To ban or not to ban genetically modified crops? That's not the question

crops
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The South Australian government recently announced its intention to lift the long-standing statewide moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops, following a statutory six-week consultation period.

A government-commissioned independent review had estimated the cost of the moratorium at A$33 million since 2004 for canola alone. The review concluded there was no clear market incentive to uphold the ban, except on Kangaroo Island.

In contrast, the Tasmanian government announced that its GM moratorium would be extended for 10 years. It cited the state's GM-free status as an important part of the "Tasmanian brand," representing a market advantage, particularly for exports.

Research and commercial growing of GM in Australia is regulated under a national scheme, but governed by individual states. These recent and mooted changes leave Tasmania as the only state with a blanket ban on GM organisms.

The underlying genetic modification is complex and evolving. A recent report by an expert working group convened by the Australian Academy of Science (to which I contributed) documented the among many professional organizations, including the World Health Organization, that GM foods and medicines are safe. No ill-effects have been identified relating to human consumption, and GM foods produced so far are no different to unmodified foods in terms of safety and digestibility.

However, the report also highlights that this does not provide answers to all concerns raised by GM technologies. The public's understanding of this issue is shaped by a complex range of factors and values.

Many people's opinions about GM foods and crops are related to their views on what constitutes acceptable risk. There is no one right way to measure risks, and various scientific disciplines have different ways of weighing them up. For example, does the lack of evidence of harm mean we can conclude GM food is safe to eat? Or do we need positive evidence of safety?

Understanding the science is important - but not the whole story.

That second question hinges in part on whether GM foods are seen as substantially equivalent to their non-GM counterparts. This has been a matter of significant debate, especially in regard to food labeling.

This in turn begs the further question of how long we should wait before declaring GM food safe. The very word "moratorium" implies that the ban is temporary and subject to review, but opinions differ widely about what constitutes an adequate period for rigorous testing and accumulation of evidence regarding the safety of emerging technologies.

People also have diverse views on the role of multinational corporations in agriculture and GM-related research, and concerns about the potential pressure these firms may put on farmers. Many people view the benefits of GM crops as mainly commercial, and perceive a lack of public benefit in terms of health, the environment, or food quality.

Some people question whether we need GM crops at all, especially as they are viewed by some as "unnatural." Others note that their views depend on the underlying reasons for the modification, so that GM crops with potential environmental advantages might be more publicly acceptable than ones that deliver purely commercial advantages.

When people form opinions on complex issues based not solely on science, it is tempting to assume that this is because they simply don't understand the science. But of course science doesn't happen in the abstract—rather, it plays into our everyday decisions made in a wider context.

So if we want to engage people in relating to science, we must widen the scope of our conversations beyond the mere technical details to focus on underlying values.

The contrasting decisions in South Australia and Tasmania offer an opportunity for Australians to deepen their understanding of, and engagement with, issues relating to genetic modification. Public debates have tended to focus on the science behind gene modification and the potential risks associated with the resulting products. But they have generally paid less attention to the broader issues relating to environmental, economic, social, cultural, and other impacts.

We need a more sophisticated dialog about GM food, as part of a wider societal conversation about what makes good food. We should ask what types of farming we want to prioritize and support, rather than viewing it as a binary issue of being simply "for" or "against" GM crops.


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Would you eat genetically modified food if you understood the science behind it?

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Citation: To ban or not to ban genetically modified crops? That's not the question (2019, August 23) retrieved 17 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-genetically-crops.html
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Aug 23, 2019
Among other things, the potential for fraud is eminent. Many diseases and conditions are cropping up that were never seen before. Children less than ten years old getting heart attacks. How would it be examined. Individuals with connections to government, wanting advancement or money, looking at evidence and saying what they are told to say. Seeing genetically engineered food associated with serious conditions and saying that it wasn't genetically engineered.
Has anyone looked to see if genetically engineered foods throw "greenhouse gas" balances off track?
And, face it, the lie about concerns about genetically engineered food. The article claims it comes from people's "views on what constitutes acceptable risk". The fact is, concern comes form the fact that government and "science" lie constantly so anything they say can't be trusted.

Aug 23, 2019
No ill-effects have been identified relating to human consumption, and GM foods produced so far are no different to unmodified foods in terms of safety and digestibility.

