Saturday, 22 June 2013

GM? We just don't trust them.

I've no idea what Monsanto has done specifically to annoy so many Austrians, but the very word was a curse amongst almost everyone I met there recently; the agrigiant was held liable for everything from bee-deaths, declining wildlife, nitrate contamination and aphid infestation to the poor weather. Needless to say they're firmly against GM foods - but not for the reasons that Boy Dave and his trusty sidekick Owen Paterson are campaigning against. 

Cameron has gone on the offensive in defence of GM foods. Emulating the great Gummer, who force-fed his daughter Cordelia with minced horsemeat to prove that beef was safe to eat, Dave has invited the world's press to his table to witness him feeding his family with a plethora of GM foodstuffs. He's addressing the food safety aspect  as though this is where the public objection lies. Which is utterly pointless.

The reason most people oppose GM is that they simply don't trust Monsanto. Their grain is sterile by design in the F1 generation, meaning farmers can't simply retain 1/10th of each crop to sow for the following year, they have to buy each year's seed from Monsanto. Any firm whose business model is based on establishing a monopoly supply position can't be trusted. And until the US has been growing the stuff for 50 years and all the negative environmental effects become apparent there why should we pollute our own farmland?

Sorry, we simply prefer the alternative that has already improved crop yields a hundred times more than Monsanto could ever achieve. By selective breeding. 

The idiot boy clearly has a political death-wish in lining himself up with yet another issue utterly antipathetic to the public view. What on earth will he support next? Free broadband for kiddy-fiddlers? Early release for Ian Brady? Banning the flag of St George from churches?


Barnacle Bill said...

Follow the money!

Somewhere in Cameroon's many vested interests/trust funds will be a future directorship of a Monsanto company.

G. Tingey said...

Two separate interests here, and that is the problem.
"M" - don't trust the bastards further than I can spit!
Nothing wrong with it, at all ... it's just an improved form of "selective breeding" - which humans have been doing for thousands of years.
The trouble is ... allowing "M" to have control of this very useful tool.
Now, given vested political/money interests, how do we get (2) without (1)?
Not so easy.

Span Ows said...

Agree entirely with G. Tingey. Selective breeding was just early GM.

Also, it's a good bet that almost every human in the 'Western world' has already eaten some "new fangled GM" anyway.

Media doesn't help with ll teh 'Frankenfood' nonsense.

DeeDee99 said...

Very disappointed to see Owen Paterson advocating GM crops.

Johnm said...

"First off, realize that Monsanto is THE big dog in the GMO pack. Monsanto has a very long record of making products that do harm, and then ignoring the damage. ( Things like PCBs and other toxic chemicals ). So many of the studies submitted to the FDA (and others) were directly produced by Monsanto and / or funded by them. Large doses of salt need to be applied to much of the “evidence” that claims to show they are substantially the same as natural plants"

"GMO plants are “tagged” for easy identification in the field by inserting a gene that makes an easy to detect compound. That compound is an antibiotic. So put some GMO plant material on a petri dish with susceptible bacteria, and when the clear dead zone forms, you have your test result… Fine and all. Except. Do you REALLY want to be eating loads of antibiotics with every spoonful?"

tomsmith said...

"Their grain is sterile by design in the F1 generation, meaning farmers can't simply retain 1/10th of each crop to sow for the following year, they have to buy each year's seed from Monsanto. Any firm whose business model is based on establishing a monopoly supply position can't be trusted."

Almost all farmers in the developed world buy hybrid seed every year from agrochemical companies because it is simply better than traditional open crossed varieties. Hybrid seed does not breed true, therefore seed saving is impossible, therefore the need to buy it every year. Why on earth don't you know this? What does it have to do with GM?

tomsmith said...

and lol at a monopoly supply position. How many seed companies do you think there are? It sounds as if this blog post was simply lifted from greenpeace or some other conspiracy loon website.

Anonymous said...

Span Ows: "Selective breeding was just early GM."

Well it isn't thought is it?

With selective breeding you are selecting traits from a limited menu of characteristics. characteristics that are already available in the plants genetic makeup.

With GM, you are inserting characteristics that have been removed by evolution from, or never were in the plant or animal.

They are two completely different processes.

Raedwald said...

Tom - farmers choose to buy hybrid seed because it's cheaper and easier than the alternative - but they're not being forced to. And yes there are a number of seed companies - but Monsanto have about a third of the global market (see )

It sounds as though your comments were lifted straight from Bell Pottinger, Monsanto's UK PR firm, which pays tens of thousands of pounds to friendly Tory MPs.

Anonymous said...

Raedwald: " it's cheaper and "

So buy the cheaper alternative, or go out of the farming business because your overheads are too high.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Anon 11:27 is right.

G Tingey and Span Ows are wrong.

GM is fiddling with the source code of a gigantic thing of which we know so little that we don't even know how little we know.

It may work, it may turn around and bite us big-time.

Not worth the risk imho.

Eric said...

I too am disappointed to hear Patterson come out with this tripe. Until now I've been an admirer,but this just makes him seem like all the other bought -and- paid-fors"

Corn on the cob said...

Dabbling with nature is rarely successful. Just look at the out of control cane toad invasion in Australia, brought in to keep the rabbits down, but failed miserably. There is a similar example with "killer bees" imported from south America and now heading steadily north in America - wiping out native species on the way.

