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GM and the Greens

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Alan C.
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Re: GM and the Greens

#41 Post by Alan C. » May 27th, 2012, 9:49 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Alan H.
I think that's probably already been answered: more profit can be made by selling it to 'us'. There is no profit in selling food or water to people who may be starving and dying, but who cannot afford to pay. That's the nub of the problem.
Africa has a lot (most?) of the gold and diamonds don't they, why should they be short of food or clean water?
Dave
And a lot of these people use wood as a fuel as well.
A lot of African countries grow rhebe (not sure of the spelling or even if it's just a Shetland name) not a tree, but a woody shrub rather like a rhododendron, it spreads quickly and grows quickly, and is used as fuel both for heating and cooking.

I garden and occasionally cook for the 98 year old lady whose father introduced it to Africa. :)
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Alan H
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Re: GM and the Greens

#42 Post by Alan H » May 27th, 2012, 11:40 pm

Alan C. wrote:
Alan H.
I think that's probably already been answered: more profit can be made by selling it to 'us'. There is no profit in selling food or water to people who may be starving and dying, but who cannot afford to pay. That's the nub of the problem.
Africa has a lot (most?) of the gold and diamonds don't they, why should they be short of food or clean water?
I'm sure a lot of it is politics as much as anything else. Some countries in Africa have more water than others (although I hadn't expected to see South Africa to be labelled as having a water scarcity):

Image

But, of course, Africa is a VERY BIG place, so maybe the diversity and scale of problems is not surprising:

Image
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

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Dave B
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Re: GM and the Greens

#43 Post by Dave B » May 28th, 2012, 10:11 am

Can we find a map that shows tree cover? Then another showing the highlands, then the prevailing winds & rain patterns.

That comparison size map was quite eye opening!
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Tetenterre
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Re: GM and the Greens

#44 Post by Tetenterre » May 28th, 2012, 10:28 am

Alan H wrote: But, of course, Africa is a VERY BIG place, so it's maybe the diversity and scale of problems is not surprising:
I was about to make the same point myself; there is no way you can usefully apply some blanket criterion to the entire continent. It's a bit like "overseas" when I was growing up in what was then Rhodesia: we had 4 other places in the world: "PEA" (Mozambique), "up north" (Zambia, and maybe Malawi or the Congo), "down South" (Republic of South Africa) and "overseas" (everywhere else).
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Dave B
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Re: GM and the Greens

#45 Post by Dave B » May 28th, 2012, 10:48 am

Everything from desert to glacier. From arid to rainforest. From plenty to starvation.
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Alan H
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Re: GM and the Greens

#46 Post by Alan H » May 28th, 2012, 11:13 am

Dave B wrote:Everything from desert to glacier. From arid to rainforest. From plenty to starvation.
Then there are the further inequalities man imposes on man.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Dave B
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Re: GM and the Greens

#47 Post by Dave B » May 28th, 2012, 11:23 am

Alan H wrote:
Dave B wrote:Everything from desert to glacier. From arid to rainforest. From plenty to starvation.
Then there are the further inequalities man imposes on man.
Yes, Alan, that was in my mind when I wrote the last sentence, but I did not make it explicit.

Nature is a force we can do little about on the large scale, many of those starving have been forced from their traditional lands by the actions of people, mostly fighting battles for mineral resources at the moment it seems. The next phase will almost certainly be fighting for arable land and water - and more displaced people.
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Alan H
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Re: GM and the Greens

#48 Post by Alan H » May 28th, 2012, 11:28 am

Dave B wrote:Nature is a force we can do little about on the large scale, many of those starving have been forced from their traditional lands by the actions of people, mostly fighting battles for mineral resources at the moment it seems. The next phase will almost certainly be fighting for arable land and water - and more displaced people.
Or is it fighting the vested interests of big corporations so that we somehow impose an imperative to do what we all want and which our humanity demands: stop people dying of hunger and more evenly distribute the (limited) resources we have?

But this is getting away from the original topic: what is it about GMO that people object to and why?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan H
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Re: GM and the Greens

#49 Post by Alan H » May 28th, 2012, 12:13 pm

This book looks interesting: Hungry Planet: How The World Eats, or Doesn’t

(Thanks to Flash Maggie on Twitter for pointing it out.)
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: GM and the Greens

