Bill Nye Had a Fixed View on GMOs. Then Something Happened.

By Keith Kloor | March 2, 2015 1:39 am

A decade ago, Bill Nye, aka The Science Guy, did a segment on GMOs for his TV show. His approach surprised some who saw it years later. “It was weightily anti-GMO, something I wouldn’t have expected from Bill Nye,” one writer has noted.

You can watch it yourself and decide. Others have rendered their judgement: Greenpeace, which campaigns against genetically modified crops (when it is not ripping them up), has given the Nye GMO episode a thumbs up. Rodale, a well known organization also opposed to agricultural biotechnology, heartily endorsed the segment, as well. “Bill Nye knows the truth about GMOs,” Rodale crowed.

Nye has recently published a new book that contains a short chapter on GMOs. I have read the chapter and can tell you that it closely reflects what he said on his TV show in 2005, which can be summed up as: Some people are understandably scared about a new technology that could be harmful to the environment. 

Last October, Nye went on reddit and was confronted with this history. An admiring fan told Nye that he was “disheartened” by how GMOs were presented in that 2005 episode. The person went on to rue all the “hate, fear, and ignorance” that biotech scientists had to contend with. Nine years had passed since the GMO episode aired, the commenter said to Nye,

so I want to ask, in light of the wealth of evidence demonstrating the safety and utility of agricultural genetic engineering, could you clarify your current stance on the subject, and have you changed the views you expressed then?

Nye’s response:

I stand by my assertions that although you can know what happens to any individual species that you modify, you cannot be certain what will happen to the ecosystem.

Also, we have a strange situation where we have malnourished fat people. It’s not that we need more food. It’s that we need to manage our food system better.

So when corporations seek government funding for genetic modification of food sources, I stroke my chin.

I scratched my head and wrote a post called, “Bill Nye explains why he is a GMO skeptic.” It generated some traffic. The evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne picked up where I left off:

The fear of GMOs is like creationism: an unfounded belief based not on facts, but on a form of faith: genetically unmodified food is better. Yes, GMOs vary in their efficacy and in the profits they make for Big Agro, but there’s no doubt that thousands of lives can be saved by adopting a GMO like golden rice. And, after all, breeders have been doing a form of genetic engineering for centuries, by outcrossing plants or animals to others to incorporate desired genes.

Message to Bill Nye: creationism doesn’t kill kids; dissing GMOs, as you have done, can. If you really care about using science to improve human welfare on this planet, then for God’s sake look up the data on GMOs and use your influence in a positive way. Stroking your chin is not helping!

Then University of Florida biologist Kevin Folta stepped up to the plate. He posted an open letter at my blog, which contained this offer:

I am happy to arrange a forum at a major university for a civil, evidence-based debate on the benefits and risks of agricultural biotechnology. Consider this an invitation. Three hours, same format as the Nye vs. Hamm debate. Let’s talk about the science and make sure we get it straight. Either I’m missing something you know, or you’re missing something I know, but it can’t work both ways.

Coyne weighed in again, predicting:

Now I don’t think Nye will take him up on this, for I don’t think The Science Guy has done his homework, and Folta appears to know his stuff. There’s no gain in Nye looking like a fool by losing this debate. But if he really thinks that these kinds of issues should be debated verbally on stage (I don’t agree), he really should engage.

Ten to one he won’t.

Coyne would have won that bet, because Nye never did respond to Folta. But The Science Guy soon showed up at a public debate on GMOs and even got to ask a vague question that seemed to reflect his main concern about ecosystem threats. David Ropeik, a science communicator and risk expert, shared an interesting exchange he had with Nye after that debate. Here’s an excerpt:

On the merits of the GM food issue, Nye said his concern is about possible long term environmental effects caused by cross-species hybrids. As we spoke [Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer] Robb Fraley came by and the three of us discussed this aspect for several minutes. Nye and I asked Fraley how long the testing is before a GM hybrid created in the lab hits the fields. Fraley said it’s about 7 years of corporate then government testing between creation of such a hybrid to field application. Nye was quite pleasant toward Fraley and left with “Well, then I’m open-minded.”

I was dubious. People aren’t so flexible with strongly held views. Their minds tend to be made up. And Nye, being conversant with science, had had ample opportunity to educate himself about GMOs. Yet in his latest book published in 2014, he has a chapter on GMOs in which he betrays a squeamishness that isn’t very science-like. For example, on page 235, he writes:

But there is something weird and unnatural about putting fish genes in fruit, in tomatoes.

Yes, and there is something weird and unnatural about splicing pig or cow valves into human hearts. Should we be freaked out by that, too? Or hey, speaking of weird and unnatural, what about injecting foreign substances into a child’s body? (Folks, I’m being sarcastic here.) I know The Science Guy  doesn’t have any reservations about childhood vaccines.

But there’s something about GMOs that stops him short. “If you’re asking me, we should stop introducing genes from one species into another,” Nye writes in his book.

At this point, you would expect Nye to stand his ground. After all, his stance hadn’t changed at all in the last ten years, so he seems pretty well dug in. Yet the ground beneath his feet appears to have have shifted of late.

Hmm, that’s interesting. But it would be nice to hear this directly from him.

Wow, did Nye end up talking with Kevin Folta, after all, or some other independent university researcher who doesn’t work for Monsanto or another biotech giant?

Um, no. So what happened? Here’s what he said to the interviewer:

I went to Monsanto and I spent a lot of time with the scientists there, and I have revised my outlook. And I’m very excited about telling the world. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.

He went into the belly of the beast!

It’s not yet clear what happened at Monsanto. Did one of the scientists pictured above cast a spell on Nye? Has Monsanto created a new GMO love potion that was slipped into Nye’s milkshake when he was having lunch at the company cafeteria? Whatever did the trick, here’s hoping The Science Guy reveals all on cable TV to the one person Monsanto will probably never win over.

Seriously, do we really have to wait for the next edition of Nye’s book to find out what changed his mind about GMOs? Bill, many are excited to hear of your new outlook. They want to know more. Tell the world and set the record straight.

UPDATE: Over the weekend, I sent an email to Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, asking him to provide some details about Nye’s recent visit to the company. Nye has gushed about it publicly but he has been vague about what he learned from Monsanto scientists. Here is Fraley’s response via email:

We had a great day with Bill Nye—he was eager to learn about biotech, had a lot of questions…and in the end realized how important the advances in breeding & biotech are to both world food security and for reducing agriculture’s impact on the environment.

Perhaps Nye will soon expand on this.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: agriculture, biotechnology, GMOs
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  • Kevin Folta

    He’s appearing at NECSS in NYC next month, a great science and skepticism meeting. It would be a great place for him to state that he took the time to look hard at the evidence and make a decision. Sadly, the fact that his epiphany happened at Monsanto will discredit anything he has to say on the matter, at least with the people that need to understand his intellectual transit the most. As you say, they cast a spell or slipped him a million-dollar bill in the all-organic cafe.

    • RobertWager

      I “heard” the real Bill Nye is locked away in a basement lab at Monsanto and this ‘properly educated CLONE’ has been set forth on the world to spread propaganda on GMO’s.

    • agscienceliterate

      I would love to hear what Bill Nye has to say about mutagenesis.

    • Cassandra

      Kevin, that was my thought, too. My heart sunk when I heard him say “Monsanto.” How sad that he didn’t realize the depth of the prejudice against that one company.

    • Viva La Evolucion

      I don’t think Bill Nye would be persuaded much by money, considering he is already relatively wealthy. I think his apparent change of heart had more to do with fear of losing credibility from within the scientific community. I seriously doubt that Bill Nye will come out in support of Roundup Ready crops. I think it is more likely that he will show support for some new future GMOs that he was was shown on his tour.

      • JH

        Nye isn’t wealthy. He’s a short-run public TV personality. That’s not typically a source of wealth. IMO his whole anti-gmo schtick is a great opportunity to get free promo from the press and help him dig up work which he probably needs.

        Everyone writing here seems to think Bill Nye is a household name. It isn’t. Recently here in Seattle the public radio announcers read his name as Bill “Ny-ee”.

        He’s a public TV personality but even the *public* radio announcers in his once-home-town don’t know his name.

        • FedUp

          No he is worth 6.5 million, and most educated people know who he is, maybe you should find a new radio station

          • ailurophile1

            He’s worth $6.5 million? According to whom?

          • FedUp

            Research is your friend

          • ailurophile1

            You made the assertion; it’s up to you to back it up.

          • Frank Cannon

            Absolutely, I’ve never considered assertion to be an explanation

          • sciencerulesforever

            Is this actually money in hand or just real estate? there is a difference. Most people can be bought and it is real easy to do it under the table.

        • Bill Fleming

          Yes he is in the poor house aright with an estimated net worth of 6.5 million.

  • mem_somerville

    Yeah, I still wish he’d have a beer with Kevin Folta. In fact, I’d buy the beer at NECSS if Kevin can show up….?

    But nobody would freak out if he went to Boeing scientists to hear about gravity being largely harmless when used properly, right? Or talking to aerospace companies who built moon rockets about the moon landing not being faked?

    Still, though, there are qualified scientists at Monsanto. I’m sure they know the data. But if they do have some sort of expecto patronum monsantium I wish they’d roll it out more widely….

    The Patronus Charm (Expecto Patronum) is the most famous and one of the most powerful defensive charms known to wizardkind.[4] It’s an immensely complicated, very difficult spell that evokes a partially-tangible positive energy force known as a Patronus (pl. Patronuses[5]) or spirit guardian.[3] It is the primary protection against Dementors and Lethifolds, against which there is no other protection.

    http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Patronus_Charm

    • Bill C

      Never been to harrypotter.wikia but seeing something that sounds like a quote from the book, with inline citations, is very weird to me.

    • Bill C

      It speaks volumes about Nye. Independent of how convincing Monsanto’s science might be – “in love”? Now I have to think Nye is the sort who is convinced of the science by his personal connection with the scientists. To hell with skepticism…

  • Willard M

    ‘dissing GMOs’ does that mean labeling them? And how, pray tell, does labeling them in the US kill poor kids in Asia again??

    • agscienceliterate

      And why would you want to label them, Willard? The labeling proposals that have failed in the US would have mislabeled both gmo and non-gmo foods, and hurt farmers with their 0% comingling tolerance for labeling.
      But if you persist in thinking that somehow labeling helps, would you join my campaign to get all organic food that has been produced with mutagenesisis (chemical and irradiation alteration)? I await your donation towards that labeling campaign.

    • RobertWager

      May I suggest you read this and then we can discuss the labeling issue

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/labels-for-gmo-foods-are-a-bad-idea/

    • bobito

      Ripping up test crops of Golden Rice kills kids in Asia. But the “kills kids” quote was a bit over the top. The vitamin A deficiency usually just causes children to go blind…

    • Benjamin Edge

      I see just as much resistance to Golden Rice (essentially self-labeled because of the color difference) as I do calls for labeling of GMOs, maybe even more so (because it would give GM a PR win). The labeling movement is a precursor to banning GM as much or more as it is a real interest in more information. So yes, there is a connection between labeling and causing harm to kids in undeveloped areas of the world.

  • realheadline

    Denying food to starving third-world children with the kook anti-GMO movement or denying power to starving third-world children with the kook climate change movement. Not really much of a difference. High-horse meet ground.

    • Sterling Ericsson

      See, nonsense pushers like you don’t actually support science, you just support your political ideology. I actually support science, so I support the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change, GMOs, and vaccines.

      • realheadline

        Really, the major supporters of the apocalyptic climate change fairy tale and anti-GMO are on your side. The anti-nuke nuts, the anti-humanist nuts, the anti-fracking nuts, and the anti-oil/coal nuts, etc.. etc.. The phony consensus is a political construct, not a scientific one. Bullying whack-jobs, very scientific.

        • Sterling Ericsson

          Every major scientific organization in the world has stated and supported the dangers of anthropogenic climate change, just like they all have supported the safety of GMOs and vaccines.

        • Mike Richardson

          Well, you do accept that GMO’s can be a good thing, properly developed and monitored. One or two out of about half-dozen view points being reasonable has to be counted as progress. I’m really not even sure what an anti-humanist is…

  • Buddy199

    “I went to Monsanto and I spent a lot of time with the scientists there, and I have revised my outlook. And I’m very excited about telling the world. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.”

    He sounds like he just joined Scientology.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      Sounds like he incorporated new evidence into his world view and changed his outlook accordingly.

      • Bill C

        no it doesn’t. it just sounds freaking nuts.

        • Todd Guthrie

          He’s an old fart waxing rhapsodic. In what part of his career was his persona NOT over the top? That charismatic but goofy approach is part of what made the shows so successful…

      • Mike Richardson

        Yep, which makes me respect him more for it. He’d probably help his credibility with some of those more suspicious of Monsanto if he’d also visited universities conducting GMO crop research, but then again, if they’re hardcore ideologues, their pretty unlikely to change their views the way he has. But if you’ve got a rational view of science, you have to be willing to adjust your philosophy to fit the facts, and not the other way around.

  • http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/dmwessel Dawn Wessel

    “GM agriculture is artificial selection by purposeful mutation”
    Blending different plants to form a sub species is entirely different from purposeful mutation. Blending results from compatibility between two species, mutation is ‘changing’ the natural genetic makeup.
    I would like to see the long-range results in 20 years and then you can tell me GMO is a good thing.

    • Buddy199

      The first GMO foods went on sale in 1994.

    • RobertWager

      Have you read this document?

      A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research 2001-2010

      Food Safety:

      “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than
      25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies.”

      Its free on-line

  • Michael O’Leary

    This obsession with wanting to convert anyone who has ever voiced skepticism about GMOs is pseudo-evangelical. Labeling GMO skeptics “anti-science” is like evangelicals calling the non-religious “sinners.” The mythology that only GMO food can “feed the world” sounds almost cult-like in its absolutism. There may be nifty aspects to GMOs, but the belief that it’s the world’s “salvation” falls more into the realm of evangelical fervor than reality. The reality is that Monsanto isn’t interested a bit in curing global hunger. They’re interested in cornering the food production market. It isn’t food that needs to be modified, it’s the food production and distribution model that needs to be modified, if eradicating hunger is the goal.

    • Dominick Dickerson

      “This obsession with wanting to convert anyone who has ever voiced skepticism about GMOs is pseudo-evangelical. Labeling GMO skeptics “anti-science” is like evangelicals calling the non-religious “sinners.” The mythology that only GMO food can “feed the world” sounds almost cult-like in its absolutism.”

      I think there are elements in both camps that have a sense of evangelical fervor to their rhetoric. Skepticism is to be encouraged but I get the sense that what irks people is a lot of blatant denialism amongst a good segment of those opposed to genetic engineering that often times masquerades about as skepticism. And maybe its limited to my experience but I don’t see many people who will actively claim that only “GMOs” will feed the world, however I do see quite a bit of hyperbolic doomsday scenarios attributed to genetic engineering continually propagated by many antigmo groups. I think the obsession with conversion that you see is more motivated by a sense of vindication that those who have doubts can reevaluate their perspective upon examination of evidence.

      “The reality is that Monsanto isn’t interested a bit in curing global hunger. They’re interested in cornering the food production market. It isn’t food that needs to be modified, it’s the food production and distribution model that needs to be modified, if eradicating hunger is the goal.”

      I think its improper to equate the science and prospects of genetic engineering with the perception of a single corporate entity. Genetic engineering is more than Monsanto. If people have concerns with the practices of a corporation I think it would be best to decouple those criticisms with that of genetic engineering as a whole.

      In the end, always be skeptical,, but be like Nye. When he debated Hamm over evolution a point was brought up. What would make you change your mind? Hamm responded “nothing” , Nye responded “evidence”

      • RainySoul

        “…And maybe its limited to my experience but I don’t see many people who will actively claim that only “GMOs” will feed the world,”

        Maybe not many, but the article quotes on, and I know he isn’t alone.

