The Big Picture: Feeding Edge

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Dan Shook:
I'm glad so many people out there are assured that something that can be untested and dangerous is safe just because the word "science" applied to it. The fact is humans don't fully understand genetic tables, or what effect "just turning a trait on or off" can fully have, as all parts of a genetic structure are connected and changing one thing can have effects on several other traits. I'm sorry that properly breeding things takes too long for the I-want-it-now generation, but I personally would rather let nature tend to things such as sorting genetic anomalies and such, because as history has shown us, humans are short sighted arrogant and ignorant in all things. We tend to do whatever it takes to get the outcome we want and ignore any side effects or problems that crop up along the way.

Oh and Bob, a defibrillator does not restart a heart that isn't beating. It stops a heart that is beating improperly in the hopes of it restarting itself properly. check out the pop culture section.
So really bringing someone back from the dead is still in the realms of science fiction, or bad daytime dramas, except in odd and truly rare cases.

Best second comment ever.

This piece is very one sided, and lacking in research or a fundamental lack understanding of this subject. Is the genetically modified food that has been crafted over millennia generally safe? Yes. We have had hundreds or thousands of years to acclimate to it, to test it by living with it for so long. Is modern genetically modified food safe? Generally, yes, but keep in mind we have not been with this food for hundreds or thousands of years, we have no idea what the long term effects are to our species. What about the genetically modified foods of the future, those we can start creating today or tomorrow? That is what I'll get into.

What people are worried about, those at least that are not simply switching on panic mode, is that we are nearing the stage where we can not only turn on and off traits in the genes of foods but insert traits from other species, from entirely different types of life, info food. The cause for concern is not modifying how a crop could develop or evolve under particular circumstances, but completely adding traits that the crop would never have under any reasonable circumstance.

To say genetically modified food is great because it has been great and it is great is not only a naive statement, but a dangerous one. Would you like genes from birds in your salmon? Like those Carrots, yes? How would you feel if they were glowing in the dark from genes added from certain kinds of fish? What if wheat poisoned the ground around it to kill of insects? How about tomatoes with DNA from frogs that make them more resilient to cold or freezing temperatures? These things are 'frakenfood'. Food that would never have a chance to evolve the traits we are -adding-. Are they cause for concern? Yes, yes, and hell yes.

When we genetically engineer something over time we have the safety net of time at our backs. When we manually switch traits on and off, those that could exist normally in those crops or under certain conditions, then we at least have the safety of nature to fall back on, that such a crop had the potential to evolve. But when we start adding traits from entirely different species, and entirely different forms of life, we have no idea what the ramifications may be to the environment or to our bodies.

I like these big idea videos , but this one was a little too big for a 4.5 minute video. This is an extremely serious subject with ramifications unlike anything we have ever known. There are many facets to this, many different kinds of genetically modified foods, and many different types of technology being used and explored. People devote an entire life time to understanding this subject and still are unsure what to think in the end.

As for peoples concerns and reactions to this, as well as your own: Just because you don't like people crying wolf does not mean you should adamantly proclaim that there are no wolves, there never have been, there never will be, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. You're an intelligent man, so do what intelligent men do, Bob. Go educate yourself about this, and speak about the subject in an intelligent manor.

Edit: Typos

Dog being breed from wolves, while a popular theory, is not necessarily how it occurred. DNA evidence shows that the oldest breeds of dogs, while still closely related to wolves, have likely been around longer humans (at least Homo sapiens) were around to breed them. There's also some evidence that the oldest type of dog we domesticated is closer looking to a Pekingese or Pug, than a wolf. Early man used dogs for hunting though, and would have originally bred them for that task and preferred more wolf-like traits until they became an agricultural society. Crossbreeding domesticated dogs with wolves certainly has occurred, and it's possible we played a hand in the breeds of modern wolves. This makes you wonder if humans alter wolves' breed to give wolves the unusually friendliness to humans they show for a large wild carnivore, as there's no record of a wolf attacking a human without provocation or rabies. Either way there's no arguing dogs are man's best friend.

As for genetically modified plants, if you've eaten vegetables in the US in the last two decades you probably had been eating this new version of genetically engineered plants the whole time. There has been no sign of dangerous repercussions in that time, and the methods being used are not riskier or faster than the methods farmers use. That being said, genetically modifying our food is not without its dangers. First, old style farming was more about splitting one species of one plant into many, while modern genetic engineering introduces more elements of cross breeding and merging of plant species. One side effect of this is food allergies can cross into other foods, as noticed with peanut allergies already.