#50 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 28th, 2012, 12:48 pm

Alan H wrote:But the nub of the question is, what IS the problem with GM? Is it Frankenstein foods? Distrust of scientists? Lack of understanding of science and the scientific process? Big Agro making huge profits and controlling supply?
I have a problem with GM. No, it isn't because I'm frightened of "Frankenstein foods". It isn't because I distrust scientists. It might be a consequence of my lack of understanding of the science of GM, but if it is then I think that GM marketers have contributed to that, by grossly oversimplifying the science involved. Is it Big Agro making huge profits and controlling supply? Yes, that's probably the most significant of my concerns. But it's not the only one. My other concerns are largely covered by the report referred to in this article (though I do not necessarily endorse everything in the article or the report).
jdc wrote:Greens like Jenny Jones are happy enough with research that supports their ideological beliefs but not that which does not.
And the same could be said of many of those who support GM. With issues like this one (and others, like nuclear power), I wish I could find the arguments presented in a more ... dialectical way. If I'm to make my mind up about GM one way or the other, it needs to be as a consequence of calm, reasoned argument. It doesn't help at all when those who oppose GM are belittled and characterised as ignorant Luddites.

Emma

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Alan H
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Re: GM and the Greens

#51 Post by Alan H » May 28th, 2012, 1:16 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:My other concerns are largely covered by the report referred to in this article (though I do not necessarily endorse everything in the article or the report).
I need to listen to it again and follow some of the links, but my first thoughts are that Bassey and the article are not at all convincing. My immediate concerns are that he is damning all GMO with an extremely wide brush-stroke. For example, the article seems to be leaping to the conclusion that all GMOs are designed to require less pesticides; more is being used, therefore they have all failed. But it also talks about some GMOs being devised to better withstand drought. It is clearly more nuanced than this, but I need to read again to see if that does come out. I suspect that some GMOs are, indeed, more drought resistant and this must bring benefits to more than just Monsanto.

Hmmm...
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: GM and the Greens

#52 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 28th, 2012, 2:26 pm

Theo Simon of Take the Flour Back and Professor Graham Jellis of the British Crop Production Council appeared on Channel 4 News. I wasn't expecting it at all, but I thought that in this particular "debate" Simon got the better of Jellis, despite the jargon.

Emma

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animist
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Re: GM and the Greens

#53 Post by animist » May 28th, 2012, 4:43 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:Theo Simon of Take the Flour Back and Professor Graham Jellis of the British Crop Production Council appeared on Channel 4 News. I wasn't expecting it at all, but I thought that in this particular "debate" Simon got the better of Jellis, despite the jargon.

Emma
too right, Jellis was frankly pathetic. The article you posted, and the one I posted earlier, reinforce the impression I get that it is institutional rather than technological failures which account for serious world poverty

Nick
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Re: GM and the Greens

#54 Post by Nick » May 28th, 2012, 7:33 pm

Good grief! Go away for a couple of days, and all hell breaks loose!

I'm wading through the threads on GM, and to a certain extent, commenting as I go. So please excuse any comments which may have been dealt with subsequently.

My first query is this: the greens claim that contamination is a serious threat. It may be, but what strikes me as odd, is this: if it such a serious threat, why is it that all vegitation has not, somehow, combining into a single gloop. After all, bees have been flitting between different types of plant for millenia. Why is it that this aphid-repellant is not universal? It clearly has an evolutionary advantage. I am not sufficiently qualified to give an authoritative answer, but such is the stupidity of some commentators, that I think we should have proper answers to serious questions.

An example of stupidity? A quote from the article Alan cited:
Lucy Harrap, involved with the mass action Take back the flour, said it was preparing a response.

"We are really pleased they want to engage in a discussion. But we know that talking to them is not going to change their minds. They've declared their position because they have already put the plants in the ground."
Leaving aside the trade-mark warning sounds of loonidom "mass action", and the Grauniad's seeming propensity not to capitalise words as appropriate, Ms Harrap claims that the scientists are being obstinate. But can't Ms Harrap see, that the scientists believe their case is right, and that once it is explained to her, (in words of not more than two syllables, if necessary) that they hope that she will change her mind?
Alan H wrote:I am genuinely undecided on this - I'm not sure I'm convinced by the 'we need it to stop world hunger' argument because we have sufficient food now, but vested interests and the march to relentlessly make profit scupper that.
Err, no. I don't want to divert the thread away from the important subject of GM, but comment is appropriate when misunderstanding may affect one' thinking.

The ability of the world to feed itself has grown precisely by innovation in agriculture. Just look at the agricultural revolution in 18th century Britain as an example. We will undoubtedly need more productivity in agriculture in future, especially if we are to act in a green way and preserve tropical forests and so forth. It is the pursuit of profit which has led to the feeding of the population levels we see now. It is a complete fallacy that the pursuit of profit somehow causes overall world hunger. It is agricultural profits which pay for education, so that subsequent generations are not hoeing rows of crops under tropical skies, but have machines to do it for them. World hunger will never be stopped by trampling on profits. That is the surest way I can think of to reduce the supply of food and make the situation many times worse. And with the world population scheduled to rise by another 2 billion, we can't afford such an attitude.