        “Yes, GMOs vary in their efficacy and in the profits they make for Big Agro, but there’s no doubt that thousands of lives can be saved by adopting a GMO like golden rice. And, after all, breeders have been doing a form of genetic engineering for centuries, by outcrossing plants or animals to others to incorporate desired genes.

        Message to Bill Nye: creationism doesn’t kill kids; dissing GMOs, as you have done, can.”

        I was kind of surprised he took it that extreme as well.

        • Dominick Dickerson

          He’s not saying that only gm agriculture can save them, but he is saying that golden rice would certainly help the situation and that continued opposition to it is causing continued harm that could be atleast partially abated by acceptance and adoption of golden rice. It’s not a magic bullet, but if think it can go along way towards helping. Also he’s not talking about all GMOs but specifically biofortified GE crops. yes his wording could be better, but I don’t think this particular statement is that extreme.

          • saijanai

            The founder of the GR movement has written an editorial accusing anti-GR people of being responsible for every Vitamin-A related death and blindness that could have been prevented if everyone just ate GR, ignoring the fact that GR II is only 10 years old, and it takes years to stabilize hybrid breeds tot he point that you can release them to farmers without making them depending on hybrid seed distributors.

            The extreme rhetoric goes both ways.

      • saijanai

        There[‘s a religious/spiritual aspect to the anti-GMO side. Much of the anti-GMO camp is affiliated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who feared that GMOs would bypass the natural order of things used in devising traditional Indian medicine. Since many Hindus believe that Indian medicine is, in a sense, “revealed” knowledge and that there are no modern sages of teh same degree of “oneness” as the ancient ones were, any GMO will risk disrupting the ineffable nature of traditional formulas which were devised using insghts not available to modern ayurvedic practitioners.

        Similar attitudes, with less clear roots, pervade much of hte rest of the anti-GMO space.

        Here’s an interesting read about how GMO egplants face opposition in India:

        http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone/Kudlu%20and%20Stone%202013.pdf

        A lot of the anti-GMO rhetoric is embedded in a similar cultural perspective. It doesn’t help when pro-GMO advocates dismiss religious beliefs held by more than a billion people as “woo,” of course.

        • FredPierre

          We are all going to love the new creatures that science creates as scientist upend the billion-year evolution of DNA with new and improved organisms.

    • Tom Scharf

      “The reality is that Monsanto isn’t interested a bit in curing global hunger. They’re interested in cornering the food production market.”

      If the food market is properly designed and implemented, then Monsanto could corner the market by curing global hunger. It’s about the market having the right incentives. We can debate whether that is happening now or not, but those two goals are not mutually exclusive, in fact they should be nearly the same if market rules are setup wisely.

      • Kaila Williams

        The EXACT same thing could be said of the 100 billion dollar organic food industry. That’s why they spend so much money propping up the anti-GMO mythology. Their interests are perhaps even MORE dubious because they’re perfectly aware that their method of food production could never feed the world into the future

    • Matt

      Save some of the straw you’re building your straw man with for the cows!

      • Benjamin Edge

        Or his house.

    • Benjamin Edge

      There is no obsession with converting “anyone who has ever voiced skepticism about GMO.” We’ll never convert everyone, and it is probably not worth the effort to try to convince some of the most ideologically extreme individuals. But it is important that someone like Nye, who purports to promote science, at least be in the same book, if not the same page when it comes to the science of genetic modification.

    • Jason Mosall

      Agreed.

    • Your1Friend

      Thank you for the welcome dose of reality amidst the messianic giddiness appears to characterize the GMO cult.

  • Rod Herman

    It takes a big man to acknowledge a mistake and then correct it. It even takes more courage to acknowledge a maligned company was the source of the revelation. I believe that it is would be more gracious to recognize that accomplishment rather than dwell on the mistake. We all have blind spots.

    • Cassandra

      I will try to do that. Thanks for the positive angle:-)

    • chomps

      Agreed. I must say, it has to be very difficult for people like the author and Bill Maher to know everything and have to deal with cretins like the rest of us.

      • Rod Herman

        The author has been trying to bring the science on GMOs to the public for a long time, I can relate to his frustration. I resort to this approach myself way to often. We all have our moments.

  • Viva La Evolucion

    Being critical of GMOs is not the same as fearing them. GMOs have a lot of potential for creating environmentally sustainable food crops, which are healthy, and do not result in large amount of pesticide/herbicide on farmland. Unfortunately, most of todays GMOs are not examples of that . The majority of current GMOs are the herbicide tolerant variety, which often are sprayed with more herbicide than their non-GMO counterparts. In regards to Bill Nye, he seems to have lost his spark lately, especially evident on most recent Bill Maher appearance. And finally, there was vote fixing done (from both sides) in the GMO debate that Bill Nye attended, but most of the vote fixing was done of the pro GMO side. It is obvious if you look at the results.

    • J. Randall Stewart

      The majority of current GMOs are the herbicide tolerant variety, which often are sprayed with more herbicide than their non-GMO counterparts

      This is not an accurate view of what is actually happening on the farm.

      I farm only 30% GMO crops. GMO herbicide tolerance gives me an additional “Mode of Action,” reduces overall resistance (“superweeds”) and reduces the overall spraying requirements in the long term.

      On the agriculture side, practically every argument against GMO’s is instead a strength of GMO’s or neutral. This includes Herbicide Application, Pesticide Application, “Superweeds,” Cross Pollination, Toxicity of the application, etc.

      I’m happy to discuss any of these aspects, and the details in a respectful and transparent manner.

      • Viva La Evolucion

        Herbicide usage (pounds on the ground) is increasing worldwide, especially glyphosate usage. I believe the overuse of herbicide to be a comparable problem to overuse of antibiotics. Yes, there are examples of people who do not abuse/overuse antibiotics and herbicides. But, there are also many examples of their abuse, and with increasing use comes increase of those who abuse. The herbicide overuse problem is not specific to GMOs, but GMO herbicide tolerant crops do nothing to address the problem, and do in fact perpetuate the use of herbicides. I believe that weeds are a problem that can be solved without herbicides, or with minimal use of herbicides. I am not a fan of herbicide tolerant crops, be them GMO or traditionally bred. There are many examples of weed management systems that involve little to no herbicide usage, such as hydroponics/aquaponics, high-tech no-till mechanical weeding, use of drones to spot weed treat fields, cover crops, soil steaming, etc. Nevertheless, I think that GMO tech has a lot of potential for good in things like producing drought tolerant crops, bigger, tastier, healthier foods, that use less pesticide, but I would not call perpetuating the use of herbicide as an example of using the technology for good.

        • Rod Herman

          Read the 2014 USDA report – Please!

          http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-

          “Herbicide use on corn, cotton and soybean acres (measured in pounds per planted acre) declined slightly in the first years following introduction of HT seeds in 1996, but increased modestly in later years. Despite the relatively minor effect HT crop adoption has had on overall herbicide usage, HT crop adoption has enabled farmers to substitute glyphosate (which many HT crops are designed to tolerate) for more traditional herbicides. Because glyphosate is significantly less toxic and less persistent than traditional herbicides, the net impact of HT crop adoption is an improvement in environmental quality and a reduction in health risks.”

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I’m generally a strong advocate for genetic engineering, but I do reserve some criticism of HT crops, mostly that we’ve for too long just relied on a single mode of action, glyphosate. 20 years of widespread glyphosate use does put undesirably selection pressure on weeds. I’m cautiously optimistic about the next round of dicamba resistant crops because now farmers can atleast alternate or use a combination of actions, which I think is only going to help farmer manage pest resistance.

            Undoubtedly glyphosate is a better substance to use than many other pesticides, but just from a pest management perspective over reliance on any single mode of action is a concern.

          • Rod Herman

            WRM is just good practice. Unfortunately, at 35-million in regulatory costs per GMO, alternatives will come slowly.

          • Allan Felsot

            Evolution of weed resistance is not a technology problem, but rather a human behavior problem. If post spray surveillance is not practiced as a routine part of an integrated vegetation management program, then the probability of missed weeds increases. I like to simplify the situation by just saying, if you let your weeds have sex after spraying, they are more likely to pass on resistance alleles. Development of glyphosate resistant weeds is more an indication that proper attention to the principals of IVM (or IPM) are not faithfully followed. Thus, the MOA doesn’t matter as much as ensuring that skips are rogued out. But I don’t blame the Corn Belt farmers because I understand that average size farms have increased from several hundred acres 40-50 years ago to perhaps much greater than a 1000 acres today. Yet, the work force to manage these farms (and it does take more labor to follow a sound IPM strategy) has not grown in tandem. Nevertheless, post spray surveillance must be practiced. Rod, I predict that your company’s new ENLIST technology will face the same dilemma unless you work on encouraging a change in operator behavior. Microevolution is inevitable unless the systems are properly managed.

          • Rod Herman

            Can you point to an example of herbicide with any major use on a non-GMO crop that did not select for some weed resistance? You prediction is like saying the sun will rise again. Resistance will always develop unless you ban evolution or never use the herbicide. The best you can do is to delay it while maximizing the benefit.

          • Allan Felsot

            Rod, note that I first stated that herbicide resistance is not a technology problem. In other words, any active ingredient used but not managed for avoidance of operational factors that lead to resistance development will suffer the same fate. All I’m saying is that I think we rely to much on chemical rotations to save us. This operational strategy probably works better with insects than with weeds owing to the clumpiness of insect pest distribution and thus inability to predict spatially where your insect infestation may occur. However, with weed seeds distribution is more likely to be comparatively uniform (assuming no major variations across a soil landscape). Thus, if you expect less than 100% kill, then the probability is high that those escapes, if not rogued out, will flower and thus increase the probability of passing on resistant alleles. To answer your question, there are no examples of any active ingredient class not causing resistance. Even very amorphous modes of action such as exhibited by sulfur can lead to resistance (I think sulfur use was one of the first cases of insect resistance reported; don’t know about its use as a fungicide). Perhaps we should start a dialog using email because I deal with communicating about this issue a lot.

          • Rod Herman

            I agree 100% that the available technologies should all be considered as part of strategy, adn i understand the advantages of eliminating hot-spots of resistant weeds. Most insects cannot self fertilize or reproduce asexually, so there are definitely differences in strategy between WRM and IRM. If you deal directly with farmers on weed management, then you fully understand the realities of implementing practical WRM plans. If you wish to email me, you should be able to locate my email online fairly easily and I am happy to learn from you.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I agree that the net impact of HT crop adoption during the 90’s and possibly early 2000’s did result in an improvement in environmental quality, but I disagree that HT crop adoption has had a relatively minor effect on overall herbicide usage, especially in the last 20 years. As the high tech herbicide alternatives that I touched on earlier become more widely used, the attractiveness of HT crops will decline. Also, now that there is widespread reliance and overuse of one less toxic herbicide, glyphosate, HT crops less and less of improvement on environmental impact. It sounds like we do agree on one thing though, that in the past 10 years HT crops result in increased herbicide usage. If our goal is to use less herbicide then maybe we ought to consider alternative methods to weed management.

          • Rod Herman

            Ht crops have improved agricultural productivity while reducing adverse environmental effects, and they continue to do so. They have been a great success in achieving this goal as documented by the USDA and many others.

            http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014-march/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-by-us-farmers-has-increased-steadily-for-over-15-years.aspx#.VPhAm9LF98E

          • Viva La Evolucion

            If one is concerned about producing more food on less land with less environmental impact then one would surely not choose to grow corn or soy for animal feed (be it HT or not), as that is one of the least efficient, most water intensive forms of food production.

          • Rod Herman

            That is like suggesting we should not endorse a more fuel efficient automobile engine because we should drive less. Your argument is not about GMOs or efficient agriculture, but rather about reducing meat consumption in developed countries.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I believe we both agreed that HT crops do not reduce the amount of herbicide used, so not really fair to compare the technology to reducing gasoline usage in fuel efficient cars. My argument was not necessarily about reducing meat consumption, but about changing the way the meat is produced. Also, I would love to hear your thought regarding the inefficient use of GMO corn and soy as biofuel.

          • Rod Herman

            It is easy to confuse more efficient and more ecologically benign farming with lots of other issues. The goal is to reduce adverse environmental impact, and HT crops have done this while reducing the amount of native wildlife habitat that needs to be converted to farm fields. Use Google Scholar to search “sharing vs. sparing” and you may learn something.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            So, do you agree that growing corn and soy for cow feed and biofuels has a greater adverse environmental impact than grass feeding cows, and producing biofuels from waste cellulose?

          • Rod Herman

            It depends, but generally feedlot produced beef is more environmentally friendly compared with grass-fed beef, but not always. Biofuels is a can of worms.

            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X10000399

            http://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/2/2/127/htm

          • Viva La Evolucion

            It doesn’t look like either of the two comparisons you referenced included hydroponic fodder, which I believe should be included in any serious environmental impact comparison of beef production. I take it that you do agree that growing corn and soy for biofuels, be it GMO or not, has more adverse environmental impact than producing biofuels from waste cellulose.

          • Rod Herman

            I do not know enough about biofuels to have an opinion. I was not aware that hydroponic production of “fodder” was even possible in an economic manner. Please provide link to a scientific paper on the subject, so that I can learn about it.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I believe one should be informed on the latest methods of food and energy production before claiming that their preferred method has less of an adverse environmental impact than others. I will include a video about hydroponic fodder below. They claim that it cost 55 british pounds per ton to produce, which is roughly $82 USD per ton. Feel free to use google to find scientific paper of your choice to learn more. In regards to waste cellulose biofuels, please look up cellulosic ethanol. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZTikdxj8AI

          • Rod Herman

            Was my request for a scientific paper confusing? Anyone can post a YouTube video with any manner of truth or deception. Do you rely on posted videos for the truth?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Sorry, I did not have time to look for scientific paper regarding hydroponic fodder on my last reply. I was a little confused as to why you would ask for something that you can easily look up yourself. Nevertheless, after looking into it more, it appears that hydroponic fodder is better suited for swine and poultry than for cows, but still economically viable supplemental feed in the rapidly growing grass-fed dairy and beef operations. It also has far less adverse environmental impact than many other types of livestock feed, which was why I said it should be included in any serious livestock feed environmental impact comparison. I’ve also read that grass-fed cows, which I would assume includes hydroponic fodder grass-fed cows as well, have increase omega 3 content and nutritionally superior beef and dairy.

            http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2012/924672/

            http://www.nuffield.com.au/report/2000-05/joseph-mooney-2002-report.pdf

            http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1829&context=ans_air

          • Rod Herman

            So one publication on water use efficiency in an obscure journal that started publishing less than a year ago, and a couple of non-peer reviewed reports, the last saying the only cost-effective application might be for specialty use where the end product could be sold at a premium based on emotional desires like organic food. My point in asking for you to do the research was to demonstrate that this is, at best, an experimental production system that is not presently economically viable.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Actually, it appears that it is economically viable in the rapidly growing grass-fed beef and dairy markets, which are often not certified organic, but do provide nutritionally superior meat and dairy with higher omega 3 content (Please look that up yourself and provide contradicting source if you do not accept that fact). In regards to your dust bowl scenario it would seem that hydroponic fodder would be a useful insurance policy for producing animal feed. Finally, my original point in regards to hydroponic fodder, was not that it was the cheapest method of producing animal feed, but that it has less adverse environmental impact than many other forms of animal feed, and thus should be included in any serious environmental impact comparison.

          • Rod Herman

            Hydroponic fodder is a “red herring” used on a few hobby farms as a form of eco-tourism. It is not included in any comparisons because it is not viable and takes so much energy that it would not even be in the ball park for sustainability with conventional methods.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Yes, after looking into it more I must say that hydroponic fodder is looking less and less attractive due to it’s cost. Nevertheless, I do think it has potential for commercial use in grass-fed meat and dairy markets. Thank you for prompting me to look into it more. Now, I would like for you to look into HT crop usage as biofuel and let me know your thoughts.