Second, this new type of genetic engineering encourages reducing genetic diversity in our food sources, especially in the case of cloning (obviously), which puts us at risk of a single disastrous plague causing famine of a particular food. Considering how much food in America is dependent on corn, increasing the chances of a corn famine is about the most dangerous thing you could do.

So while you shouldn't fear eating genetically engineered food, there's also nothing wrong with yelling at the scientists and food companies modifying food to act responsible. Of course, their very lives depended on acting responsible, so I have some faith they'll make an effort to do so. Finally, it's good to support local farmers, because fresh food always tastes better, no matter how long genetically engineered food is made to last.

Wow, Bob. You REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. And you just misinformed a hell of a lot of people. Congratulations.

Firstly, yes, most genetically engineered food is harmless. Most of us have eaten some without ever knowing about it. And we're fine, and we're going to continue to be just fine.

But when scientists first started doing genetic engineering, some of the things they were doing had bugger all to do with, say, Gregor Mendel's experiments with cross-polinating peas. Or the thousands of years of animal husbandry you want to hand-wavingly equate.

No matter how long you rub a tomato and a fish together, the fish will not pollinate the tomato. But you can put a fish's genes into a tomato. And some have. Whether you should or not is another question. But here's a bigger one: how does a group like the FDA test for whether a tomato with fish DNA is harmful to the consumer? Does a group like the FDA test this, or do they pass the research off to the people offering it?

Now, again, despite what you hilariously like to mislead imply, most of the people who fear the potential harm of something like this aren't thinking the tomato is going to become sentient and start looking for human flesh. But many do have other reasonable questions that often get bulldozed out of the path of a marketable product:

What happens if a GM food inadvertently hybridizes with a non-GMO strain?
What if the GMO strain causes the wild variant to cease to exist?
What if the monogenetic strains (since a GM crop will inevitably be less diverse than a non-GM one) proves vulnerable to an environmental stress like an insect infestation or a fungus?
How do we test the effects of a GM crop on other species that might be exposed to it, such as insects, fish, or birds?
How can we know if people will react allergically to GM foods, and how can we notify someone if, say, they're allergic to tree nuts that these soybeans might mysteriously make them sick?
If a GMO food enters the food supply and proves hazardous, how can we detect and remove it?

These are not idle, paranoid, or foolish questions. Companies like Monsanto are releasing seeds which don't produce further generations, forcing farmers to buy seeds from them every year, and the possibility of such a strain crossing with others is terrifying. India recently saw a mass of farmer suicides when expensive GM crops failed to produce the profitable harvests the biotech companies had promised. Some crops engineered to require fewer pesticides have actually ended up requiring more.

Which again raises the question of why. Maybe we can produce a fruit that keeps its color on the shelf longer, or a bean that resists frost, or a watermellon that tastes like a strawberry. But that we can do something is not a good reason to do it in willful ignorance of risk.

When we crossbreed plants or animals, which is NOT THE SAME AS THE ENGINEERING YOU DESCRIBE, thousands of genes are mixed and the result can be seen to thrive or flounder on its own. When we engineer, we flip one switch on a circuit breaker, often looking for only one result and ignorant to others. Sometimes, life doesn't offer shortcuts for a reason.

But I suppose that's too broad and sophisticated to be covered in five minutes.

Well.. that truly is the big picture. Because it ignores a lot of the finer details.

Let me start by saying I really don't care what I eat. Someone who habitually consumes as much snack food as I do does not have the luxury of a high horse when it comes to this stuff, and generally if it looks like food I'll eat it.

That being said you massively oversimplified GMO and the inherent dangers. Yes, selecting traits and genetic variants has long been a practice amongst the farmers of the worlds, and there's nothing inherently wrong with it. All right, it kind of sucks for the cows who literally cannot survive without constant human supervision, but it all tastes the same on the dinner plate.

