the only thing they have in common is the label. If a problem was found with one transgenic organism, it would not tell you anything about other transgenic organisms.

    Most people don’t realize that for many years, medical insulin and many other hormones have been produced by transgenic organisms. If you know someone who is diabetic, before you campaign to stop GMOs, ask them if they want to go back to the days of harvesting insulin from slaughterhouses.

    This generic lumping of GMOs is part of the problem with labeling. Labeling a product as “GMO” is like labeling a pharmaceutical as “medicine.” It tells you nothing useful. I would be in favor of specific labeling, saying that this product contains SYN-EV176-9 corn or tomato line 1345-4. That would actually tell you something about the product.

  • David Rivkin, PhD 03/03/2014 at 4:31 pm

    Lets start with Bt Corn. As you know this is hardly a “safe” product with endocrine disorders, cancers and other ailments all attributed to this “new” corn. The simple fact that it is less nutrient rich is reason enough to call it “unsafe” as this also leads to diabetes. Again as I said, the simple fact that we have a new toxin in the environment and one that is monocultured should be reason enough for a ban. While we have insufficient data on the safety of Golden Rice GMO on humans, again we have a massive problem of lower nutrient content and again monoculture.
    I am a dual PhD scientist who has studied and been honored by the UN and Canada for my contributions in adverse event monitoring in this field. Personal attacked on people, which seems to be the point of your post now, are unprofessional.
    I came to this field after wanted to be in GMO development, but then seeing the realities that the SCIENCE has shown us and the adverse effects this has on people, animals, the environment, changed my mind.

    • Ariel Poliandri 03/03/2014 at 4:34 pm

      Yes, I noticed that you write PhD behind your name, quite funny. Many people in this group will have PhDs anyway. Science relies on evidence, not authority; you should know that (I guess). And because I, most of my colleagues and friends, and a lot of perseverant idiots have PhDs, to me a PhD doesn’t mean anything if it is not accompanied by the scientific objectivity that you clearly lack.
      Could you point me to a scientific paper in a respectable scientific journal (not a hippie pamphlet) that points to Bt Corn causing Cancer? Or in any case: can you explain why not 90% of Americans are suffering from cancer right now?
      But again, the discussion is about Golden Rice: What is wrong with it exactly?

      • Kaan 14/07/2014 at 5:53 am

        It’s great to see some responsible eiaiortdls on GMO’s, however, characterizing Kaiser Permanente as a radical organic health proponent gives the uninformed the wrong idea. GMO’s are made in a laboratory. The actual process is to forcefully shoot the genes on one species (whose gene trait is desired), into the DNA of another, totally unrelated species. Crossing the gene barrier if you will. In more detail it goes like this: The genes of Bacillus thurengiensis (a bacteria used in organic farming as an insecticide) are shot into the DNA of corn. The resulting Frankenfood is then patented as an EPA registered insecticide! Don’t believe me? Google Bt Corn! Every cell of that corn plant produces its own internal poison. When the corn root worm decides it wants a little breakfast, lunch or dinner, and takes a bit, its stomach explodes. Now, does that sound like the musings of a radical anything, or the thoughts of someone concerned about the long term effects of ingesting this foreign food’?61 countries have labels or outright banning of GMO’s. Don’t you think we should have them here?

  • Olivier Buchheit 03/03/2014 at 1:40 pm

    Right :)

    But I think lot of unnatural things (i.e. issued from human brain/thought/models and techno), very painfull for humanity and its environment, have been created since centuries. As these “creatures” grow, so does the feeling of evil techno-science in people’s head as they get more and more negative impact in their life. For example Monsanto is probably the most effective creature-maker, free to deploy its army of money-seeds in our environment, in a main goal of pure profit. Easy to make the (bad) link, if you do not know much about GE for example, beween Monsanto (that you probably heard of) acts and Golden Rice (that is quiet new, closed to the same field) I guess.