          • Rod Herman

            My uninformed thought is that corn-based bio-fuel is a way to support farm production to keep cropland in use in case of a natural disaster, but I am not really in a position to support that opinion. As I previously wrote, HT crops are irrelevant to this use.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            When roughly 40% of HT corn is used to produce ethanol then I do not consider HT crops to be irrelevant to this use. To prepare for nature disaster I would be more inclined to look at indoor farming methods such as hydroponics as insurance policy as it does not rely on natural weather conditions to produce food. I have been working with non-circulating hydroponic systems lately that do not require electricity or air pump, and they grow some beautiful delicious lettuce. If you are interested please check out the video that first inspired me to start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdsggB9vTPU

          • Rod Herman

            You are not thinking clearly. Replacing a less environmentally friendly farming technique with a more environmentally friendly farming practice is a good thing, just like bring forward a more fuel-efficient lower-polluting engine is a good thing, even if you think people drive too much. Suggesting that hydroponically grown food will make a dent in the food needs for our planet if we are hit with a natural disaster is a fantasy.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Neither of the two references you provided included mention of hydroponic fodder, which I believe should be included in any serious environmental impact comparison of beef production. I take it that you do agree that growing corn and soy specifically for use as biofuel has greater adverse environmental impact than currently available method of producing biofuel from waste cellulose?

        • J. Randall Stewart

          Your antibiotics analogy is pretty accurate, but we have a lot more advantages and flexibility when working with weeds and soil compared to animals. (For example, we can resurrect soil if a mistake is made)

          I agree with most of what you’re talking about, and I’ll add a weed fighting technology to your list–what about a system that moves across the field the way a center pivot (irrigator) does now, It has cameras and lasers and eradicates the weeds.

          Much of what you listed are being used now. We are using drones, and literally spot treating areas. Our rate controllers are variable rate, and we have Direct Injection systems that will put in a chemical only when it is needed.

          While this technology is developing, look at the herbicide GMO traits from this angle:

          Here is the key Not All Herbicides Are Equal in Their Impact to The Environment You are making a significant error by using lbs as your reference point–you should be using environmental impact, because an ounce of one product is worse than a lb of another product.

          From my point of view, the mistake you are making is that you are lumping all herbicides into the same category. However, there is vast differences between herbicides in how they work and how they affect the environment.

          The question to ask is: Is the herbicide program used by GMO crops better overall and in the long run than what would be used without GMO crops?

          I could be wrong, but based on 30 years of spraying herbicides, I’m firmly convinced that the GMO herbicide traits are better for the environment than the non-GMO herbicide options.

          I’m not comparing GMO herbicide to the future, I’m comparing it to what would have been without it.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I believe herbicide tolerant crops, be them GMO or traditionally bred, are not better for the environment than non-herbicide tolerant crops. It sounds like we both agree that herbicide tolerant crops result in more pounds on the ground of herbicide, and we agree that glyphosate is less toxic than most other herbicides. However, I disagree with your assumption that the reliance and overuse of one less toxic herbicide results in less environmental impact than the alternative of using less amounts of multiple more toxic herbicides. Not to mention that comparing only those two scenarios is not fair, considering there is also a 3rd option of using herbicide alternatives that we touched on earlier. As a farmer, I’m sure you know first hand that while your crops can tolerate an application of herbicide, they do not exactly thrive for few days after being sprayed, which does not allow the crop to produce to its maximum potential. If weeds are managed in one of the alternative herbicide methods that we touched on earlier than the crop productivity is not held back by application of herbicide. There may have been a brief period in time a couple decades ago when a solid argument could be made for herbicide tolerant crops, but that time is long gone.

          • J. Randall Stewart

            An upvote for being the only non-farmer I’ve talked with who knows that a herbicide application often damages the crop.

            HT crops do not take anywhere the chemical beating that regular crops take.

            (I’m assuming that when you mean HT crops you are specifically referring to the RR trait, the Clearfield trait, the dicamba trait, and the 2,4-d trait—as every crop I know is naturally tolerant to some herbicide)

            I disagree with your assumption that the reliance and overuse of one less toxic herbicide results in less environmental impact than the alternative of using less amounts of several different more toxic herbicides.

            No, glyphosate should not be overused. I do not want to imply that.

            RR trait gives an additional rotation, the other modes of action should still be used.

            Perhaps the Achilles Heel of the RR trait is that it’s own superiority leads to its overuse by farmers, therefore it leads to its failing.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Thanks, actually my parents are avocado farmers, and I help them on the farm sometimes, and I like to consider myself as sort of a farmer to be, as I plan on taking over the avocado farm when they get older. I have had about the same success in convincing my dad to stop using roundup as I have had in convincing you :-) My dad also happens to be a genetic engineer.

    • Sterling Ericsson

      That claim of increased herbicide usage is not backed up by the evidence. Actual usage on farms, by the directions on the packaging even, comes out to about a drop of glyphosate per several square feet. The following explains this:

      http://www.nurselovesfarmer.com/2014/08/how-much-glyphosate-is-sprayed-on-our-crops/

      • Viva La Evolucion

        Actually, the claim of increased herbicide usage is backed up with all sorts of evidence.

        http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/show_map.php?year=2011&map=GLYPHOSATE&hilo=H&disp=Glyphosate

        I am 99.9% pro-GMO technology. I just don’t approve of using it to create herbicide tolerant crops, as that does nothing to address to the growing overuse of herbicide problem.

        • Rod Herman

          So is organic agriculture bad because it uses more pounds of fertilizer? Pounds is not a good measure of environmental impact. What is clear from almost all reputable sources is that herbicide-tolerant GM crops have provided environmental benefits by allowing the use of more benign herbicides and by enabling greater use of conservation tillage.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Organic agriculture can be just as bad or worse than traditional agriculture. A high dose of organic pesticide will kill you just as dead as high dose of synthetic pesticide. Natural Mold Toxin (aflatoxin) is quite a bit more carcinogenic than many synthetic fungicides that prevent it’s presence. Nevertheless, if our goal is to reduce use of pesticides (herbicides are pesticides), then creating Roundup Ready style GMOs and/or traditionally breeding herbicide tolerant crops such as Clearfield Wheat, are not the best ways to achieve that goal, as they explicitly require being sprayed with herbicide. I agree that Roundup is often more benign than alternatives herbicides, but a less toxic herbicide can become a problem when it is overused on a large scale. Considering that there are many economically feasible herbicide alternatives to tillage, some of which I mentioned previously, I don’t really think that is a good excuse. I am curious your thoughts on the common practice of using Roundup to “burn down” wheat crop shortly before harvest?

          • Rod Herman

            To meet the global needs for food and feed, herbicides are currently required. If a more benign herbicide can be substituted for an existing herbicide, then this is a health and environmental benefit. By analogy, if an automobile combustion engine was developed that was twice as fuel efficient as existing engines and produced half the air pollution, should the use of this engine be supported or rejected because it is not efficient as an electric car? If one form of technology dominates an industry, sometimes the improvements come step-wise. Some plants naturally secrete weed suppressants into the ground and we may learn to engineer these into crop plants in the future (assuming they are shown to be safe). This may happen sooner than later if we discontinue the largely wasted research dollars spent chasing shadows.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I agree that minimal use of herbicides are currently required to feed people, but I don’t think herbicide tolerant crops are required, as you have implied. Also, considering the introduction of new high tech herbicide alternatives, the use of herbicides tolerant crops is becoming less and less desirable. Ask any HT crop farmer and he will tell you that while an his HT crop can tolerate a treatment of herbicide, it is not exactly thriving for a few days after treatment, and thus does not allow plant to produce to it’s fullest potential. If the weeds are managed through alternative herbicide management program such as a drone identifying and spot treating then there is no need for herbicide tolerant trait, or to waste money over using herbicide by treating entire crop. Furthermore, I don’t believe it fair argument to keep on comparing glyphosate to more toxic herbicides. If you want to do a comparison then compare glyphosate to herbicide alternatives.

          • Rod Herman

            Herbicides and herbicide-tolerant crops are indeed not required. They are just the best solution for environmental conservation while feeding everyone. Under ideal conditions herbicide tolerant crops do not out-yield traditional crops, but under most real-world conditions, they produce greater yield at a lower cost. What you fail to understand, is that conventional crops rely on the development of herbicides that some crops can tolerate at the application rate, while GMO crops have been engineered to tolerate the herbicide (often at rates way higher than needed or applied. In almost all cases, GMO crops are less impacted by the typical herbicides used on them, than non-GMO crops. if you farmed, you would not be so clueless about farming.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            In my opinion the best solution would be to use an alternative food/energy production method to growing corn and soy for animal feed and/or biofuels, as those are quite inefficient and water intensive compared with other food and energy production methods. You are right, I am not a farmer. But, my parents are avocado farmers, and I do frequently help them on the farm, and will be taking over the farm in the next 10-20 years when they retire. Nevertheless, I do like to discuss farming with farmers and listen and learn from their experience.

          • Rod Herman

            Then go out and show folks how it should be done! Stop telling and start doing. Walk a mile in a farmer’s shoes.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            In addition to helping my parents reduce water and herbicide usage on their avocado farm, I am also currently working on Kratky style non-circulating hydroponic grow systems to sell on my website aquagarden dot com. I do not wish to participate in current inefficient food/energy production methods of growing corn or soy for animal feed or biofuel, but I share your love of producing food and try to do as much walking as I do talking.

          • Rod Herman

            My wife’s high-intensity vegetable production has allowed us to restore most of our land as wildlife habitat. If you are interested do a Google Scholar search on “sharing sparing agriculture”. We sell food, not hobby equipment.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            That sounds interesting. I am curious what sort of food you sell? Also, in regards to GMO corn and soy use in biofuels, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Surely, someone with such strong views on HT technology would have an opinion on it’s use in biofuels, when such big percentage of Roundup Ready corn and soy grown in the USA are used as biofuel.

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/20/its-final-corn-ethanol-is-of-no-use/

          • Rod Herman

            My wife has grown and sold vegetables at farmers markets for over 20 years – Raised beds, plasiculture, drip irrigation, trellised-tomatoes, etc. I am aware of the controversy on corn-based biofuels in both the media and scientific community. You suggest that “big percentage of Roundup Ready corn and soy grown in the USA are used as biofuel”. What percentage of these crops is used for biofuel, and what is your source of this statistic?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            How many acres does she farm? Do you do any farming yourself, or do you consider yourself as being a farmer based on your wife’s work? Do you grow any HT crops yourself? If memory serves me correctly, roughly 40% of corn and roughly 15% of soybeans grown in US are used in biofuel, but please do your own research and provide your own statistics and source, as that is something a fan of HT crops should inform themselves on, and I would like to see you do some homework for a change. I’m not sure I follow your dust bowl scenario, in regards to wasting farmland to grow biofuels. Would love to hear you elaborate more on that.

          • Rod Herman

            We have scaled back to a couple of acres of vegetables as our kids are now in college and we are getting older. However, a couple acres of high-intensity vegetables produces a lot of crop. My wife does the lions share of the work, but I help, especially with the tractor work. HT crops have nothing to do with biofuels. You are confusing two different things. The demand will drive the production levels. So to meet demand, one can decide to use efficient and environmentally friendly farming methods, or inefficient methods that will bring more land into production. There are no GMO HT vegetables. If there were, I would be using them.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Upwards of 90% of corn and soy grown in the USA are HT corn and soy. And, big percentage of corn and soy grown in USA is used for biofuel (was my request for you to provide exact percentage confusing?). The use of corn and soy for biofuel did not start until after widespread adoption of HT corn and soy. So, biofuels produced in the USA have a lot to do with HT crops. Considering alternative such as waste cellulosic biofuel, I would not consider growing HT corn and soy for use as biofuel an efficient or environmentally friendly choice.

          • Rod Herman

            Upwards of 90% of corn and soy is rain-fed. Should we ban rain? Are you asserting that HT crops precipitated the US biofuels policy? Why?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I am simply pointing out that a big percentage of GMO crops grown in the US are being used to produce biofuel, which often leads to greater adverse environmental impact than simply using petroleum products. So your statement about HT crops having less environmental impact is flat out wrong if the HT crop is used to produce biofuel. Do you believe that the pesticide manufacturer lobbyist have anything to do with US biofuel policy?
            http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/20/its-final-corn-ethanol-is-of-no-use/

          • Rod Herman

            You logic is flawed. HT crops replace crops that are sprayed with different herbicides which are harder on the environment and are less suited to conservation tillage. As I wrote before, your logic would lead to rejecting a more fuel-efficient and lower-polluting engine because cars are not as benign as bicycles.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Well, hopefully they come out with some new Roundup Ready, 2,4-D tolerant lettuce soon so you can your wife can spray multiple herbicides on top of your leafy greens to control your weeds. I would hate for you to continue wasting a few cents per head of lettuce you produce using a method that does not involve spraying herbicide on top of your lettuce, tomatoes, etc. As for the rapidly growing commercial hydroponic fruit and vegetable market – where does that fit into your fuel-efficient car/bike analogy? Have you noticed the growing selection of hydroponically grown lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc available at the grocery store? I would not be so quick to write off hydroponics as a fantasy. As water availability decreases, the demand for water-efficient farming methods such as hydroponics will continue to increase.

          • Rod Herman

            We use plasticulture (as I wrote above, which an experienced grower like yourself should be familiar with, Where is you analysis on the environmental impact of hydroponic fruit and vegetable production? What does this have to do with the vast acres of GMO grain? Hydroponics fits in with my analogy as a scooter.

            http://www.toysrus.com/family/index.jsp?categoryId=2256636

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I am a fan of plasticulture, but am confused by your overly enthusiastic support of Roundup ready style crops, and your previous comment saying something about how you would grow herbicide tolerant fruit and veggie crops if they were available. It sounds like you don’t practice any of the HT farming that you preach, and would not actually grow any HT fruit or veggie crops on your farm if they were available , and are not interested in spraying herbicides on top of the crops you grow. Believe it or not, corn and soy can both be grown hydroponically, and I would not be surprised if they start being done so commercially within the next 20 years. In your gas guzzler to energy efficient car to bike analogy, I think that HT crops would be equivalent to ethanol fuel cars, as they are better in some ways than their predecessor, but ultimately the wrong path to go down in my opinion if one is truly looking for environmentally friendly form of doing things. Also, your refusal to simply say that corn and soy should not be grown for biofuels, and apologetic tone towards the matter gives me the impression that you are in lock-step with the pesticide manufacturers push for usage of corn and soy biofuels. If over a third of the HT corn grown in the US is grown for use as ethanol, then your argument that HT corn crops provide a net environmental improvement does not hold water That is like replacing 100 cars with 300 cars that get 2 mpg better fuel economy and saying there will be environmental improvement. In regards to hydroponics, it can easily be done in a manner that is environmentally friendly using solar/wind/tidal power and with little to no runoff if done properly, but yes I agree that indoor grow operations use a lot of energy, and that often that energy is not derived from solar, wind, tidal, but is in fact fossil fuel energy. Nevertheless, I think that hydroponic farming has potential to be more environmentally friendly than HT farming, and certainly uses far less pesticides. If the HT corn and soy grown in the US was grown primarily for use as human food, and not animal feed and biofuel then I would be far less concerned with herbicide usage and potential for environmental problems resulting from it use.

          • Rod Herman

            If HT, Bt sweet corn was available to small-scale farmers was available, I would start raising sweet corn again. I raised conventional sweet corn for many years but gave it up when far more environmentally friendly GMO sweet corn was commercialized, but unavailable to small-scale farmers due to government regulation. I am not against herbicides as they make farming more efficient, but in the vegetables that I raise, the earlier crop obtained using plasticulture drives my production methods.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Have you considered using plasticulture to grow sweet corn?

            https://ipm.illinois.edu/ifvn/presentations/vegetables/coolong_sweetcorn.pdf

          • Rod Herman

            The issue is having to spray non-GMO sweet corn every 3 to 7 days with insecticide to control European corn borer and corn earworm. Traditional herbicides work fine on sweet corn and can be applied before planting, although I prefer using RoundUp to the alternatives like atrazine.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            what insecticides to you currently use on your vegetables? Also, do you currently use any herbicides?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Do you use any insecticides on you other vegetables on your plasticulture farm? Also, do you use Roundup on your farm?