The problem with GMO isn't the selection of specific traits. It's that, largely, it's a very new science with very little understanding. Just because we can map a genome or two doesn't mean that we know the entire cause-and-effect of genetic modification. We're still learning a great deal about what each gene affects, and even in the simplest of genomes this can be a long and complicated process. Cows are not simple. Certain plants are, but that's a different aside. The problem is that since we don't exactly have the firmest grasp on the subject matter yet, we're hardly equipped to regulate this practice for consumption. Yet we claim that it's all very well-controlled, which it isn't really. We don't know exactly all the ramifications, we simply know the most superficial results: more tasty food that doesn't immediately kill people when they eat it. This, too, is not a new problem in food regulation, but GMO is a very rapidly evolving practice and as such is hard to keep up with. So, naturally, people are reluctant to consume the most basically engineered foods.

Then there's the knowledge that there quite literally is food that is becoming hybridized with other foods that it couldn't otherwise naturally fuse with. Like pork with fish genes introduced to produce omega III fatty acids. Or the numerous fruit fusions such as pluots(plum apricots) and lematos(lemon tomatoes). These all sound pretty awesome in theory, we admittedly know very little about the results other than instant death, disease, or sterilization are none of the side effects. People are afraid of another asbestos: a seeming miracle product that will save the world right up until we find out about the cancer. And a little caution never hurt anyone, least of all science. If people like us are fine with eating from the genetically modified tree of knowledge, that's all well and good. But to simply quack "paranoia" at everyone who shows a little trepidation towards eating pork carrots(OK, an exaggeration, but still one with a point) doesn't exactly demonstrate a grasp of what the greater problem is here.

In addition to this we don't know of the potential allergens we may be creating through entirely new foodstuffs. Most of these things have never existed in nature before, and to make so many new kinds of food now carries the risk that certain people simply won't be able to consume it and won't even know this until their esophagus closes up.

More to the point, GMO carries other risks more tangibly. The introduction of stronger, modified products often results in the destruction of the untampered product. This is more easily controlled in animals, but in plants it's an absolute nightmare to keep under wraps. Just look at how many poor farmers companies like Monsanto sue because they happened accidentally have their crops infested with runaway spores and seeds from their GMO crops. This introduces massive legal confusion, and also makes it difficult for the "paranoid" to select crops that didn't start in a petri dish. Whether or not it actually is dangerous to consume, GMO is forcing itself out there against the will of the farmers and the frightened and uneducated masses.

Bottom line, GMO may be the savior of humanity(more efficient crops, healthier meat, awesome flavors), but we have no real way of knowing the effects, and thus people are cautious to embrace it. This isn't an experimental car or something, it's what we eat: a very tangible concept that hits pretty close to home for everyone. If all of a sudden someone introduced a new element into oxygen that survived the constant process of filtering in plants and animals and supposedly enhanced the performance of humanity, that would sound super-awesome, but we might still be reluctant about releasing mass quantites of that element into our air without a little more testing.

Yep, nail, head, hit.

OP: A very simple video that glosses over the important details. Not too impressive this week.

Oh, the guy posted this from his cell phone in the middle of Wario Woods. Give him a break.

Though there is quite a lot of misinformation in it. Maybe it was the Antithinker who made the video?

Feeding Edge

This week, Bob takes a bite out of "frankenfood."

I've been with you a lot in the past, that's why I check in on you every week, but you're way off on this one Bob. When we combine genes from an earthworm and a pig to make a pig that produces omega 3 fatty acids, like a fish, that is not the same as selective breeding. You don't need to be Gregor Mendell to figure out that if you want to stick a pig and an earthworm together in a room with the lights dimmed chances are all you're going to get is one pig and one appetizer. And that's where people start to have problems, when you create things that should never naturally be. I have no problem eating a potato that's got genes from an animal like a wasp or a bacteria in it, but I might take some umbrage if say, that potato were to start breeding with regular potatoes.

This poses serious ethical questions about man's place in upsetting the balance of nature and our ecology. It's fine for us to eat maize that poisons it's chief parasites, after all we grow food to eat it, but what happens when all corn poisons it's chief parasites? We've wiped out another species and any who relied on it and introduced another monoculture to the world. We've also introduced a gateway for cross-species disease vectors. A virus that effects both earthworms and pigs? Malarchy? Entirely possible at this point. And then there are the unforeseen consequences that we run into because humans are essentially screw-ups. That same corn I mentioned that kills it's parasites? Also kills Monarch Butterflies. Your advocation is to modify without consideration or moderation. Is it fair to say we know no better than medieval farmers? Given your trivialization over these legitimate concerns, perhaps some of us don't.

Also since when is stitching decaying stolen body parts together a part of defibrillation?