Based on what, other than utter bullshit.
If GM foods are so good and safe, then why do their patent owners so vehemently oppose labeling of them?
Well, one "good" reason would be that when people start dropping like flies, they would have no way of proving that these poisons were responsible.
BTW, take a gander at the qualifications of the author of this trash.
https://theconver...ny-64462

Aug 23, 2019
Good for Australia!

"Others note that their views depend on the underlying reasons for the modification, so that GM crops with potential environmental advantages might be more publicly acceptable than ones that deliver purely commercial advantages."

In general if something is more affordable it uses less resources = good for the environment. GM is part of precision farming, which aim to maximize productivity (by say using satellite and drone imagery coupled to the farming equipment for individualized plant water & nutrient & disease protection). It cuts down on pesticide and fertilization use, so - good for the environment.

It is the superstitious crowd ('natural', as if not allele variation isn't) that is the harder problem to moot, as usual.

Aug 23, 2019
The article mentions 'risk' but then hurriedly moves on to other commercial factors: This is the crux of the issue with GM food; and has to be assessed on a case by case basis: Proof of safety should be required rather than a lack of proof of danger.
The increased incidences of asthma and allergies and cancers should be attributed on balance of probability until we have the ability to prove the 'smoking gun' and implement a ban of specific substances (like pesticides) in food.

Aug 23, 2019
if you leave tampering with the gene pool of any species to commercial profit motive it's guaranteed to go horribly wrong.
I'd support GM aimed at improving the quality of food but never the cost of production, there are other ways.

Aug 23, 2019
Genetically modifying food that is meant for humans, and even animals, is like attempting to change the human digestive system that has evolved over millions of years to acclimate itself to the natural grains and other normal foodstuffs that is grown in the Earth. The human digestive system is delicate and doesn't take well to changes to what it is used to digesting in the digestive process. There are bound to BE repercussions when the stomach and intestines TRY to tell humans that their stomachs can't take it anymore.
Modifying the genetics of food so that it is changed in some way will only cause the digestive system to be troubled with all sorts of maladies and diseases that would ordinarily not occur to that individual digestive system...or any other...unless there are other factors involved such as drinking of alcoholic beverages like whiskey.
Science errs in thinking that it can increase the health of the humans who eat GM foods. Are they Dr. Frankenstein in the lab?

Aug 23, 2019
I see that Otto has come around just to downvote my above comment (and ALL my comments) when nobody else has. But It is unimportant and physorg management will not throw someone off the site just for having a downvote of -35,000. Otto depends on the voting anonymously feature to get his thrills and giggles.

Aug 23, 2019
Everyone here, including myself, are basing our beliefs about this subject based on our lifestyles. I would sincerely bet that all of you would change your views, if you had your children dying of starvation laying in your arms. You all speak from a standpoint where you feed your dogs better than most people feed their entire families.

Aug 23, 2019
Human consumption of GM is one thing, but genome stability and gene escape is another. Isnt it the case that Roundup resistance has already gone wild.

Aug 24, 2019
Our advancing knowledge makes the vast extent of our ignorance much clearer. Take, for example, this story from September 2016:

https://phys.org/...lar.html

"Researchers at the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre have created the first map that shows the global genetic interaction network of a cell. It begins to explain how thousands of genes coordinate with one another to orchestrate cellular life."

This is the genetic interaction network for a yeast, and was new knowledge. Before 2016, then, we did not possess genetic interaction network maps for model plants, and certainly not for the agricultural crops we were modifying. There were and continue to be many more facets to our ignorance than this, such as how organisms rearrange their genes over time, how gene location affects activity, and so on.

As we continue to learn how much we don't know, it should be clear that GM demands the greatest care, oversight and regulation.

Aug 24, 2019
see that Otto has come around just to downvote my above comment (and ALL my comments)
Naw I just did that. This is to counter the sock you use to uprate every one of your own comments. That's why they all initially have +1s before uniform disgust starts rating them down.

Isn't that right you freak?

BTW all of our domesticated foods have been 'genetically modified' over the last 12k years and resemble the food we evolved to eat very little. That captn crunch ala mode which is your staple is killing you in very unnatural ways.

But since you were born sick, oh well?

Aug 24, 2019
This increasing use of grain
the human digestive system that has evolved over millions of years to acclimate itself to the natural grains and other normal foodstuffs that is grown in the Earth.