          • Rod Herman

            We only require insecticide to control flea beetles on eggplant. Not sure what my wife uses these days. She is a certified applicator. We spot treat with glyphosate all over the place to control invasive plants.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            If I had your enthusiasm for HT crops then I would purchase a little bit larger commercial farm and grow some Roundup Ready sweet corn, so you can practice what you preach. But if that is not for you, and you still want to grow some corn maybe try erecting a commercial hoop-house and growing the sweet corn, plasticulture style, inside the hoop house (and close off the sides to keep insects to minimum. Also, maybe add some wireless video monitoring with insect motion tracking technology to automatically notify you if it detects moths or whichever insects so you can spot treat instead of spraying all the time. I see you are complaining about government regulations regarding GMO seed availability to small scale farmers, but you seem to have no problem that over 1/3 of GMO corn grown in USA is being used as feedstock for ethanol, despite the fact that it is the very GMO seed/pesticide manufacturers who are responsible for the current policy, as it is their lobbyist/money/power/influence which have initiated manipulated and perpetuated the current biofuels policy.

          • Rod Herman

            We have a plenty big piece of property, but growing vegetables intensively has allowed us to convert most of it to wildlife habitat. Your conspiracy theories are telling.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            For someone who shows such strong support for HT crops, I am surprised by your unwillingness to grow any GMO crops yourself , especially when you have the ability to do so. Your refusal to address the GMO corn and soy use as biofuels gives me impression that you work for GMO seed/pesticide industry. You began your comments trying to come off as a farmer, when it sounds like your wife does most of the farming, so I am curious, do you work for GMO seed/pesticide company when you are not watching your wife farm or writing commnet online? It is no secret that Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, etc spend millions of dollars in lobbying money . Not exactly a conspiracy theory. Are you implying that GMO seed and pesticide manufacturers have no influence on US biofuel policy?

            https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000188

            https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000055

          • Rod Herman

            When we rented out fields for commodity crops, we only allowed RoundUp to be sprayed since we live on the land and planned to convert it to wildlife habitat. Your petty games are no secret to any reader, and unlike you, I use my real name. You will have to scroll down to the end of your web searches to find the pages that you link to once Google starts prioritizing web pages based on their reliability, or search on conspiracy theories.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I’m not playing games. I just wanted you to answer my questions regarding GMO corn/soy use for biofuels, but you are refusing to do so. I am confused as to what conspiracy theory you are referring to? Are you suggesting that GMO seed/pesticide manufacturers don’t spend millions trying to influence US biofuel policy? If that is what you are saying, I would love to hear you elaborate more on that position.

          • Rod Herman

            If your customers are farmers, why would you not support policies that help them out. If you sell musical instruments is it sinister to support the arts?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I do not deny the fact that GMO corn and soybean farmers benefit from US biofuels policy, which is strongly influenced by GMO seed pesticide manufacturers. The majority of GMO corn and soy grown in the US is grown by large-scale farmers, who do not need charity in the form of biofuel subsidies. Also, corn ethanol has greater adverse economic and environmental impact than simply using gasoline. So, the GMO seed and pesticide manufacturers are pushing for US biofuel policy that benefits a few large scale corn/soy farmer at the expense of taxpayers and the environment.

          • Rod Herman

            With less than 1% of the land in organic production, they sure spend a lot on lobbying, but they are selling an image.

            https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000055064

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Yes, the organic trade association does have a lot of problems, but that is no excuse for GMO seed/pesticide manufacturers continuing their push for GMO corn/soy use in biofuels. I did a google search of your name and was not surprised to see that you work for Dow AgroSciences. No wonder you don’t want to address the issue of GMO corn/soy use as biofuel.

            https://gmoanswers.com/experts/rod-herman

          • Rod Herman

            Don’t be so silly. Corn and soybean farmers benefit from bio-fuels, so those that supply farmers support policies that benefit their customers. Farmers do not get paid more to produce GM crops. They just produce more grain with GM crops at a lower cost. You seem to want to create a conspiracy where common sense would tell you the same thing. If you produce musical instruments, is it somehow sinister to support policies that help musicians? And yes I was hiding behind my real name. Another sinister occurrence?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Don’t be silly. Corn and soybean farmers benefit from the current US biofuels policy, which is strongly supported and influenced by GMO seed and pesticide manufacturers, at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. Corn ethanol causes more adverse economic and environmental damage than using gasoline. I am not suggesting that you were being sinister in giving me the impression you were a GMO corn or soy farmer at the beginning of our discussion, when you actually work for Dow AgroScience. Generally I hold scientist in a higher regard than farmers. I am only asking for your honest opinion on the US biofuels policy in regards to economic and environmental impact.

          • Rod Herman

            And as I originally said, This is a very complex situation and I do not pretend to be enough of an expert in this area to have a firm opinion. This requires one to know what they don’t know, and an open mind.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Surely someone in your position at Dow, and with your strong enthusiasm and support for GMO technology would have by now formed an opinion on the economic and environmental impact of corn ethanol, especially when Dow is pushing for its continued use in US biofuel policy. I suggest you research the issue and form an opinion on the matter before you reply to our discussion. I would hate for you to be complicit in adverse economic and environmental damage due to your refusal to research the impact of the US biofuels policy that DOW Agroscience supports.

          • Rod Herman

            My opinions are mine alone. Some folks choose their employment based on their philosophy, rather than choosing their philosophy based on their employment. When you are educated, you have choices. I support high production on fewer acres with minimal adverse environmental impact. I do not necessarily support every use that a crop can be put to, nor do I have an opinion on every use that a crop might be used for. Those of us in the developed world would certainly benefit from eating less meat, but that does not mean we should use less environmentally friendly and higher production methods that result in more land being required to produce each ton of grain..

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Regarding meat production, I believe the US farm subsidies that Dow supports are also contributing to our nationwide obesity epidemic and related cost of healthcare for treating obesity related diseases. Subsidizing corn and soy artificially lowers the cost of beef, chicken, etc, which results in people eating more meat, and increases likelihood of becoming obese. I am with you on goal for high production on few acres with minimal adverse environmental impact, but I don’t think the current subsidized use of GMO corn and soy for animal feed and biofuels are good examples of that.

          • Rod Herman

            There are no subsidies that are earmarked for GMOs. There are crop subsidies. Steel is used for armored vehicles as well as bridges. You seem very confused, or perhaps you are just looking for a villain.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            We are not discussing GMO safety or environmental impact of GMOs, which I will give you benefit of the doubt are improvement over their predecessors. We are discussing GMO/pesticide manufacturers support of current US Farm subsidies and biofuel policies, and you keep trying to change the subject. Also, you seem to have an apologetic tone towards the matter in general, and obviously feel awkward taking a different position on the issue than the company you work for, even if that is how you honestly feel. The positive achievements Dow has made do not justify their support of current US Farm subsidies and especially current US biofuel policy. If you don’t want to give your opinion on the matter then just say so and we can end our discussion.

          • Rod Herman

            You clearly understand farming issues, including biofuels, much less well than I do, and I do not know enough to have an educated position. You on the other hand have expressed very strong opinions on subjects where you have also displayed your profound ignorance. That is your prerogative, but I will not be goaded into taking an opinion without the facts.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Fair enough. Is there someone with whom you trust at Dow who’s understanding on the issue is better than ours that you could ask for their educated position and get back to me? It would seem reckless of Dow to be strongly pushing for ethanol biofuel if they did not have at least some sort of economic and environmental assessment. Can you provide links to anything regarding Dows economic and environmental impact assessment on corn ethanol to help me get a better understanding on the issue?

          • Rod Herman
          • Viva La Evolucion

            Thanks, I am happy to see that Dow is working on several forms of renewable energy…could you please link me to more info on the “innovate carbon-neutral bio-fuel applications” that it mentions. That sounds interesting. Unfortunately, the link you provided does not mention economic or environmental impact of current methods used for growing corn for use as feed-stock for ethanol production in the United States. I was hoping that you could provide an economic and/or environment impact assessment of growing corn in the US to produce ethanol in perhaps 2013 or 2014 so I can compare to IPCC numbers and see if Dow has any conflicting data.

          • Rod Herman

            May Dow does not mention ethanol production from corn because they do not produce ethanol from corn.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Does dow support US subsidies for ethanol made out of corn feedstock? If so, do they have an environmental impact assessment of such practice to support their position?

          • Rod Herman

            I do not know if Dow supports ethanol made from corn, but I would guess they support programs that help their customers, just like I would expect a musical instrument company to support the arts. Is that somehow sinister to you? How much greenhouse gas does a tuba player produce? Our government supports farmers for national security reasons, and you will be very glad that they do if we have a disaster like the dust bowl again.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            There are plenty of ways to support farmers that don’t involve wasting land to grow corn for use as ethanol. I’m not even going to address your lame dust bowl and musical instrument comments again. Unless you have an environmental impact assessment of growing corn for use as ethanol, then our discussion is over.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Fair enough. Surely Dow has done some sort of assessment of economic and environmental impact of corn ethanol. Can you point me towards some of those assessments, as I would like to gain a better understanding on the issue. Also what are your thoughts on this article?

            http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/20/its-final-corn-ethanol-is-of-no-use/

          • Rod Herman

            This article in Science has a good recent article on the subject that covers the pros and cons, but I doubt you have access.

            http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6188/1095.short

          • Viva La Evolucion

            The part that troubles me is that there is no mention of the word corn or ethanol in that renewable energy link you sent . Also, there are no numbers showing estimated fertilizer, herbicide, water, land, etc that was used to grow roughly 40% of US corn in 2013 for use as ethanol feed-stock,or mention of environmental or economic impact of doing so. But yet, the IPCC does specifically address these issues and gives a strong case for me to think that current methods of growing corn for ethanol feed stock cause more adverse environmental and economic impact than using gasoline. If you like to provide any real numbers showing otherwise I will be happy to look at them.

          • Rod Herman

            Did you read the whole IPCC document? Where does it indicate that corn ethanol is worse than gasoline? Do you think that wind and solar power have no adverse environmental impacts? Tell that to the birds that get sliced and diced in turbines or spontaneously combust when they fly through focused light streams in large solar arrays. There is no free lunch.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            “since for some biofuels indirect emissions—including from land use change—can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products, policy support needs to be considered on a case by case basis”. Does DOW have an environmental impact assessment including direct and indirect emissions resulting from 2013 US corn ethanol production? In regards to birds. Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental. So, I don’t think that is a comparable problem to direct and indirect emissions of ethanol production.

          • Rod Herman

            If the science is so clear, then why is this debated in the scientific literature?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Maybe the same reasons there is a debate on if burning fossil fuels causes climate change (fossil fuel companies benefit from keeping the debate alive, similar to how pesticide manufacture benefit from continued corn ethanol subsidies). I believe that companies like Dow who lobby and support biofuel subsidies such as corn for ethanol feedstock should be required to provide an environmental impact assessment to support their position. Do you have such an environmental impact assessment you can provide? I believe that biofuels will be a major form of energy in the future, but not corn ethanol. I believe that in addition to it’s negative environmental impact, such as increased land, fertilizer, herbicide use, corn ethanol is also slowing down progress on more efficient environmentally friendly ways of producing biofuels by taking away their subsidies. We are going in circles here, so if you are not able to provide me with an environmental impact assessment of corn ethanol that I suggest that we end our discussion.

          • Rod Herman

            There is little debate among scientists on climate change. The debate is among non-scientists. And yes you believe lots of things, but that does not mean their is evidence to support them.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            When a corporation lobbies for subsidies that benefit its customers potentially at the expense of taxpayers and the environment, then they should at least have an environmental impact assessment prepared to support their position. Obviously, DOW has no done no such environmental impact assessment, which I believe is reckless especially after the IPCC report. If you like to continue working for a company who’s push for biofuel subsidies may be causing more harm than good, and who has done no environmental assessment on the issue, then that is your prerogative.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Until the debate is resolved it seems that the right thing to do would be for DOW and other GMO seed/pesticide corporations to discontinue their support/lobbying/push for continued subsides to produce corn ethanol, considering that there is strong likelihood that it is causing more harm than good. Also, considering the IPCC report regarding the matter , it seems that any corporation who supports corn ethanol subsidies should in my opinion be required to conduct an environmental impact assessment of producing corn ethanol in recent years to support their position. Nevertheless, if you like to continue working for a corporation who supports corn ethanol subsides on blind faith potentially at the expense of taxpayer and the environment then that is your prerogative.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            There are actually quite a few scientist who are skeptical of humans having significant influence on climate change, one of the more prominent being the GMO lobbyist, Patrick Moore. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=patrick+moore

          • Rod Herman

            There are scientists that believe that the earth was created 6000 years ago too, but that does not mean that a consensus is not present among scientists on evolution. What it means is that there is a small percentage of superstitious scientists.

          • Rod Herman

            There are scientists that believe that the earth was created 6000 years ago too, but that does not mean that a consensus is not present among scientists on evolution. What it means is that there is a small percentage of superstitious scientists. Believing something on faith is a personal choice, but twisting evidence to fit that claim is deceitful.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            So if one supports current corn/soy biofuel subsidies, as does Dow AgroScience, would they be doing so on blind faith considering they have done no scientific environmental impact assessment to justify their position?

          • Rod Herman

            As I have repeatedly written, I am not an expert in bio-fuels. The claim is that bio-fuels lessen Americas dependence on foreign oil and is therefore a component of our national security strategy. I am not an expert in national security either.

          • Viva La Evolucion

            Ok, so until the debate is resolved would it not be smart for Dow to discontinue their push for corn ethanol subsidies, considering that there is a good chance they are doing more harm than good?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            If it is debated in scientific literature then would it not be a good idea for GMO seed and pesticide corporations to discontinue lobbying/supporting US subsidies for corn ethanol until the science is clear on whether or not it is worse for the environment than using fossil fuels?

          • J. Randall Stewart

            Ask any HT crop farmer and he will tell you that while his HT crop can tolerate a treatment of herbicide, it is not exactly thriving for a few days after treatment, and thus does not allow plant to produce to it’s fullest potential …….. I don’t believe it fair argument to keep on comparing glyphosate to more toxic herbicides. If you want to do a comparison then compare glyphosate to herbicide alternatives.

            VLE, you far more good logic and knowledge about farming than about any non-farmer I’ve discussed this with, however you either have some kind of hurdle here, or I’m not understanding you correctly.

            Am I missing something you are saying?

            On the first sentence above, the HT tolerance does exactly the opposite–it allows a better herbicide tolerance, it is the nonHT tolerance farmer that will tell you that the crop suffers after an application.

            With your second sentence, I just don’t get it. What herbicide do you suggest we compare glyphosate to? I’m not aware of any that is less toxic than glyphosate. The herbicide alternatives are less toxic.

            You’re entirely correct in so many areas, and up on the technology, why are you missing is so much in the herbicide area? Or am I misunderstanding what you’re saying?

          • Viva La Evolucion

            I believe you are not understanding me correctly. I am suggesting that instead of comparing Roundup Ready Corn and soy to other traditionally grown Corn soy that uses other more toxic herbicides, that you compare Roundup Ready corn/soy to organically grown corn and soy, or corn and soy grown in alternative method such as hydroponically, or with use of new high tech no-till weed control method. Also, as I am sure you know the majority of corn and soy grown is used in inefficient energy and food production systems such as biofuel or animal feed. I would like to see governmental regulations limiting the amount of corn and soy that can be used for these inefficient food and energy production methods. Also, I would like to see increase in more efficient animal feed production such as hydroponic fooder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZTikdxj8AI

          • J. Randall Stewart

            Yes, I was misunderstanding you. When you said herbicide alternatives, I took it to mean alternatives that are herbicide. For example, instead of RoundUp, use atrazine.