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Re: GM and the Greens

#55 Post by Nick » May 28th, 2012, 7:56 pm

Alan H wrote:
Boxertwin wrote:As I posted above, most buy seed each year from suppliers and it's not just cereal crop seeds. My father inlaw grows everything from carrots to watermelons.
There could be many suppliers of seed at the moment and it could be that the suppliers of GM seed will become more limited by market forces, but is anyone forcing a farmer to sow GM crops? Could he sow conventional crops or will the pressure be there to buy GM seeds and/or will the fertilisers/insecticides/herbicides/fungicides that are currently needed become expensive, pricing them out of the market?

The aversion seems to be to the modification of one chemical in the crop - its genes. I can see a tension here between denouncing the chemical modification of a crop on one hand and covering crops with - let's face it - dangerous and poisonous chemicals on the other - chemicals that could wipe out species and devastate the environment and even harm humans. What really is it we are objecting to?
You have made some valuable comments comparing genetic modification with chemical modification.

A comment on the economics. No-one is forcing any farmer to buy GM seeds. But the market may show that GM crops provide better yields, by increasing drought resistance, or having shorter (non-productive) stems, or requiring less pesticide or whatever. It will not be corporate greed which drives out non-GM, but higher yields and cheaper prices for consumers.

And it won't be "market forces" which may restrict the number of suppliers of GM seeds. It is rather our system of patents, which protects the fruits of research and innovation. If farmers and consumers benefit, then it is of little concern that the innovator has become rich in the process. If, however, the innovator is using monopoly power to crush competition, then the correct action is to address the market restriction, not to hobble the science. We have seen similar actions against Microsoft, for example. It is the market which is regulated (by "unbundling", for example,) not the science.

And likewise, fertilisers, insecticides etc., won't become more expensive because of GM. They may become more expensive for other reasons, but if the demand falls, because of increased GM, it is likely that the price would fall. You may, of course, have meant "relatively" expensive, rather than expensive, in which case you have a point.

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Re: GM and the Greens

#56 Post by jdc » May 28th, 2012, 10:03 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
jdc wrote:Greens like Jenny Jones are happy enough with research that supports their ideological beliefs but not that which does not.
And the same could be said of many of those who support GM. With issues like this one (and others, like nuclear power), I wish I could find the arguments presented in a more ... dialectical way. If I'm to make my mind up about GM one way or the other, it needs to be as a consequence of calm, reasoned argument. It doesn't help at all when those who oppose GM are belittled and characterised as ignorant Luddites.

Emma
Well yes, that's true. There was a UKIP supporter in favour of the GMO trials who was quoted as saying he was a climate sceptic (which is in line with UKIP's position). (Can't be bothered finding the link right now, but it was in a Nature blog.)

I think he is as much of a numpty as Jenny Jones. Because he likes the scientific evidence when it fits with his views but dismisses it when it doesn't.

It'd be better if UKIP and the Greens took note of the evidence whether or not it was convenient. (A man can dream...)
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Fia
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Re: GM and the Greens

#57 Post by Fia » May 28th, 2012, 10:07 pm

Have been lurking here…
Alan H wrote:
jdc wrote:I'm afraid I can't take the English Green Party seriously.
I think they are now caught between what their traditional members joined the party for (ideology) and...erm...the big bad real world.
As someone who feels the only comfortable political option is currently Green, despite their lack of rationalist rigour, and who was asked by the Scottish Green Party to be a candidate but refused due to lack of time and uncomfortableness with some of the woo, I agree with Alan.

I do enjoy reminding folk who exhort me to ‘save the planet’ that long after we’ve buggared all our chances of living sustainably upon it, the planet will still be here. We won’t for sure if we carry on in the way we have been for the last century…
Nick wrote:No-one is forcing any farmer to buy GM seeds.
I beg to differ. A few years back Monsanto attempted to buy all the soya seeds available so they could have complete market share in their GM versions. Would have been a huge money-spinner for them as soya is a staple protein in many parts of the world. I’m glad to say they failed, and it is still possible to buy organic soya.

I have 2 problems with GM, as others have mentioned: the likes of Monsanto and a possibly irrational feeling that humans mucking about with mixing genetics is a different kettle of fish to how the flora and fauna of our planet do. There’s no natural way a jellyfish gene could enter a seed so it doesn’t freeze. This makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Apart from population control which is clearly a huge issue, I think we need to start at local, rather than global, options. In our affluence there is much mileage in simplicity. We have just started a community herb garden in a council plot, and are in talks with the council about changing some flowerbeds to community vegetable ones. We’re producing info on recognition and recipes, and working with the local school. Seed bombing is growing :D Reminding folk where their food comes from, so they think twice about buying out of season produce with huge airmiles.