Has caused an increase in Coeliac disease
Where one square of bread inch starts a gastroenteritis reaction
Where tomato soup - tomatoes, a Coeliac dream gluten free delight
Coeliac cannot eat tomato soup foreth it contains wheat
Chicken soup, a Coeliac dream gluten free delight - again contains glutens wheat
There is practically no manufactured food on this earth that has not this dreaded wheat added to it
Foreth SEU
In this dreamland world of healthy wheat - the stomach cannot digest when inflamed with wheat
This surprise of healthy foods
Cadburys milk chocolate is 100% gluten free
So are snickers, formally marathons
Crisps and chips in vegetable oil
For surprise, surprise
Liver fails to make this mark with only 12mg of iron
Tate and Lyle treacle beats this competition at 15mg of iron

Aug 24, 2019
it should be clear that GM demands the greatest care, oversight and regulation.
How about breeding? Should that require similar oversight? I would point to pit bulls.

Aug 24, 2019
This Family Tree of Relatives and Modification of Genetics in Marriage
SurveillanceEggUnitit> should be clear that GM demands the greatest care, oversight and regulation.
DaSchneib> How about breeding? Should that require similar oversight? I would point to pit bulls.

Marriage could be said to be genetically playing with genes
As anyone who examines their family tree
But do not look, SurveillanceEggUnit
For Who Knows What You Might Find
Foreth SurveillanceEggUnit, a period of quiet reflection considering these genetics would not go amiss
For we all have our bridge, with is river bank, when quiet reflection is required

Aug 24, 2019
Deadly superbug outbreak in humans linked to antibiotic spike in cows

https://arstechni...in-cows/
So, how long have they been feeding antibiotics to cattle?
Didn't the science state that this was safe?
So, why did it still happen?
How do the ignoramuses who support GM foods feel about stuffing their gobs with beef?
There are far more unknowns and greater dangers with GM foods.

Aug 24, 2019
Among other things, the potential for fraud is eminent. Many diseases and conditions are cropping up that were never seen before.
julianpenrod

Examples of these "many" diseases? Give us a long list (which should be easy if there are "many" of them as you said) and state WHERE you say they "cropping up that were never seen before" and tell us why the place they cropped up indicates GM is to blame...
And is there any evidence that they are associated with GM crops? Answer; NO.

All modern crops have long been genetically modified by selective breading and, before that, evolution. If GM crops magically and mysteriously for no reason at all are dangerous to life merely because they are genetically modified then we would all have died by now.

Aug 24, 2019
All modern crops have long been genetically modified by selective breading and, before that, evolution. If GM crops magically and mysteriously for no reason at all are dangerous to life merely because they are genetically modified then we would all have died by now.

Here, we obviously have a case of selective inbreeding. Thus, the futility of convincing it of the dangers of that, is certain.

Aug 24, 2019
Deadly superbug outbreak in humans linked to antibiotic spike in cows

https://arstechni...in-cows/
So, how long have they been feeding antibiotics to cattle?
How do the ignoramuses who support GM foods feel about stuffing their gobs with beef?
antigoracle

I am against feeding antibiotics to cattle. I am also vegetarian. But none of that has to do with GM because antibiotics can be given to cattle without GM crops and usually that is how the antibiotics are given to cattle; You are confusing the two issues.
Something isn't dangerous just because its GM just like something isn't dangerous just because its a car; it depends on what you do with it. A car is dangerous if it is driven by a drunk; so does that mean you say the car should be banned? Answer, No. GM can also be misused. But, just like with cars, the answer to that is make and enforce laws to stop misuse, not ban.

Aug 24, 2019

So, how long have they been feeding antibiotics to cattle?
Didn't the science state that this was safe?
antigoracle

No, the "science" did NOT ever state that this was safe. Some PEOPLE might have stated it was safe but people, even if that includes some scientists (and most scientists didn't say it was safe), is not science. Science is whatever the evidence shows is likely the case and the evidence never showed it was likely safe. Please don't use straw man against valid science.

Aug 24, 2019
There are a number of mistakes here. The one I noted first was 'the WHO says GM foods and medicines are safe'. The WHO does NOT say that. Like reputable, independent scientists, the WHO says "GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods." It also says "Continuous application of safety assessments based on the Codex Alimentarius principles and, where appropriate, adequate post market monitoring, should form the basis for ensuring the safety of GM foods." (which is not happening)

The "non-equivalence" of GMOs vs their isogenic parents is the whole point of engineering them. And as we develop tools to more closely evaluate these organisms, we find just how very "non-equivalent" they are.