            It is not practical to compare HT crops to your suggestions. The comparison must be made between two choices in reality. The reality is that the RR trait has caused a far better herbicide to be used (and sometimes overused).

            Fodder. Now I know exactly what you mean. I first looked at this a few years ago, and I also subscribe to Progressive Dairyman–Last month I looked over a fooder system at the World Ag Expo in Tulare.

            Fodder is a great idea, and it has merit. It does have some problems.

            You’re completely missing something on fodder. This is not raising a crop. This is taking a seed, and instead of milling it or flaking it, it is sprouted.

            I’m not an expert on this, but I’ve been observing it. I’ve had a salesman make a pitich on it, and I’m watching it.

            There are two major advantages–nutrient availability and palatability. It changes a relatively unavailable nutrient into another nutrient that is highly available and highly desirable.

            It doesn’t make “new” nutrition–it doesn’t replace growing a crop.

            You cannot compare fodder to farming, it is not making new feed, it is changing the form of a feed already made.

            I like the way you think–keep it up, and don’t forget practicality and reality.

            http://www.progressivedairy.com/features/producers/13207-fodder-cuts-dairys-feed-bills-in-half

            http://www.progressivedairy.com/dairy-basics/feed-a-nutrition/11578-experts-remain-leery-on-feeding-sprouts-while-farmers-using-the-system-are-pleased

            http://www.progressivedairy.com/events/world-ag-expo/13245-world-ag-expo-video-farm-tour-kirt-lindley-dairy-feeds-fodder

          • Viva La Evolucion

            It is my understanding that most organic corn and soy farmers do not use herbicides. So, I think it would be practical to compare environmental impact of herbicide usage in RR crop to that of similar non-HT corn/soy variety that is organically grown. I understand that fodder is not raising a crop, and more akin to sprouting, but it seems that supplementing fodder could significantly decrease the current level of environmental impact of producing animal feed if used on a large scale. I understand that the seed used for the fodder still needs to be grown, but the weight of the resulting fodder is quite a bit more than the seed, and therefore less total crop needs to be grown.

  • Tom Scharf

    He either:

    1. Had a revelation on the science
    2. Had a moral revelation.
    3. Found out his stance was hurting his public credibility

    My vote is number 3.

    His earlier comments seem to be the appeal to nature variety where human designed plant genetic modifications are morally wrong in the same vain as many view modifying human genetics as morally wrong. There is nothing wrong with someone taking this personal stance, but please don’t dress it up as science.

    I suppose one could change their moral stance if they became convinced that GMO’s were clearly a net good to society and it outweighed vague fears. People don’t generally change moral stances very easily.

    Nye makes a living more or less as a science celebrity and he probably found that it was counterproductive to his career to take a strong stance here. It was beginning to dominate the conversation and he simply doesn’t find the topic that important to sacrifice his integrity over. Unfortunately this would be changing his stance due to being shouted down by the mob (in this case the mob was likely correct).

    • mem_somerville

      I was thinking about his earlier issues*–and I remember that Reddit chat where he did keep bringing up the corporate piece. So maybe he needed to see that too. To understand why farmers buy these seeds. And to grok that Monsanto is not nearly as obsessed with GMOs as everyone else is, oddly enough.

      Recently Tamar Haspel encouraged people to seek out the smartest of their opponents and try to understand what legitimate points they might have. Maybe Nye needed to do that on the corporate part of his misconceptions?

      *But note the earlier issues also included false health claims about allergy from papayas, the appeal to nature part, and the corporation aspect.

      • Benjamin Edge

        Nice use of “grok” – SiaSL

      • Tom Scharf

        Right. I tend to just ignore all “corporations are evil” arguments. I’ve worked for many different corporations and have yet to find one that is evil. There absolutely are fiscal pressures that sometimes make people cut corners and capitalist competition is occasionally counter productive, but this impression that most companies would burn babies for profit in a heartbeat only comes from those who have not had personal insight into how corporate management really works. For every Enron of the world, there are 1000 companies made up of decent people trying to do the right thing, survive, and possibly even thrive.

        • RainySoul

          I think even Enron had its good people. I’m betting most of the people at Nestle aren’t bad people, but their CEO wants to own all the drinking water on the planet, and thinks you don’t have a “right” to have water. That mostly fits into “evil” in my book.

  • Stuart Hayashi

    This is very beautiful news. Yes, Virginia, persons frightened of GMOs *can* change their minds. ^_^

    • Your1Friend

      And cash, or political pressure, or public ridicule, or intimidation, or threats *can* always change “their” minds.

  • Lisa Di Lorenzo

    Your tone is too bullying, and almost ridiculing. Not welcome by me in the arena of scientific inquiry.

  • Matt

    Nye obviously seems concerned that corporate interests were the main driver behind GMO development. Perhaps visiting the scientists at Monsanto has left him with the sense that they are at least scientifically sound, if not particularly ethical in business practices.

  • Mike Richardson

    Yeah, he’s probably not getting invited back on Bill Maher’s show after this. Maher can be funny, but his mind’s pretty closed on GMO’s (and not much better on vaccines). Well, at least Nye’s science credibility has been restored a bit.

  • Artur Sixto

    This discussion goes on and on for a single reason. Not because it is a difficult issue to settle, but just because there is unrelentless pressure to make profits out of GMOs.

    There are two killer arguments from the beginning to settle the issue. These:

    1) the science is not advanced enough to be sure that no environmental or health damage will ensue.

    2) food security and good nutrition do not depend on GMOs. Not by now or anytime soon at least.

    Taking this couple of arguments into account, the discussion gets closed.

    Before someone tells me the above arguments are wrong or simply not proven, I will answer the contention.

    Regarding (1) we confront two main risks which the industry and GMO researchers have absolutely not solved as far as I know, rather far from it. The main environmental risk comes from horizontal genetic transfer within and between species. (2) The main health risk comes from loss of crop varieties, loss of local varieties globally. It poses a huge food security risk from the moment that the bulk of food production would rest on a few GMOs which, were they to succumb to emergent pests or suffer from climate change, could cause hunger on a massive scale.

    If someone wants to reject these arguments convincingly it’s going to take endless time, because as a biologist with a molecular biology background and reasonable understanding of environmental and food security issues, I can give anyone a hard time. And it is thousands of people like me who can.

    Therefore, we are happy to resume the discussion for as long as Monsanto and others will want, but in the meantime, release of GMOs should stop.

    • JH

      “Not because it is a difficult issue to settle, ”

      Your absolutely correct. GMOs are as safe or safer than any other agricultural technology available. I daresay fecal bacteria from organic products has already injured more people than GMOs ever will.

      • Artur Sixto

        Oh, sure, this assertion must derive from the same famous safety standards that had the world doused with DDT. Or the same “standards” that kept being thrown to us that meat was safe, not because it was proven to be safe, but rather because it was not proven to be unsafe! BSE was spreading like crazy, plenty of results were published showing prions jumped basically all interspecies barriers between mamals you care to test, people had already died from it and the GOVERNMENT officials had the incredible stupidity of reassuring citizens there was no risk. In the face of scientific published results for a decade!

  • Chris Preston

    It does take real guts for someone who is in the public eye to admit that they were wrong about something. Following the evidence is important and Nye has demonstrated the maxim that when the evidence available shows you have been wrong, you change your mind, not the evidence.

    The visit to Monsanto was clearly so Nye could get his hands on the fat kickback. It likely had nothing to do with the fact that he didn’t really understand modern agricultural practices and therefore couldn’t really grasp the potential for a range of technologies (of which GM is just one) to change agriculture and be able to grow more food with fewer resources.

    If you do ever get the chance to visit the Monsanto site at St Louis, you should really do so. You won’t get a paycheck (unless the reason for your visit is because you have been recruited to work for them) but what you will see is an amazing approach to producing crops with new traits.

    Now if only I could get my hands on some of that.

  • John Bob

    First, GMOs are not safe. GMOs are not harmful. GMOs are not generically anything, except for genetically modified organisms. They involve different organisms, different genes which produce different proteins, and different methods for inserting or modifying those genes.

    Talking about GMOs as a group is like talking about medicines as a group. Some show great benefits. Others show problems, and generally never make it out of the lab. As with medicines, we can expect that eventually one will cause problems, but just as Thalidomide did cause us to abandon medicine, a problem with one transgenic or cysgenic organism would not indicate that all GMOs are bad.

    The same applies to labeling. Generically labeling a product with a “Contains GMOs” warning label is like generically labeling everything you get from your pharmacist as “Contains medicine”, without telling you which medicine and what it is for. The only purpose generic labeling serves is scaremongering. On the other hand, specific labeling which tells the consumer which proteins or other substances are present in their food which would not be there “naturally” would be very useful.

    When anyone from either side makes generic claims about GMOs, I strongly suspect that they need to take a refresher course in science.

    • EquusMtn

      Good comment. It makes no sense to endorse or condemn all GMOs universally.

      Personally, I’m most concerned about the pesticides we may be consuming via crops that have been genetically modified to allow application of greater quantities of those pesticides. But the consumption of GMOs, in and of itself, seems pretty harmless. We’ve all been eating the DNA of many different species all our lives. We should be able to handle a few transplanted genes.

      • John Bob

        While glyphosate is quite toxic to plants, it is relatively harmless for mammals. Its LD50 for rats is 5600 mg/kg, making it less toxic than baking soda, and MUCH less toxic than caffeine, which has an LD 50 of 192.

    • surgeen

      Comparing GMO food to medicine is grossly unhelpful. Medicine is something that I have a choice to not take as long as I keep healthy habits. But food isn’t, when GM food is almost all you get you have no choice but to be guinea pigs for “some are safe, some are not” hand-waving wisdom. Labeling them as such AND givibg alternatives in the market are more relevant than you make it sound, Probably your pharma analogy us more suited for warning on cigarettes – some live to be 100 smoking them too.

  • Jothiratnam Doubleess

    There are 2 separate issues here I think: 1. GMOs and their impact on the environment / ecosystem; 2. the ruthless nature of big business which seems willing to do almost anything (regardless of how nefarious) to make more money. Wrt the former, the answer is to look for more thorough, and well reviewed studies – to look, in other words, to science; wrt the latter however, given how corrupt governments can be, how interconnected the vested interests of the coalition of ruling groups which hold power in most political states is, I am not sure there is a proper solution: whom can one trust, when the very guardians become slaves to mammon? In a world in which big business has foisted one con after another over the public to turn a quick buck, sometimes with the connivance (either directly, or indirectly) of governments and regulatory agencies themselves, what sort of Pandora’s Box of exploitative possibilities might supporting GMOs lead to? For me, until people can really trust the regulatory agencies not to sell the people’s interests and well being down the river for the cronies, it seems patently clear that one ought to remain distrustful, not of the GMOs necessarily, but of how they are tested, reported about, and deployed in the environment.

    • Sterling Ericsson

      I find your statement on big businesses interesting, since it seems to me that anti-GMO people continue to go after Monsanto with made up claims that have long been debunked, but completely ignore the existence of the big organic companies that make millions, if not billions, more than Monsanto does.

      • Jothiratnam Doubleess

        Excellent point wrt to the ‘organic’ companies which also cash in on the gullibility of the people. It seems largely to be a scam as well.

      • saijanai

        Monsanto is larger than you think, and all of its business is from hybrid and GMO seed-sales, and/or GMO-related pesticides and/or other GMO-related intellectual properties.

        They own 8 different chemical processing plants around the world, as well as the one of the largest phosphate mines. They’re certainly not as large as some of the other companies associated with “organic” farming, but agriculture is ALL that Monsanto does these days, and they are the largest of the “big 6” seed companies in the world. 2/3 of their income comes from seeds, and 1/3 from techno-agro stuff. All told, about $4.2 billion before taxes (just finished reading their 2014 SEC K-10 filing at their website).

        I’d guess that none of the other companies you identified as “larger” is agriculture-only the way Monsanto is.

        • S Navarro

          Whole foods revenue: US$ 12.917 billion (2013).

          Monsanto revenue: US$ 14.861 billion (2013)

    • Raymond Rogers

      I agree with the corruption of public good that has occured in our government and businesses; but there is another aspect.

      Look at our record of dealing with ecosystems; it’s not really impressive enough to have faith in our judgement.

      A list:
      Australia’s rounds at “pest control”
      Antibiotic Immunity
      Environmental Pollution
      Fukushima Nuclear Incident

      Global Warming
      etc….
      It’s not that we shouldn’t do things; it’s that our judgement in what to do should be treated with skepticism. Acknowledge that we will make mistakes and be prepared for them. As in poker going “all in” habitually will leave you out on the street sooner of later. Broad consideration is somewhat better than decisions made by a small clique; no matter how competent they thing they are. Notice that the inevitable backlash that occurs during a crisis has a tendency to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. To avoid this you need broad support from the people that are effected. Not arguments made in hindsight.
      I’m all for super-foods and super-humans; but think that for great projects/endeavors great caution is in order. An acknowledgement that there are probably (certainly?) risks that are not foreseen.

  • Paula Melton

    Since when is a precautionary approach unscientific?

    • Loren Eaton

      When it is used in a selective, POLITICAL manner. There’s at least as much reason to apply the PP to, say, organic growing methods as there is for GMOs.

      • Paula Melton

        The precautionary principle is applied when there is reason to believe there could be serious, irreversible risks. I fail to see how organic farming presents serious, irreversible risks to the ecosystem, unless you are talking about conversion of forests to ANY agricultural use, which has nothing to do with organic farming itself. I’m not arguing for or against PP in regard to GMOs; I just think people (mostly chemical companies) like to scream “unscientific” about the precautionary approach with the idea that no one has proven yet that things are harmful, and therefore we can assume they are safe. Science is about assuming nothing, and the precautionary approach is about minimizing irreversible risks. I am just kind of sick of all the name-calling about what’s scientific and what isn’t. The accusation has become meaningless.

        • Loren Eaton

          ‘I fail to see how organic farming presents serious, irreversible risks to the ecosystem, unless you are talking about conversion of forests to ANY agricultural use, which has nothing to do with organic farming itself.’ But with lower yields more forests need to be converted.
          I was actually referring to risks to human health from ANY system that fails to address the dangers of pathogens that infest crops. One example is E. coli that can (and has) caused kidney failure. This can most definitely happen with improperly composted manure. Second is the production of fungal toxins that can (and have) caused liver cancer and neural tube defects. Sometimes NOT doing things to mitigate these sorts of problems creates very serious risks.

          • Paula Melton

            If organic farmers had cherry-pickers like you working for them, we could definitely feed the world!

  • FoodSleuth

    Please note: The majority of GMO crops are engineered to resist spraying with herbicides — Round up, for example (which contains glyphosate + “inerts” which actually aren’t so “inert.”); and now we who live in the Midwest are bracing for the next round of assault — glyphosate + 2,4-D sprayed on corn and soy. EPA-approved so they must be safe right? Not so fast. Both compounds are considered endocrine disruptors. We keep hearing about the virtues of Golden Rice. When really, a more biodiverse food-scape is what will yield both nutritional adequacy, abundance, and resiliency. As a dietitian, I am also concerned about water and soil quality, Food Inc. Director Robby Kenner has a new film out this spring on “science” and propaganda titled “Merchants of Doubt.” PR firms have been very successful in selling a largely science- and agriculturally-illiterate populace on GMO crops, but we must ask about unintentional consequences. Claire Hope Cummings, author of “Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds” spells out promises and concerns. She and others, including some very astute farmers and soil scientists have discussed their concerns during interviews on Food Sleuth Radio: http://www.prx.org/series/32432-food-sleuth-radio

    • Loren Eaton

      If you’re so sure that Golden Rice will fail–get out of the way and let it fail. And instead of wringing your hands in a “first world manner”, why not get busy on your “biodiverse food-scape”? The notion that attention and funding being given to GR is somehow inhibiting everyone else from implementing other solutions is nonsense.