There is no reason why the world should grant Monsanto, Cargill and the rest a monopoly on the world's greatest crop. That way lies total dosaster.

Span Ows said...

Anon and Yachtsman, we're not wrong.

As I said before, nearly all of us (almost certainly those writing on this blog) would have had GM foods already and for years.

Advanced genetic engineering may well be combining diverse organisms that naturally would not be related but by far the majority of GE that has gone on is advanced and accelerated selection of desirable traits within the same species. Corn, cotton, soya and rapeseed mainly but already other crops too.

I have no doubt that it's doing what they would have done before if they could.

And all of that does not change the fact that almost everything we do and use today has started by some form of weird, "unnatural" experiment...often in a Lab.

Flyinthesky said...

Disregarding the unforeseen and largely unknown consequences of these actions, cross pollination,
F2 cross pollination etc the allowance of a private company to all intents and puposes have total control of all primary feeder crops, that's the intent, should have alarm bells ringing in every sentient persons ears. It has already become illegal to commercially grow many legacy crops, lobbied for by who I wonder, not for consideration of public safety but not having the right paperwork in place and being unpatentable there's not a buck in it.
GM is not about and never was feeding the world, it's about cartelising the whole agribusiness.
Are these scientists any more right than the climate scientists?
People cite that genetic modification has gone on for eternity but selective breeding and actual gene manipulation are worlds apart.
We are about to put all our eggs into one, vested interest, basket, the potential for this one to bite us in the ass is mind boggling.

Anonymous said...

Radders, I don't agree with your stance on GM but by God I'll defend your right to say it.

Great blog - BTW.

Span Ows said...

I think flyinthesky has hit the nail on the head of the real problem: control in very few hands and the 'cartelising the whole agribusiness'.

G. Tingey said...

GM, where NOT controlled by "M" can introducew things like ... extra frost-hardynesss, or salt-tolerance, or drought resistance, or immunity to blight ... all very useful & desireable characteristics.
What are "M" doing?
Introducing resistance to their own weedkillers, so they can sell more weedkiller!
NOW can you see why: "GM good, M bad" ??
And the difficulty of separarting the two, especially given "M"s very bad record.

Johnm said...

The tolerance engineered into crops for weedkillers is to enable that crop to be less affected by a weedkiller used to treat...weeds. Since, for instance, the weedkiller Roundup (tm) targets broadleaf weeds, which as far as the weedkiller is concerned also includes maize, So the roundup-ready GM crop can be sprayed to control weeds....I can not see any reason why other Glyphosphate weedkillers can not be used !
The insertion of an antibiotic into the gene is a cause for concern, but since it is an old drug anyway...most bacteria will be exhibiting resistance to it anyway. In any case, GM products are widely available in the UK. Mainly as animal feed. Imported foods can also contain GM products.

cornishstu said...

but do you really want to eat a crop that's been contaminated with a weed killer. With regards to glyphosphate from what I understand it is what is added to it to promote plant uptake that differs between brands.

Anonymous said...

Corn on the cob.........Cane toads brought into Australia to keep the rabbits down!! What the fuck are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

"but do you really want to eat a crop that's been contaminated with a weed killer"

You're eating it all the time. It is freely available in this country and is used as animal feed. You eat the animals, so you eat the gm grain..
You've been eating foods with added lots-of-things for decades...chicken where they are implanted with artificial hormones...beef with added antibiotics....the list is long and arduous..

kenomeat said...

I don't think anyone else has mentioned this but even if everyone in the country thought GM crops was a good idea we would still have to ask the EU Commission for permission to plant them. This is the real issue here.

Budgie said...

Breeding from the species' own gene pool (as has happened for millenia) is not the same thing as inserting genetic material from one species into another in the laboratory. And then selling it as "safe". Monsanto, or whoever, cannot possibly know the long term effects. Yet again mankind is tinkering with something before we understand it.

Johnm said...

You think ?

Bruce n Sheila said...

Anon 21.46. I think "corn on the cob" meant some sort of beetle, not rabbits; but his/her point still stands - don't fuck with nature..

Anonymous said...

G Tingey...

So if GM is good but M is bad, how does one deal with the problem?

I suppose we could ensure that only the government is able to create GM foods.

That way, there can be no corruption... :)

Tomsmith said...

Raedwald: "farmers choose to buy hybrid seed because it's cheaper and easier than the alternative - but they're not being forced to. And yes there are a number of seed companies - but Monsanto have about a third of the global market"

Nobody is being forced to buy Monsanto's GM feed. There will always be other seed to buy as long as there are people wanting to buy it. Markets, supply, demand, that kind of thing, you know?

If people aren't "forced" to buy hybrid seed every year because they can't save it then they also aren't "forced" to buy GM seed every year because they can't save it. It is exactly the same argument.

Tomsmith said...

Don't like the "monopoly" enjoyed by GM and/or modern hybrid seed companies? Fine, set up your own seed company selling old fashioned seeds. Enjoy watching as the effects of customer preference ruin you.

Don't like GM food or food grown using modern hybrid seed? Fine, don't buy it. Expect to pay more for crops which are more difficult and expensive to grow.

Farmers don't choose improved seeds just to be nice to seed companies you know. As in any other business it is about increasing efficiency and improving the bottom line. As in any other business consumers and producers both benefit from the increased efficiency.