Overall, this article is far too superficial to justify its advocacy for GMO agriculture. And with the errors present it should be disregarded.

Aug 24, 2019
Follow-up on my previous comment:
the article says "No ill-effects have been identified relating to human consumption..."
GMO producers are fond of claiming that 'trillions of GMO meals have been eaten"
I'm not sure of what those meals are supposed to have consisted, but hopefully a reasonable person would see that such a claim is meaningless. The foods aren't labeled, there's no tracking, and just because a person doesn't drop dead after eating foods with GMO ingredients doesn't mean there's "no ill-effects"

Aug 24, 2019
and just because a person doesn't drop dead after eating foods with GMO ingredients doesn't mean there's "no ill-effects"
To counter inexorable overpopulation we consistently selected crops for quantity over quality. The foods we eat today resemble the foods we evolved to eat very little.

Grasses are the very last thing a self-respecting hunter gatherer would eat; too much effort, too little reward. And yet we eat more of them than anything else.

Genetic engineering presents the opportunity to return lost nutrition to food while maintaining and improving yield. We can start over with wild precursor plants, improve their yield and make them economically viable while maintaining quality. We can even fix grasses by adding nutrients while removing gluten and starch. And we can grow these foods in areas that never before supported food crops.

GMO is an amazing and essential development and there is no reason whatsoever to resist it.


Aug 24, 2019
Even if we manage to reduce growth worldwide, we will still want to fix the damage that domestication has done to the food we eat and the environments we grow it in, not to mention what the process has done to us as the domesticated animals we are. And we will be doing this at the genetic level. No time for anything else.

Aug 24, 2019
@Anon442, it's impossible to prove a negative. Therefore it's up to you to provide evidence to support your contention that GMO foods and medicines are unsafe.

Go ahead.

Aug 24, 2019
Da Schitts, the knob gobbling jackass brays again.

If jackass could read, far less comprehend. Then it would realize it was never Anon's claim that GMOs were unsafe, but that their claims that they are, were unfounded in science.

It's impossible to convince the stupid of their stupidity.

Good luck Anon.

Aug 24, 2019
Anon442, it's impossible to prove a negative
Some people never learn and can't be bothered.

"Among professional logicians, guess how many think that you can't prove
a negative? That's right: zero. Yes, Virginia, you can prove a
negative, and it's easy, too. For one thing, a real, actual law
of logic is a negative, namely the law of non-contradiction.
This law states that that a proposition cannot be both true
and not true. Nothing is both true and false. Furthermore,
you can prove this law. It can be formally derived from the
empty set using provably valid rules of inference. (I'll spare
you the boring details). One of the laws of logic is a provable
negative. Wait… this means we've just proven that it is not
the case that one of the laws of logic is that you can't prove a
negative. So we've proven yet another negative! In fact, 'you
can't prove a negative' is a negative  so if you could prove
it true, it wouldn't be true! Uh-oh." Etc.

-Google it.

Aug 25, 2019
How about breeding? Should that require similar oversight? I would point to pit bulls.


I think we will want to know more about the consequences of breeding, as we become more capable of assessing them. But with breeding, the whole organism, the whole genome is involved in the creation of varieties. This includes the relationships between genes, proteins, non-coding structures, etc. that we don't understand completely, or that we don't know at all.

When we introduce a gene that is foreign to an organism, we are introducing a structural novelty that will probably be completely new to it, and to the "balance of its economy". How will it affect the complex network of relationships, not only within the organism but with all of its associated microorganisms? We don't even know everything to look for. It is necessarily still a process of "see what happens", like radioactive or chemical mutagenesis, and so must be applied with precaution and intensive study.

Aug 25, 2019
Happens all the time. In fact, eukaryotes are designed to conserve mutations, in order to have them to introduce at random in times of high stress. When it's tough, it's time to go random. Like when some doctor introduces some antibiotic into your nice warm rich growth medium.

Shall we start trying to police natural genomes so they don't change?

Get real.

Aug 25, 2019
In fact, eukaryotes are designed to conserve mutations, in order to have them to introduce at random in times of high stress. When it's tough, it's time to go random.


Are you thinking of these?

https://phys.org/...ive.html

This is a bacterial example, and is indeed fascinating. Are you aware of an analogous acceleration of mutations in multi-cellular organisms? Now that I would be very interested to see. I did wonder at the time I first read this if we have anything at all similar.