  • Corey Booth

    Sooo… what about the massive amounts of Chemicals, Synthetic Fertilizers, & Mono Crop farming that’s killing the Soil & Water Ecosystems that are a result of Monsantos products & processes? They are killing the Bees/Earths Pollination System! There us a massive DEAD ZONE of coral reef (the foundation of oceanic ecosystems) where the Mississippi River drains into the Gulf!! Why is that deemed ok by a single human being??!! Organic farming Rebuilds the Soil, which is Alive & needs a specific balance. This is how Nature thrives. Destroying the Foundation of Earths Natural Systems is literally INSANE. END OF “DEBATE”!!

  • Quovartos2

    Although the risk/rewards appear to be biased in favor of GMOs for yields, the important fact that our bodies and our immune systems are mostly aided by our flora and fauna in our intestines makes me eat GMOs as little as possible. The Bt corn GMO trait causes bacteria to rupture upon ingesting this corn. The same thing that protects the corn in the farmer’s field protects it in your guts, causing you not to get most of the nutrition from it when you eat it, or when animals eat it. The farmers that I buy most of my food from realize this and that these GMOs and/or pesticides such as Roundup result in decreased fertility in their animals (as would be expected when their immunity and nutrition are compromised). Without the GMOs and the pesticides, their herd health is significantly better than other local farmers with the GMOs and the pesticides. So, without significant testing to prove it, I am choosing to use scientific testing and let others test GMOs and pesticides on their families.

    • Chris Preston

      The Bt corn GMO trait causes bacteria to rupture upon ingesting this corn.

      No it doesn’t. Bacteria are not affected by Bt.

      The same thing that protects the corn in the farmer’s field protects it in your guts, causing you not to get most of the nutrition from it when you eat it, or when animals eat it.

      Completely untrue. There is not difference in the ability to digest corn from Bt compared with non-Bt crops in mammalian stomachs. The protein only works in insect guts, which are not acidic.

      So, without significant testing to prove it, I am choosing to use scientific testing and let others test GMOs and pesticides on their families.

      It appears you are relying mainly on ignorance.

  • hvermont

    The problem with GMO food is not that it is genetically modified, the problem is that it is genetically modified to withstand massive doses of herbicide and that herbicide is finding it’s way into non-GM humans.

    • Rod Herman

      “massive doses”? Is that you technical term for a use rate? How scientific.

  • Ivar Ivarson

    When Mr. Nye left Monsanto, his wallet was heavier than when he went in. Full on anti-GMO activists can’t be reached by reason.

  • Lah99

    This is what happens when “science personalities” enter the fray. He’s trained as a mechanical engineer and provides entertainment with educational value. I would not classify him as a heavyweight in many areas of science, so a debate would not be on the science at all.

  • waynecoghlan

    “…there is something weird and unnatural about splicing pig or cow valves into human hearts. Should we be freaked out by that, too? Or hey, speaking of weird and unnatural, what about injecting foreign substances into a child’s body?”

    Such therapies may affect the individual but definitely NOT the same thing as introducing genes into an ecosystem and including them weakens the argument.

    And while a hunch that something may not be quite right is and caution is in order may not be objective, it is still an important source of information that society tends to regret when it is too carelessly dismissed and the genie escapes.

    • hyperzombie

      the genie escapes.

      If the GMO traits do get into nature then what will happen? Hmmm, nothing perhaps? If nature need these traits she would already have them.

      • waynecoghlan

        Perhaps nothing… hope so. Seems someone thought introducing rabbits and cane toads to Australia was a good idea…really.. what could go wrong. To what extent ought we to heed prudence and be more sure?

        • hyperzombie

          GMOs are not a species or even a sub species, they are just traits. Are floppy eared rabbits (trait) causing more of a problem in australia?

          • Chris Preston

            No the floppy-eared rabbits are the easiest to manage. They are susceptible to mixingmytoeses.

          • waynecoghlan

            Sickle cell is just a trait. The difference between the normal e. coli in your gut and the type that kills is just a trait.

        • Frank Cannon
  • Tom Scharf

    Apparently you should go into lobbying, a much more lucrative area.

    Proof he’s the Science Guy: Bill Nye is changing his mind about GMOs
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/03/proof-hes-the-science-guy-bill-nye-is-changing-his-mind-about-gmos/?tid=pm_pop

  • James38

    Someone recommended the AAAS article “Mandating GM Food Labels Could “Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers”.” The title alone set off my alarm bells. How exactly does accurate information “Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers”? And if confusion exists, what gives any company the authority to add to it by hiding information? How does that help? But then I read the first paragraph:
    “Foods containing ingredients from genetically modified (GM) crops pose no greater risk than the same foods made from crops modified by conventional plant breeding techniques, the AAAS Board of Directors has concluded. Legally mandating labels on GM foods could therefore “mislead and falsely alarm consumers,” the Board said in a statement approved 20 October.”

    This is such a blatantly misleading and inaccurate statement I was stunned. How did “conventional plant breeding techniques” ever insert a gene from one species into another? How did “conventional breeding” ever make a plant resistant to an herbicide? This is ridiculous. The AAAS is revealed by its own words to be a totally “owned” shill of Agribiz.

    Then I found the following article:

    “Former Pro-GMO Biotech Scientist Admits GMOs Aren’t Safe, Refutes Claims by Monsanto”

    BY CHRISTINA SARICH
    POSTED ON OCTOBER 30, 2014

    http://naturalsociety.com/former-biotech-scientist-admits-gmos-not-safe/

    For how long will we need to go back and forth in this GMO battle before a sound conclusion is finally met? If you have been following the GMO debate at all, you probably realize that this issue will likely never rest, as numerous studies on both sides of the spectrum (one side showing safety and the other showing danger) will continue to surface. What’s more, this research as well as opinions will be born out of lies or false substantiation. You’ve likely read headlines like these lately and scoffed:

    2000+ Reasons Why GMOs Are Safe To Eat And Environmentally Sustainable

    GMO Opponents Are the Climate Skeptics of the Left

    Study of 1 Billion Animals Finds GMOs Safe

    Or how about comments like this one:

    “I used to think that nothing rivaled the misinformation spewed by climate change skeptics and spinmeisters.

    Then I started paying attention to how anti-GMO campaigners have distorted the science on genetically modified foods. You might be surprised at how successful they’ve been and who has helped them pull it off.”

    Or if you trust one of the most hated companies on the planet, you can go straight to Monsanto’s site and read: An Overview of the Safety and Advantages of GM Foods.

    Monsanto openly admits “after 30” whole “years of research” that they are convinced GMOs are safe. Just one type of pine tree lives more than 5000 years, but yea – Monsanto has all of Mother Nature figured out in its 30 years of tinkering with genes.

    It’s amazing how many people have been boondoggled by biotech or are simply paid shills to keep the misinformation train choo-chooing along.

    Former Biotech Scientist Speaks Out

    In comes Dr. Thierry Vrain, a former GMO biotechnologist who has come out with a lot of information that should open people’s eyes about the real dangers of genetically modified foods and crops.

    Vrain will be the first to admit that Monsanto has conducted a lot of studies showing that GMOs are safe, but he changed his own tune about ten years ago when he started reading scientific journals from other countries.

    Vrain explains:

    “I started paying attention to the flow of published studies coming from Europe, some from prestigious labs and published in prestigious scientific journals, that questioned the impact and safety of engineered food.”

    Vrain was so much a supporter of GMOs (as well as a former biotech scientist for Agriculture Canada) that he used to conduct tours and tell large groups of people all about the greatness of genetically altered crops – but not anymore. Here is what he thinks about his former industry now:

    “I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.

    There are a number of scientific studies that have been done for Monsanto by universities in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. Most of these studies are concerned with the field performance of the engineered crops, and of course they find GMOs safe for the environment and therefore safe to eat.”

    Vrain thinks the public is being swindled. He believes we should all demand that government agencies replicate tests showing that GMOs are safe rather than rely on studies paid for by the biotech companies. He continues:

    “The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. But are these insecticidal plants regulated and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.

    There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe. All we have are scientific studies out of Europe and Russia, showing that rats fed engineered food die prematurely.

    These studies show that proteins produced by engineered plants are different than what they should be. Inserting a gene in a genome using this technology can and does result in damaged proteins. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins.”

    This science is actually only about 40 years old. It is all based on a theory of genetic manipulation hypothesized around 70 years ago – of the ONE GENE – meaning that each gene codes for one single protein. The Human Genome project proved this totally wrong.

    Most scientists now understand that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic, like Cry proteins found in GMO corn. Otherwise known as Bt toxins (Bacillus thuringiensis), Cry proteins are one of biotech’s answers for ‘safe’ food.

    That’s odd; one study found them absolutely toxic for mammalian blood. Dr. Mezzomo says that Cry toxins are deathly for mice. Another study linked them to a higher rate of leukemia. Yet another study conducted at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found corn’s Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women. These same toxins are also associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body, allergies, MS, and cancer.

    Furthermore, what ridiculous egocentricity for biotech scientists to think they can crack the code of life when there are still acres and acres of rainforest that contain medicinal herbs that they have never even studied or recognized. Every square mile lost in these forests represents a possible cancer soution or super-food source.

    Why the heck do we need GMOs? We haven’t even utilized the plethora of foods and herbs Mother Nature has already provided us with, if only we would steward them sustainably. There seems to be a new wonder-extract being discovered every few days, despite our pillaging.

    Additionally, Vrain once answered honestly to this question in an interview:

    “Q: It is astounding that people don’t question the very idea of altering DNA. When Monsanto or others claim a genetically modified organism is “substantially equivalent” to the conventional plant, it’s illogical to me because when DNA is altered, the plant is altered. It’s not the same and it’s certainly not natural.

    A: That depends on your view of the world. As a scientist, when you add a bacteria gene to a plant, or a plant gene to a fish, or a human gene to corn, or 10,000 acres of corn growing insulin – they consider it progress. So if a tomato plant has a bacterial gene, it still looks very much like a tomato plant. You couldn’t tell very much from the taste of the tomato so there is something easy about believing in “substantial equivalence” . . . but Roundup (Monsanto’s herbicide) is a chelator; it holds manganese, magnesium and a few other minerals. It holds the minerals and doesn’t let go so basically it starves the plant. It probably also starves many other creatures in the soil.”

    New evidence shows that these same important minerals are chelated from humans that eat RoundUp GMOs.

    Vrain has based his research on over 500 government reports and scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals, some of them with the highest recognition in the world.

    Now tell me – how exactly are GMOs safe?

    If a soil biologist and scientist of genetic engineering of 30 years revisits his stance on GMOs – shouldn’t those who are still clinging to biotech efficacy relent? We need more GMO whistleblowers like himself. I hope they are out there and they come forward – and fast.

    Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/former-biotech-scientist-admits-gmos-not-safe/#ixzz3TZ1MyhDr
    Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

    • Chris Preston

      James38, conventional breeding moves genes from species to species all the time. In fact all the wheat grown in the US contains genes from other organisms that have been deliberately introduced by breeders.

      Conventional breeding can easily make plants resistant to herbicides. You just need to know how. I have been involved in projects that have done this with 6 different crop species. One of those has been on the market for a decade.

      • James38

        Interesting. I would like to see some references of conventional breeding moving “genes from species to species”. Also ways to “easily make plants resistant to herbicides.” Certainly if this is true it will be new information for me. I can imaging a lengthy process of selecting plants that are resistant to herbicides. That is happening with RoundUp in many areas. Weeds are becoming resistant, as insects are doing with insecticides.

        • Chris Preston

          An example of moving genes from 52 different species form 13 genera in wheat breeding
          http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpls.2014.00692/full

          Herbicide tolerant plants through conventional breeding. This is one of mine.

          http://www.seedmark.com.au/products?dataId=78FB51C0-07E0-11E0-BE1000155D285803&category=017CD700-FEA2-11DF-89F400217072CC04

          • James38

            Thanks for your comments, but what you have said actually supports my contentions. Your idea of importing genetic material from different species is not what objections to some GMO practices are referring to. For example, the T. timopheevii is a grass in the same general group, and may confer benefits without the risks of extracting a gene from an extremely different group and introducing it into wheat.

            As to Bayer producing, by whatever means, a crop that allows wider use of beyond (imazamox), you are describing exactly one of the dangers of some GMOs. We simply must find ways of growing crops without using chemicals (imazamox or RoundUp -glyphosate). Use of these kinds of chemicals, especially over large areas, is polluting water supplies and adversely affecting a multitude of species.

            A particularly egregious example is the neonicitinoid insecticides that are causing bee death, adverse to the point of insanity.

          • Chris Preston

            Thanks for your comments, but what you have said actually supports my contentions.

            What you wrote was “How often did “conventional plant breeding techniques” insert a gene from one species into another? How did “conventional breeding” ever make a plant resistant to an artificial herbicide?”

            I have shown that both these things are common enough in plant breeding.

            It may not be what you meant, but it was what you wrote.

            For example, the T. timopheevii is a grass in the same general group, and may confer benefits without the risks of extracting a gene from an extremely different group and introducing it into wheat.

            How can you know this? On what basis would the risks be any different?

            As to Bayer producing, by whatever means, a crop that allows wider use of beyond (imazamox)

            I think you will find Beyond herbicide is sold by BASF, not Bayer.

          • James38

            Chris, it looks to me that you are just determined to obfuscate the issues by nit-picking.

            So ‘Beyond’ is sold by BASF. What is your point? While correct, you address nothing of substance.

            The basis i use for saying that incorporating traits from a closely related species would be less likely to cause problems is obvious. A “closely related” genetic structure would not be as likely to alter the proteins and other molecules in the plant, even if it added a useful trait. Also, it would be more similar to standard breeding techniques. This does not indicate that I am sure there could be no problems, and I certainly would recommend extensive testing including multi-generation feeding programs to hopefully weed out problems with nutrition and health effects.

            From the article I quoted in my original post:

            “It is astounding that people don’t question the very idea of altering DNA. When Monsanto or others claim a genetically modified organism is “substantially equivalent” to the conventional plant, it’s illogical to me because when DNA is altered, the plant is altered. It’s not the same and it’s certainly not natural.” “… when you add a bacteria gene to a plant, or a plant gene to a fish, or a human gene to corn, or 10,000 acres of corn growing insulin – they consider it progress. So if a tomato plant has a bacterial gene, it still looks very much like a tomato plant. You couldn’t tell very much from the taste of the tomato so there is something easy about believing in “substantial equivalence” . . . but Roundup (Monsanto’s herbicide) is a chelator; it holds manganese, magnesium and a few other minerals. It holds the minerals and doesn’t let go so basically it starves the plant. It probably also starves many other creatures in the soil.”

            “New evidence shows that these same important minerals are chelated from humans that eat RoundUp GMOs.”

            Reading the article I posted will bring up in detail several of the points I am emphasizing. Discuss them, and quit nit-picking.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            I gene is a gene is a gene. There is no such thing as a “fish gene” or a “tomato gene” . A gene is just a set of nucleotides, A,T,G,C is an order that corresponds to the production of certain amino acids which then form polypeptides that then form proteins. The origin of nucleotide sequence doesn’t have a bearing on its function. So arguing that introduction of a specific series of nucleotides is “safer” on account of some perceived sense of “relatedness” between organisms just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Also, the purported study referenced above alleging about the dangers of Bt in that its toxic to blood was “published” by the omics publishing group, which raises some serious doubts as to its veracity.

            Also Ms. Sarich is a truly terrible writer. You should really get some better sources.

        • hyperzombie

          Certainly if this is true it will be new information for me.