    You highlight a totally true aspect of Frankenstein : evil is not in the beast, but is created by the non-acceptance of the beast. A question of fear, miseducation, blind war, whatever the arguments that are brought. Nevertheless, for me such a fear has became unavoidable : naive time were technocience was considered as the solution to humanity problems has ended. Because outrageous profit seek & cancerigen consumption society have both filled technoscience with really dark areas – it has created lots of permanent beasts. Look at the 7th continent of plastics, electronic waste, species dead forever, increasing number of cancer, and probably 10 000 others : all are pure products of blind faith in our production-consumption model fuelled with technoscience, without taking Time, Reason and Necessity into account.

    For me fear must be there, because we do know human beings : majority is nice, minority is bad, and most of the leaders in every domains are satisfied with current economic & development model, i.e. they are wrong and won’t lead us to a better world. Thus beast-maker won’t change, why ? So we have to make our own idea, and for sure they are bad analysis… in both sides.

    Fear must be included in a more holistic vision, encompassing history, potentials, current state of techno and needs, etc… Blind fear is stupid yes – so do blind trust.

    • Ariel Poliandri 03/03/2014 at 1:44 pm

      This is a very attractive comment Oliver but I struggle to understand the conclusion. Some people believe Monsanto is evil. Shall we reject biotechnology because of Monsanto? So, if every big corporation is evil and GSK, Merk and Pfizer are all despicable, shall we reject vaccines and antibiotics as well?
      The number of people with cancer has increased -fair enough- but that is due to the fact that before modern medicine people died young of infections and other preventable causes well before they could develop cancer. Many of the present discomforts are nothing compared with what our ancestors had to endure. Can you imagine a tooth ache before analgesics? Can you imagine going with a tooth ache for years without dentists and modern technologies to remove it? Progress is better than stagnation. The nations that at present suffer the most are not the nations with modern technologies at their disposal but the nations without them.

  • David Rivkin, PhD 03/03/2014 at 1:03 pm

    Sorry, but as a BioPhysicist who studied genetics extensively, I have to come out against GMOs. I believe the science is showing that they are indeed very dangerous to human health in a variety of ways that is specific to the modifications made. For example, Corn which produces its own toxic pesticide is far more toxic to humans than even spraying pesticide on the crop. But by far the biggest problem is the business of GMO, that of building monocultures. There is no need for GMO, Mendel had it right, selective breeding is the way to go. Find and use what the natural machine is providing, as our labs can never be that diverse and capable. I eat only Organic and hope people will see that the science is behind modern organic farming far more than chemical farming. We need to have a Sustainable planet and chemical farming is the complete opposite. See the report I was a co-author of for the UN for example.
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    • Ariel Poliandri 03/03/2014 at 1:11 pm

      David, I think that you’ve read a different post because this was not about Bt Corn (which people in the US have been eating for the past 20 years and is perfectly safe) but about Golden Rice. What do you have to say about Golden Rice? Or do you oppose oranges because you don’t like apples?
      You don’t talk like a scientist; you talk like a religious fundamentalist that opposes all kind of contraceptive methods. Fundamentalists will talk about “the” good, and families and children but at the end it all comes to their blind religious interpretation.

    • Shingle 14/07/2014 at 6:56 am

      Folta, What about gene slide , where the gene’s unnatural focred into organism don’t stay put, and that data string is free to join with other organisms, like the bacteria flora and fona in your gut, turning your intestinal bacteria into an unstoppable BT factory. At present there are human genes in rice crops in the southeast, this presents problem for anyone on a kosher or non-cannibalistic diet, no?Pregnant women are warned to avoid rice grown in the US, because GMO rice has contaminated the fields with arsenic. When they finished mapping the human genome, they were surprised to find the body has 4 times the number proteins as there are genes, not the one to one ratio anticipated. So, for every one desired effect , there are three unknown effects. Feed your computer this recklessly and you know what will happen.Monsanto scientists had GMO food banned from their own Monsanto cafeterias. Why do you think they did that?

  • Schmidt Josef 03/03/2014 at 12:59 pm

    Activists follow believes not knowledge. You cannot discuss believes rationally. What is interesting in this respect is a scientific (rational) evaluation of the subject by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (yes such an organization existsand we must hope it will continue to work!). See http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v27/n3/full/nbt0309-214a.htmlhttp://www.goldenrice.org/Content4-Info/info2_events.php
    for more Best regards Josef

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