The way we eat and the way many others don't is unsustainable. Enough for everyone's need, but not for their greed. I see the likes of Monsanto applying greed to the issue of feeding the world and despair.

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Alan H
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Re: GM and the Greens

#58 Post by Alan H » May 28th, 2012, 10:47 pm

Fia wrote:I have 2 problems with GM, as others have mentioned: the likes of Monsanto...
Agreed. There is danger in letting many things be controlled by a few whose interests may not coincide with everyone else's.
and a possibly irrational feeling that humans mucking about with mixing genetics is a different kettle of fish to how the flora and fauna of our planet do. There’s no natural way a jellyfish gene could enter a seed so it doesn’t freeze. This makes me feel very uncomfortable.
This is the ick factor and, although I can see it, I am feeling that I have to reject it on rational grounds. (I can see analogies with, say, evangelical xtians wanting to reject homosexuality on ick grounds.)

I didn't do biology at school. I was at a BHA conference many moons ago where it came as a revelation to me that the chemicals that make up DNA/RNA in plants, jellyfish and everything else were made up of exactly the same chemicals as in humans. We are all just strings of A, C, G or T nucleic acids - ours are just in a different order (OK, with varying numbers as well). What GMO chemists are doing is modifying them. At that dispassionate level, I can't see that it should have the ick factor.

Now, there may well be things that could go wrong. Maybe there are unintended consequences. But I can't help feeling we could be focussing on those and how any particular modification could be tested to give us a good reassurance that it will be safe. It can never be 100% safe, of course, but neither can the latest insecticide, etc. They are no doubt tested as stringently as regulatory bodies feel they need to be before being let loose on the environment. Some of these turn out to be safe if used correctly and some don't. We learn from that, but we will never produce one that we know will be 100% safe.

How we achieve this reassurance, I have no idea. But that is separate from whether we create the GMOs in the first place to solve particular problem.

And there I see the other issue: do we need them and what modifications are beneficial to humanity as a whole, rather than just to Monsanto or whoever?

I am now seeing these more clearly as separate questions.
Apart from population control which is clearly a huge issue, I think we need to start at local, rather than global, options. In our affluence there is much mileage in simplicity. We have just started a community herb garden in a council plot, and are in talks with the council about changing some flowerbeds to community vegetable ones. We’re producing info on recognition and recipes, and working with the local school. Seed bombing is growing :D Reminding folk where their food comes from, so they think twice about buying out of season produce with huge airmiles.

The way we eat and the way many others don't is unsustainable. Enough for everyone's need, but not for their greed. I see the likes of Monsanto applying greed to the issue of feeding the world and despair.
Sustainability is certainly a big issue and certainly overlaps the GMO issue, but can anyone convince me that GMOs are not inherently evil per se - it's how we use them and control their use that's important, isn't it?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: GM and the Greens

#59 Post by animist » May 29th, 2012, 7:38 am

Alan H wrote:I am now seeing these more clearly as separate questions.
yes they are separate, but surely the "need" question is logically prior - unless there is clear need for GMO, why even think about messing around with them? So it is not really an emotive "ick" matter like homophobia.

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Alan H
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Re: GM and the Greens

#60 Post by Alan H » May 29th, 2012, 10:19 am

animist wrote:
Alan H wrote:I am now seeing these more clearly as separate questions.
yes they are separate, but surely the "need" question is logically prior - unless there is clear need for GMO, why even think about messing around with them? So it is not really an emotive "ick" matter like homophobia.
It depends whose 'need' we're talking about. Do we, as a society, 'need' them? Do the starving 'need' them or is it just the Monsantos of this world who 'need' them - all have very different reasons for needing them.

The language is interesting: you talk about 'messing about with genes' and some others talk about going against nature and even playing God. These are emotive terms - are they designed to be so? I think we need to be very wary of arguments using them.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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animist
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Re: GM and the Greens

#61 Post by animist » May 29th, 2012, 3:17 pm

Alan H wrote: The language is interesting: you talk about 'messing about with genes' and some others talk about going against nature and even playing God. These are emotive terms - are they designed to be so? I think we need to be very wary of arguments using them.
I'm not interested in either God or nature in the abstract - I only used the phrase "messing around" (which implies frivolity) to complement my expressed concern that a clear need (on the part of the hungry, not Monsanto) has not been established for the technology

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