          Clearfield crops from Bayer are a excellent example of conventionally bred herbicide tolerant crops. Strangely enough they are all tolerant to Beyond (imazamox), one of the herbicides that Bayer/BASF sells. The clearfield sunflowers are very popular.

          http://agproducts.basf.us/products/clearfield-portfolio-landing-page.html

    • Loren Eaton

      ‘If a soil biologist and scientist of genetic engineering of 30 years revisits his stance on GMOs – shouldn’t those who are still clinging to biotech efficacy relent? We need more GMO whistleblowers like himself. I hope they are out there and they come forward – and fast.’ Not quite.

      Vrain hasn’t done any real research for about 15 years (same with Belinda Martineau, David Suzuki and a number of other ‘whistleblowers’). He runs an organic farm. Cherry picking data from “Europe” (read Seralini) isn’t going to cause anybody to relent.

      ‘New evidence shows that these same important minerals are chelated from humans that eat RoundUp GMOs.’ Which is it? The RR or the GMO? Are you actually suggesting that the RR AND the GMO protein BOTH chelate minerals? Does this happen just in the lab or in real life?

    • Rod Herman

      Should organic food be required to include a label that says “PRODUCED with PROCESSED POOP”? That is accurate too. Perhaps a steaming logo?

  • Steve Schaefer

    Seems like you can teach an old SEAL new tricks. I’m more worried about a company creating a seed that we can eat, but that will not grow into a living plant – then forcing farmers to buy only their special seed. I would much prefer if the choice of which seeds a farmer planted was made by the farmer – not an entity trying to cross a food staple with an income stream.

    • hyperzombie

      I’m more worried about a company creating a seed that we can eat, but that will not grow into a living plant – then forcing farmers to buy only their special seed.

      I didn’t realize that anyone was against seedless watermelon.

      First of all, GMOs do reproduce, that is why farmers are not allowed to regrow them. And No farmers are forced to buy them, they buy them voluntarily.

      if the choice of which seeds a farmer planted was made by the farmer

      Farmers do make this choice, and they overwhelmingly choose to buy GMOs, better for them and better for the environment.

      • Steve Schaefer

        Sorry I said none of the seeds could be used to grow a plant – When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement
        that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they
        buy if they do Monsanto takes them to court, which only proves my point that the company is crossing food staples with their revenue stream.

        Now let’s look at the probable outcome of eating these Magic Seeds. We eat them. Cows, Chickens, and Pigs eat them. We eat Cows, Chickens and Pigs. That’s the obvious chain. But how about this food chain: insects, birds, and rodents eat the Magic Seeds. Marine animals eat the insects, birds, and rodents. Nature loves to incorporate genetic changes that insure survivability – so over many generations we become Magic Animals living in a Magical World dependent on the Magicians for our very existence.

        • hyperzombie

          Sorry I said none of the seeds could be used to grow a plant

          Nope, you said.”a company creating a seed that we can eat, but that will not grow into a living plant” big difference.

          When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement
          that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they
          buy

          All patented plants are like this GMO or not. Almost all new varieties of crops are patented, and it has been this way since the 1930s. Protecting the rights of plant breeders, keeps them in business, breeding new and better crops. Oh, and you will be happy to know that the first gen of GMO crops are now off patent protection, you can freely grow all the RR soy that you want and save the seed.

          Now let’s look at the probable outcome of eating these Magic Seeds.

          They are not magic, they just have useful traits.

          • Rob Bright

            Nice play on semantics to muddle the issue…

          • Two Americas

            All patented plants are like this GMO or not. Almost all new varieties of crops are patented, and it has been this way since the 1930s. Protecting the rights of plant breeders, keeps them in business, breeding new and better crops.

            This is false all around. New crop varieties do not come from plant breeders who need to be kept in business. All new varieties are not patented.

            Privatized varieties are the exception, not the rule, and with a few rare cases this is a recent phenomenon.

            Just in apples alone, here are some of the new varieties from the last 100 years, none of them developed by private breeders in business, all of them from public institution breeding programs or discovered as chance seedlings, and none of them privatized or having any restrictions in them: Macoun, Cortland, Spartan, Gala, Fuji, Haralson, Idared, Mutsu, Braeburn, Granny Smith.

            Yes, there are strains that are being patented, and names that are being registered as trademarks, as part of the mad scramble to privatize and control crop varieties.

            You must know this to be true, if you do in fact actually have knowledge about and experience in agriculture, and it is highly objectionable for you to attempt to mislead and confuse the public this way.

          • hyperzombie

            New crop varieties do not come from plant breeders who need to be kept in business

            I never said all, I said All most all.
            I noticed that you didn’t mention Pink lady apples? Public institutions also patent and trademark new crops.

          • Two Americas

            Ridiculous. You are not being sincere or honest. Those three statements are nonsensical.

            “Pink Lady” is a trademarked name for the variety “Cripp’s Pink.” Your point?

            From these latest nonsensical responses I am convinced that you are playing games here and either do not know much about this topic, or are intentionally trying to confuse lay readers.

            What kind of response is this – “I never said all, I said All most all” – to what I wrote – “new crop varieties do not come from plant breeders who need to be kept in business?”

            “Public institutions also patent and trademark new crops.” Well, um yeah. That is what we are talking about here.

          • hyperzombie

            You are not being sincere or honest. Those three statements are nonsensical.

            Hardly, you’re the one that says that most new crops are not patented. Oh, they are found and through the generosity of their hearts they are given away for free. LOL

            Your point?

            was it patented and trademarked????

            “new crop varieties do not come from plant breeders who need to be kept in business?”

            Really, they just appear? No one breeds new crops? Someone running down the street with some rye and another with wheat just smacked into each other, is that how we got triticale? Seedless watermelons were just a freak of nature that someone found??? Like come on?

          • Two Americas

            There are thousands of crop varieties that were “given away for free.” I listed a few apple varieties, of the hundreds and hundreds, that came from Land Grant breeding programs and were “given away for free.”

            I did not deny that there are varieties that are patented. I have been expressing my opposition to that trend.

            Yes, it is very common for new varieties to “just appear.” Here are a few of the popular apple varieties that were discovered as chance seedlings:

            Northern Spy, McIntosh, Jonathon, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Winesap, Snow, Ginger Gold, Red Delicious (Hawkeye), Rhode Island Greening, Arkansas Black, Baldwin, Braeburn, and many, many others.

            I did not say that “no one breeds new crops.” I said that your statement about the need for patenting varieties in order to “keep breeders in business” was misleading, because most breeding is done in public institutions, not private businesses.

            But again, if you had any knowledge at all on the topic you would know all of this. You are either ignorant on this topic or you are intentionally trying to mislead people.

          • hyperzombie

            “keep breeders in business” was misleading, because most breeding is done in public institutions, not private businesses.

            Hey its not 1900 any more, even modern universities patent and charge for crops including apples.

            http://www.syracuse.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2013/10/who_owns_the_apples_new_yorks.html

          • Two Americas

            That does not contradict anything I said.

            In any case, why should the public Land Grant colleges be seen as being “in business?” If you think they should be, then make that argument openly and honestly.

            You are just flailing around with these posts. I don’t think you are being honest with us. Either that, or you are not very knowledgeable, in which case you should stop claiming that you are.

          • hyperzombie

            think they should be, then make that argument openly and honestly.

            Well I don’t really care either way, I was just commenting on what happens NOW.

            You are just flailing around with these posts. I don’t think you are being honest with us.

            You are the one that is flailing and not being honest.

            I said:

            . Almost all new varieties of crops are patented, and it has been this way since the 1930s.

            Then you said that that was untrue, and listed a bunch of apple cultivars that came out in the early 1900s. Even if they were patented, the patent would have expired decades ago.
            Now, who is not being honest?

          • Two Americas

            Well I don’t really care either way

            I do.

            Then you said that that was untrue, and listed a bunch of apple cultivars that came out in the early 1900s. Even if they were patented, the patent would have expired decades ago.

            Not so. I posted that list in direct response to your challenge. None of those were patented, and not all of them are from the early 1900s, not by a long shot.

            You said “almost all new varieties of crops are patented, and it has been this way since the 1930s.”

            That is false. Until very recently, it was extremely rare.

          • hyperzombie

            None of those were patented

            Gala, and Fuji were both patented, want the patent numbers?

            and not all of them are from the early 1900s

            Some are even earlier, the only recent one is Braeburn from the 50s.

            That is false. Until very recently, it was extremely rare.

            Nope, unless you think very recent is 80 years or so.

          • Two Americas

            Strains of Fuji and Gala are privatized, yes, by nurseries, not breeders, as I mentioned. 20 strains of Fuji have been patented. Strains, or “sports,” most definitely show up on their own, which demolishes your “new crop varieties don’t show up on their own” argument from earlier. New sports are not new varieties in any case.

            (To the lay readers here: He is desperately trying to cloud the waters on this in the hope that he can mislead the uniformed reader. If any of you need a more detailed explanation of varieties versus sports, breeding programs versus nurseries, trademarked names versus patented varieties, I can provide that.)

            Fuji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Braeburn, Mutsu, are a few of the recent varieties in the public domain. Others, such as Pink Lady (Cripp’s Pink) and SweeTango (Minieska) are in the public domain, but the trademarked name is not.

            …unless you think very recent is 80 years or so.

            You are the one who said “since the 30s” and so I responded to that.

            I grant you that the trend is toward the privatizing of crop varieties. Obviously that is so, or we would not be having this discussion. You claimed that it is nothing new. I demolished that argument. You claimed that new varieties do not emerge on their own. I demolished that argument. You claimed that new varieties were not “given away for free.” I demolished that argument. You claimed that breeders need a return in order to “stay in business.” I demolished that argument.

            Repeatedly making blatantly false assertions and changing the subject again and again can be fairly called “flailing around” and “misleading people,” I think.

            No one would even be attempting to make the arguments you are making unless they were entirely ignorant on the subject, or were intentionally trying to misled people.

          • hyperzombie

            Strains of Fuji and Gala.

            Nope, why do you lie? All you have to do to confirm is look up US plant patent 3,637. Gala was patented (approved oct 15, 1974). Same with Fuji, or do you want that number as well?

            Yes, the sports are also patented further proving my point.

            I can provide that.

            Why dont you just provide it?

            few of the recent varieties in the public domain.

            well of course they are in the public domain, they they are all over 50 years old. Patents only last 20 years. Recent, LOL. my grandfather is almost older than fuji apples and he is old. Oh and SweeTango is patented.

            I demolished that argument.

            Hardly, unless you think 1940 is recent.

            I demolished that argument.

            Hardly, most of the varieties that you listed were bred, or at least found and cultivated by professional crop breeders.

            Repeatedly making blatantly false assertions

            Once again I provide facts and you provide bluster and wishful thinking, along with a bit of name calling.

          • Two Americas

            Gala is from the 30s. There have never been any restrictions on it. Some employee from Stark Brothers Nursery filed a patent on it in 1974.

            See any problems with that?

          • hyperzombie

            See any problems with that?

            Nope, and it is 2015. Put away the disco ball and the bell bottoms. The fight is over.

          • Two Americas

            The man taking out a patent on it, 40 years after it was discovered, was not the originator, nor was the nursery, in fact it was not even from the US.

            Your example perfectly illustrates the problem. The application of intellectual property rights to crop varieties has nothing to do with who bred the variety and nothing to do with public benefit.

            There is nothing left to prevent the privatization of any and all life forms, based on your rationales for it. You say that you see no problem with that.

          • hyperzombie

            Your example perfectly illustrates the problem.

            What problem? Is there some kind of Gala apple shortage? Is the price ao Gala apples to high? I dont get the problem?

            There is nothing left to prevent the privatization of any and all life forms

            You can only patent traits not to apple itself, if no one buys the new apple, what is the problem?

            You say that you see no problem with that.

            Name a problem? we can discuss it.

          • Two Americas

            The problem is that the advance of agriculture, and protection of public health, has always depended upon the free and unfettered exchange of information.

            You can only patent traits not to apple itself…

            If all available varieties of a crop species were privatized, the crop itself would in effect be privatized. That is where the tend is headed, clearly. There is nothing that could head that off.

            The problem is that someone could start demanding royalty payments on every Gala apple grown in the world, simply because they were the first to the patent office. Perhaps the nurseries have been quietly paying out royalties on Gala. I will look into that Monday. I can see them absorbing it and justifying it to themselves, so long as it was inconsequential. It would then operate as a “foot in the door,” a bad precedent.

          • hyperzombie

            The problem is that the advance of agriculture, and protection of public health, has always depended upon the free and unfettered exchange of information.

            Yes, and that is why we are here discussing the matter.

            If all available varieties of a crop species were privatized,

            It cant be done, because you can only patent new and novel traits, the original plant is still free to use.

            The problem is that someone could start demanding royalty payments on every Gala apple grown in the world, simply because they were the first to the patent office.

            Only for 20 years, then the gala apple is free for everyone.

            Perhaps the nurseries have been quietly paying out royalties on Gala.

            Nope once again patents only last 20 years.

          • Two Americas

            Patents last only last 20 years, you say, yet Gala was patented (unknown to me, and I would say to most growers) 40 years after its discovery by someone not involved in the discovery. Yes, individual patents expire, bit the damage done to the public institutions persists. That is the problem.

          • hyperzombie

            What damage?

          • Two Americas

            Corruption, for one thing. We have been over that.

          • hyperzombie

            I dont get the problem with IPR, if universities or any organization uses the money to further crop breeding programs, what is the problem? It seems more like a solution to me. The growers that want the newest crops pay a small fee, and fee pays for more development. What is the problem?
            If growers don’t want the newest crop traits, they can continue to use open source crops.

          • Two Americas

            Understood. At least it is now clear what the disagreement is about.

          • JoeFarmer

            Yep. If you don’t want to pay the breeders to grow the latest apple varieties, you can grow the off-patent ones.

            Actually around here, Jonathans are becoming harder to find. They are small and bruise easily, but they make a really great pie. Better, IMO, than Granny Smiths. There’s one orchard, Deal’s, in Jefferson, IA that’s a pretty reliable source…for now. But you can’t blame the boutique you-pick orchards for going for the Gala apples that sell for 3x the price of an old-fashioned Jonathan.

            Historically, the Jonathan breed has been pretty well suited to our climate, because it’s a small apple and doesn’t tend to crack when we get unexpected summer/fall moisture.

          • hyperzombie

            Sorry, my comment below was kind of nasty. I really enjoyed this chat/debate, you really made me learn much more about apples and the way that they are bred and marketed. And I think that we can both agree that apples along with other crops are patented more so today than in the past. And we can agree that there are many new and exciting new crops coming to the market, from both breeders and Universities. These are exciting times, far more choice and far more selection for farmers and consumers.

          • Two Americas

            There is far less choice. I don’t think there can be any dispute about that.

          • hyperzombie

            ???? How can you say that after posting all the new apples that are available? Back in the 30 there was no Gala apples, no fuji apples no zest apples no snapdragon apples. Once again these are exciting times for growers.

          • Two Americas

            The trend over the last 30 years has been fewer varieties, especially fewer local varieties. The possible loss of genetic diversity has led to the establishment of germplasm banks. The excitement around here for growers is the hard cider boom, leading to the planting of dozens and dozens of “heirloom” varieties. There is now a shortage of those older varieties and waiting lists for them. Since the introduction of new varieties is a matter of selection – every seed in every pome fruit represents a potential new variety – there is no evidence to suggest that more varieties are being discovered now than there was at any other time in history. The change is the privatization of varieties, not the discovery or introduction of varieties. The Gala example shows that the privatization of a variety and the discovery of a variety are disconnected from one another. Privatization is about controlling a market not about more discoveries. Gala, Fuji and Zestar were all developed on the public dime at public institutions.

            Would you like to see a list of the 7,000 named varieties grown at one time in the US? That is”how I can say that after posting the names of a couple of dozen new apples that are available.

  • Bill

    Why does any one even listen to the Nye guy? He has a 4 year degree from Cornell University in Mechanical Engineering. His grades were so poor he couldn’t get accepted to a Masters Degree program in his own field, and here the guy is talking about genetics. Why listen to him, he has no education in the field, and doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    FIRST, There is no such a thing as NON-GMO anything!!!