Aug 25, 2019
Heck with GMOs. I want GMHs -- Genetically Modified Humans to put those GMOs in. I am 100% serious!

Aug 25, 2019
I did wonder at the time I first read this if we have anything at all similar.
Oh yeah. That's what most molecular biologists think is the purpose of the many slightly different copies of the same DNA in our human genome. What causes it to be expressed instead of the mainline genes? Nobody knows, but a lot of people think stress.

Aug 25, 2019
So you're opting for more stomach cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer and all other kinds of cancer of the human digestive system just so that you can give a boost/support to the GMO farms and factories and their research into better ways of growing cancer-causing strains of vegetables and grains. And yet you support the AGW cult to get rid of fossil fuels such as petrol, coal and gas.

Aug 25, 2019
No, @Scientologist_Sperm_Unit, it's not Xenu.

Aug 26, 2019
That's what most molecular biologists think is the purpose of the many slightly different copies of the same DNA in our human genome. What causes it to be expressed instead of the mainline genes? Nobody knows, but a lot of people think stress.


Very cool. If you are familiar with references right off the top of your head or within easy reach, do please send them along.

Aug 26, 2019
Here's one: https://www.ncbi....4163148/

Here's another: https://www.ncbi....17536176

I'll look around some more.

Aug 26, 2019
I love the reactions of common people towards gm-foods. Like the instance we did some gene-editing on a random food, it becomes very poisonous and cancerous humans. It's like hippies who think that everything that is not organic gives you immediate cancer. We have already modified the foods we eat with careful breeding and we can speed up the process with gm so why not.

I'm not saying that we should straight away gm every plant we have and let them spread into nature and wipe out ordinary plants. But we should test things and apply stuff that are safe and make food growth more economical.

Aug 26, 2019
Here's another good one: https://www.cell....56-2.pdf

That's from a particularly good molecular biology journal, which you would expect of something named "Cell."

Here's one that focuses on epigenetics: https://www.ncbi....4855538/

Here's one that's very much to the point: https://mbio.asm....01018-18

Aug 26, 2019
That should give you plenty to think about, @Trilobite. Let me know if you need more.

Aug 26, 2019
Here's one [...] I'll look around some more.


Many thanks!

Aug 26, 2019
That should give you plenty to think about, @Trilobite. Let me know if you need more.


This will definitely get things underway! ;)

Aug 26, 2019
The big point to get here, @Trilobite, is that eukaryotes (including all fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals, and including us) appear to conserve mutations for later use, and we are still working out the mechanisms that are activated to use them. Nothing can tell which ones might be beneficial, but by expressing them all extinction can be avoided. And that's nothing if not an evolutionary pressure.

Aug 26, 2019
I love the reactions of common people towards

So are you a pervert or a god?

Aug 26, 2019
So are you a pervert or a god?

At least I'm a pervert, still bit unsure of the god part.

Aug 26, 2019
So are you a pervert or a god?

At least I'm a pervert, still bit unsure of the god part.


Wow, that sounds like the response of a COMMON person to me!

Aug 27, 2019
@Da Schneib, this is a fascinating area. "Arrival of the fittest" at the multicellular level.

Aug 27, 2019
@Trilobite, I find it so. Viruses and the transfer of genes from one organism to another are also fascinating. There's still so much we haven't had time to find out yet.

Aug 27, 2019
I love the reactions of common people towards gm-foods.
Hmmm. Do you consider yourself among the 'common people' or a Spanish conquistador and explorer who defeated the Aztecs and claimed Mexico for Spain?

Just curious.

Aug 28, 2019
I consider myself as intelligent rational being that likes to read about science. Maybe common people is bad wording but their reaction is usually "GMO OMG!" and they don't bother to check the actual facts.

Sep 06, 2019
Human consumption of GM is one thing, but genome stability and gene escape is another. Isnt it the case that Roundup resistance has already gone wild.

The law has also declared that every infected wild plant is the property of the GMO's patent owner. That may prove even more detrimental to us than GMOs themselves.

Sep 14, 2019
So are you a pervert or a god?

At least I'm a pervert, still bit unsure of the god part.


Wow, that sounds like the response of a COMMON person to me!

Nope, he sounds more like an uncommon idiot. Uncommon in that he won all the prizes at the stupidity tournament.

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