    Every living thing in existence on this planet past and future has/will been/be genetically modified by mankind and/or nature.

    All the plants that lived in the distant past are extinct now And there will come a day in the future when every plant and animal in existence today will no longer exist. Their genetic descendants will, but they won’t be like us and ours.

    Genetic modification is how Nature/God, ensures survival of all the living things on earth. Nature preserves life on Earth by destroying and remaking its genetic codes. Survival by death and destruction of what genetically is into what genetically will be.

    However, this is not a suggestion that anything goes. Anything MOST CERTAINLY DOES NOT GO. NATURE does NOT put animal or fish genes into plants, nor plant genes in animal or fish.

    To replicate what nature has been doing since the dawn of time is not a danger to anyone. It is a perfectly safe thing to do.

    But

    There is not one example of a movement of a gene from animal to plant nor from plant to animal. NATURE does not do this. WE do not know WHY it isn’t done, and so we should ask, is it wise to do what nature doesn’t do?

    Putting a valve from a pig into a man does not make him a genetically modified Pig-man. I’m sure we all agree making pig-men is a BAD IDEA and shouldn’t be done. Which means we all agree just because we could introduce pig genes into men, doesn’t mean we should do it.
    There is no mystery to how nature uses genetic adaptation. What nature does not do, is probably not done by nature for a good reason.

    Unless a may can prove to me that he is GOD, I’m not going to listen to any argument to do what is not done naturally with genes.

    Medicine is not playing GOD, it is using Nature to cure ills, it is not remaking the Earth, nor man kind.

    Men should not play God. We are not wise enough.
    If nature does not do it, then we shouldn’t.

    Learn from nature, don’t try to remake it.

  • Debbie cantor

    not anti religion at all but it’s return of the Druids and superstition. I don’t buy into selective Luddite

  • jimoppenheimer

    I think the writer is over-reaching. Most of the examples he uses (e.g., using animal parts) are indeed things that represent the last-ditch, desperate acts to prolong a life that is ending, and in many instances, they did not go well (I don’t know about the writer, but I personally would consider death in that category).
    GMOs are hardly comparable to vaccines for some fairly obvious (I would have thought them obvious in any case) reasons such as a huge amount of research and an established track record of decades.
    Most of us are very picky about putting stuff in our mouths. I for one am not interested in speeding up the process just because it makes more money for folks such as the writer.
    It is claimed that no adverse effects can be documented, or something vaguely like that. Let me remind you that for years and years, science insisted that there was no evidence whatsoever (and there was not, aside from anecdotal) for any connection between sprays used and illnesses of the folks using the spray.
    Because of this intransigence, dozens of thousands of veterans were denied any assistance in dealing with their illnesses — which we now know stemmed from their exposure to Agent Orange.
    NOW do you get a bit of an inkling of an idea why we resist full-speed-ahead acceptance of something that may well come back to bite us all in the future? Or do you just stand to make too much money to risk being objective?

  • Kristin Majda

    I appreciate that Bill Nye has kept an open mind and has allowed his opinion to change as he has worked to educate himself. Although I understand the wonderful benefits of GMO foods, I think there is real danger in becoming arrogant about our technological capabilities. Think about the link we are now finding between autoimmune diseases and the various chemicals we have incorporated into our every day lives; think about the break-through drugs that have had unintended severe side effects sometimes discovered too late; think about the chemicals that caused the degradation of the ozone and the years of skepticism that a handful of scientists had to combat trying to get folks to listen and address the issue before it finally happened… I respect scientists. I have an advanced degree in biotechnology. But I also recognize arrogance. I don’t think we should knock people who have a healthy sense of skepticism but are willing to keep an open mind and adjust their views. Rather, I am more concerned about people who are close minded and refuse to take the time to understand science and its principles and instead base their beliefs on superstition. However, it does no good to attack and ridicule. Education is the answer. While technology advances quickly, decade by decade, mankind changes slowly, generation by generation. Address the problem at the root, invest in educating our children, and then real progress will be made.

  • ailurophile1

    I still don’t know where Bill Nye stands on GMOs. He’s a good politician, -talking without saying anything. Inserting a pig’s valve into a human heart, though, does not alter the genes of either human or pig, so that’s a poor comparison.

    • Rod Herman

      The valve is from a GMO pig.

  • nik

    If a food plant is modified to improve its food value, or its tolerance to environmental conditions, that would be acceptable, but if it is modified to produce its own insecticides, which will then be toxic to bees, or humans, then that and similar modifications should be banned.
    The use of insecticide sprays has already proven to be detrimental to humans on a long term basis, but at least washing the plants before consumption has a chance of removing some of the insecticide. If, however the plant is impregnated with insecticide, produced within the plant, there is zero chance of removal.
    There seems to be no controls on what modifications are permitted or not.
    History is littered with environmental disasters committed by scientists who introduced a species from one environment to another, with insufficient testing.
    The fact that Monsanto and others have lobbied, [bribed] government to pass laws that allow then to operate with no tests whatsoever to prove that their modifications are safe long-term should ring alarm bells everywhere.

    • Chris Preston

      There seems to be no controls on what modifications are permitted or not.

      This is completely untrue. To get a genetically modified plant deregulated requires the demonstration that it is likely to be no more harmful to human health or the environment compared with its parental type.

      There is no such requirement for plants modified through more conventional means.

      The fact that Monsanto and others have lobbied, [bribed] government to pass laws that allow then to operate with no tests whatsoever to prove that their modifications are safe long-term should ring alarm bells everywhere.

      Looks like Monsanto have been spectacularly unsuccessful on this front. Or perhaps you have just made this up.

      • nik

        Nope.
        They achieved the result by claiming that as the original plants were perfectly OK, then the GM plants must be as well, which is patently absurd, but that’s the situation.
        To get a GM plant deregulated, is difficult, maybe, but there are no controls on introducing them in the first place.

      • nik

        Nope.
        It may be difficult to get something deregulated, but there appears to be no control on the introduction.
        Monsanto’s pitch was that as the original plant was OK, then the modified one must be as well, which is bizarre.
        In theory it is possible to introduce a gene to an edible plant that would make it deadly, eg genes from the caster oil plant, on the grounds that it is required to protect it from predators when producing some other required chemical. The genes from this plant could then cross pollinate with the original, unknowingly, and then that plant could be consumed with tragic results.
        The biggest threat to the environment, and to food-stocks, is the cross pollination matter.
        During the 60’s experiments were carried out by putting collectors on high flying spy planes, to sample the air in the stratosphere. They picked up pollen’s.
        It is impossible to contain pollen’s from commercially farmed plants., so contamination of the original species is guaranteed. If at some later date the gm plant is found to be undesirable for any reason, it will be too late to withdraw it.
        Monsanto’s aggressive attitude of suing farmers who’s crops THEY have contaminated, just illustrates their criminal attitude.
        Again, they lobbied, [bribed] to get the necessary legislation passed for them to be able to sue.

        • Rod Herman

          What? If one needs deregulation to introduce a GMO, then that is a control, especially when the average cost is 35 million dollars to do the safety testing and registration.

    • Rod Herman

      The average regulatory cost to get a GMO approved is 35 million dollars. That seems like a lot of “controls” in my book, but maybe you have a different appreciation for costs. Adding one gene to a corn plant with 50,000 native genes does not make it a new species or else every human would be a different species than his or her neighbor. A basic understanding of biology is needed to appreciate this, but if you do not have this background, then why do you contest the opinions of most scientists on the safety of GMO food?

  • duelles

    Science and discovery will not stop, cannot be stopped. DNA snps being used to create nano machines or outer space explorers is going happen. We can create entities that withstand climates beyond our survivability. Don’t like it? Be left behind. Science is something that tests and corrects itself. Unlike some other of our human endeavors. GMOs are here people will benefit and Monsanto stock has done very nicely, thank you, very much.

  • Amey Krousso

    As we are part of a farming community in Zambia,were we grow hybrid maize seed, there seems to be a misconception with regards to yield?
    The varieties that we have grown for over 15 years have consistently had almost double the yield of GMO seeds?
    The government in Zambia does not allow for GMO seed to be grown and the past have shown their commitment, even the years that the country had to import due to shortages they would not import from countries that grow GMO
    Maize?
    Another consideration that stands out to me is the fact that farmers can save some of their harvest to use as seed for the following season.
    This is not possible with GMO seeds, the small scale farmers would have to buy new seed every year.
    Monsanto has a presence in Zambia and they contract seed maize varieties out to various farmers, seems to be purely for research preposterous only, as the seed harvests are mainly fed to pics?
    We need more transparency, as a lot of the science claims just don’t add up on the ground?

    • Chris Preston

      The varieties that we have grown for over 15 years have consistently had almost double the yield of GMO seeds?

      I am curious about your claim, given GM maize is not permitted to be grown in Zambia. How then do you know the yields of the hybrids are double the yield of GM maize?

      Another consideration that stands out to me is the fact that farmers can save some of their harvest to use as seed for the following season.This is not possible with GMO seeds

      If you are really growing hybrid maize, you would not be able to save seed from year to year as it would segregate and you would lose all the value of the hybrid technology.

      • Dominick Dickerson

        “If you are really growing hybrid maize, you would not be able to save seed from year to year as it would segregate and you would lose all the value of the hybrid technology.”

        Maybe they do save hybrid seed and that’s why we hear about such devastating famine from parts of Africa. It’s entirely possible.

        • Chris Preston

          You are correct. It is possible, but the result is that you get a worse and harder to manage crop than if you were to grow just a single open-pollinated variety.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Precisely.

            I was pointing out that perhaps this posters inability to recognize that F1 hybrids don’t breed true in successive generations may be reflective of why there are often food security issues in Africa. I was attempting to be facetious which may or may not translate well over the internet.

    • Rod Herman

      You seem to be mixing up two different things. One can have non-hybrid GMO or non-GMO hybrids. If a GMO trait was put in any variety of corn that you plant, it would have no effect on yield in the absence of weeds and insect pests. However, insect-resistant corn would be protected against pests when they are present, so the GMO would yield higher. Likewise, superior weed control afforded by GMOs coupled with herbicides would also yield higher in the presence of weeds. The issue of saving seeds is not specific to GMOs. It is an issue of patents that can be granted on any seed. I encourage you to research this area more deeply. There is a reason that 90% of farmers choose GMO seed when they are not restricted from using them.

    • FrenchKissed

      Interesting that you should bring up Zambia’s “commitment” not to “import” GMO corn, even in times of “shortages.” I would think any Zambian would find that a source of great shame. I assume you’re referring to the widespread famine in 2002 during which 32 metric tons of donated corn from the US was rejected due to likelihood of GMO kernels.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/30/world/between-famine-and-politics-zambians-starve.html

  • Amey Krousso

    Sorry, pigs and purposes.

  • Amey Krousso

    Chris,you can believe what you want,the fact is ,it’s very much in our interest to keep abreast of information and even though it’s not grown in our country the information is out there for all to see?
    Consider the fact that long before GMO’s existed, commercial maize was kept and grown for seed the following season, how els would these farmers have sevived over the centuries?
    I do agree with you as far as the parent seed is concerned, one can not replant year after year.
    Perhaps it would serve the world good to know that there are still crops grown out there that have not been modified, GMO’s do have it’s place with as far a cotton production is concerned, I am skeptical when it comes to what we eat?

    • Rod Herman

      You may find it useful to research hybrid corn seed and why farmers buy and plant this seed even though it is not productive to save and replant the grain.

  • Thomas Paquin

    The vaccine example is not relevant. Vaccines are the introduction of real, weakened or dead viruses into the body to trigger the body’s immune response. I wouldn’t call it “natural”, but it mimics a natural process. Such viruses do make their way into human bodies naturally so introducing a weakened version of it isn’t so far from nature. But modifying the actual genetic makeup of an organism — plant or animal — are we really wise to think we can genetically modify a species, and then be able to test, and in a short time frame conclude, that no harm is done? How can science claim to “know” that such a practice is harmless, when the natural process it is taking the place of (genetic modification) takes place over thousands or millions of years? Are we so smart as to accurately forecast the consequences of genetic modification hundreds of years into the future? If there is irreversible harm to our ecosystems several hundred years from now, will it be a reasonable excuse that we just didn’t have any proof that harm would come? I’m all for the power of science, but the best scientific applications are those that work in harmony with what nature does on its own. The best relevant example I can think of at the moment is the Dead Sea — which is disappearing. The motives were the same — increase agricultural productivity by engineering the environment a certain way, while failing to see the longer-term ramifications.

    • Rod Herman

      If you understood biology, then you would know that most transformations of crops use an bacterium that “naturally” inserts DNA into plants. But “natural” does not equate with safe. The most potent toxins on earth are natural. No synthetic poison has yet reached the toxicity of naturally found chemicals. Just because you cannot understand how scientists evaluate safety does not mean that others cannot.

      • Thomas Paquin

        I appreciate any enlightenment you can give me since I am not a scientist. Can you explain why bee populations are being decimated? I don’t think science has figured out that one yet, and plenty of other phenomena that have no explanation, which leaves it opened that human activities could be the cause. My point is — scientists can say that GMO foods have not shown any proven negative effects thus far on humans or the environment. But how can the passage of time be synthesized in a lab? To my knowledge it cannot. How long did we paint our walls with lead-based paint, and put it in our gasoline, before science caught up and told us hey, this is actually bad for us?

        • Rod Herman

          With your logic, no tests can be done for safety other than to wait many decades. That is simply not he case. Toxicologists are trained to test the safety of things by delivering very high doses and looking for effects that precede overt toxicity. That is what the FDA does for food.

        • hyperzombie

          Can you explain why bee populations are being decimated?

          Well for a number of reasons, none of them have anything to do with GMOs or pesticides.

          1) The varroa destructor mite, has been recently introduced to NA

          2) Novel new viruses that spread faster due to the introduction of the Varroa mite.

          3) Poor breeding and caretaking by the bee breeders.

          4) Very stressful spring moves, 40% of all bees are moved to CA for almond season.

          5) Climate Change

          human activities could be the cause

          Well of course, Honey bees are not even native to most of the world.

          To my knowledge it cannot.

          There are all kinds of methods to accelerate time for testing, the method depends on what you are testing.

          before science caught up and told us hey, this is actually bad for us?

          Unlike GMOs, science never said it was a low risk before we started using these products.

      • Thomas Paquin

        My reply didn’t post, so I’ll try again. I’m not a scientist or biologist. So please tell me how science simulates the passage of time in a laboratory? The potent toxin reference is a red herring — I never said that natural equates to safe. But how can we conclude that genetically modified organisms pose no danger and have no long-term consequences to the ecosystem when we cannot simulate the passage of time? Genetic modification is especially troubling because it is such a long term phenomena in nature. How can we accurately predict the long-term consequences?

        • Rod Herman

          It posted and I replied.

  • Andrew LaFlash

    What does it take for you guys to change your own stance on a subject, when a person you look to as an expert changes his, and you mock him for it?

  • FredPierre

    When we create new plants or new animals that sidestep evolution we obviously feel very excited about our skills. DNA design is on the fast-track and we will see entirely new creatures being designed in the near future. How will these creatures interact with others that developed during billions of years of evolution? No doubt some will interact well, and others may be problematic. The hope is that this design process does not generate novel viruses which could affect current animals and humans.

  • Patrick

    I don’t disagree or think the concept of GMO’s are necessarily bad if they are implemented in the most ethical and eco-conscious way. But in the hands of greedy corporations and corrupt government who’s primary objective are monetary gains, then you can count me out. I will never support that and put the lives of humankind in the hands of thugs.

  • Ron

    The development of these patented hybrid species appears not to be a humanitarian endeavor but one solely motivated by profit and the greed of Monsanto. Aren’t these the same guys responsible for: DDT, Round-up, Agent Orange, Dioxin and host of other toxic chemicals. Honestly, do you think Monsanto has the planet’s best interest in mind?

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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