So in summation, thanks for misleading a lot of impressionable listeners this week Bob. It's only too bad thousands will hear your video this week but maybe 3 will see any post clarifying the matter. It might be nice if you say, read some of those posts next week, but I might be wrong to expect some kind of humility or respect from a man who made me listen to him arrogantly chew a carrot for 20 seconds while he chased a red herring. If you came back to reason at some point, you'll have to excuse me, I had my fill at "god damned heroes!" Oh and feel free to google any of the foods I mentioned, they're all real examples.

Yea, that sums up more or less what I've been saying about genetically engineered food for the past ten or so years.
Seriously, if there was a problem with it, a lot more people would have died because of it by now, probably including my self.

This is specious reasoning. When was the last time you were mauled by a Panda? Scare mongers do a lot to minimize your contact with GM's. For that matter, the only concerns are not that people will be bitterly poisoned from eating the forbidden fruit of "God's Domain". While I'm sure there are torch-bearing townsfolk concerned the food itself is dangerous, there are larger, more realistic concerns.

I'm sorry Bob. Normally I am with you but you are pretty much flat out wrong on this one.

What you got right: rhetorics of fear mongering are bad and promote blindly following emotional arguments.

What you got wrong: pretty much everything else. Selective breeding and genetic engineering are drastically different. Selective breeding attempts to control genes through sexual reproduction. Genetic engineering attempts to control genes through direct modification.

Wait, so what's so bad about that? You just go into the DNA, trade this protein string for that and bam, genetic engineering. NO. No, no, no, no. This is where your argument is fundamentally flawed. You can't just "go into DNA," you need a method by which to modify it. What's the primary tool for that? Viruses. And viruses have a tendency to spread. While this isn't scary in the immediate way of "oh no, I might get viruses," it is scary in the way of, "oh no, we are introducing engineered viruses and genetic modifications into the environment via the pollen, lost seed, and other reproductive material in our genetically engineered crops."

This may not have an immediately negative effect. This may not have an effect at all. But the reality is that WE HAVE NO CLUE (and with certain viruses engineering plants to be infertile, it could certainly mean big trouble). And here is where science and the government need to play a larger role. There is very little oversight of genetic modification of crops because, hey, everybody wants more and better food. But, the result is that we have relatively little info about what all this is really doing. Sometimes that has resulted in deaths from strange allergic reactions. And beyond that there is a larger potential threat to our crops and ecosystems.

So is genetic engineering franken-evil? No. Do we need a ton more testing before we start eating this food and introducing these crops to the larger world? Hell right we do. Progress is good. Blind progress, not so much.

*I am surprised you didn't do some more research. I expect better. Too bad you'll never see this comment :P

**Sorry to knitpick on a tangential point but your interpretation of Frankenstein is wrong too. Frankenstein wasn't bringing back life. He was creating new life using dead-tissue. I'm a student of literature and that is one of my many favs.

Briefly, concerning Monsanto:

They are indeed clearly evil bastards of the highest order, as far as I'm concerned. They aren't in this video because A.) actually covering them would be a whole episode in and of itself (don't think I'm not considering it) and B.) informed skepticism of corporate malfeasance is rather a seperate subject from uninformed hysteria against science.

That being said, IMO the misconception about Monsanto is that they do their dirty somehow "in spite of" the controversial nature of genetically-modified foods - as though if we were only MORE wary of such things they wouldn't get away with this stuff. Sorry, that doesn't pass the smell test. Y'know what would put a dent in Monsanto? Cutting into their defacto monopoly. A competing firm offering seed that was practically just as a good but less of an economic screwjob and/or environmental catastrophe would find customers and balance out the playing field. Imagine a thousand mid-sized farms, each with their own geneticist onhand to work on their "locally engineered" product. So why isn't anyone doing it?

Because they can't. Because the innevitable torches-n-pitchforks public outcry whenever the words "genetic engineering" come up has made the awarding of University or charity research grants toward such things a practical impossibility - if your a scientist and choose to make genetic research your field, you're essentially tattooing the word "supervillain" on your face as far as the popular culture is concerned. Federal funding? Forget it. Conservative lawmakers are going to do Big Biotech's bidding, and Liberal ones are beholden to the natural/local/organic food lobby; so neither "side" is going to help you. Monsanto and the others get to do whatever they want because they're the only players with enough money to stay on the field.

It's the old "when you outlaw guns, only outlaws have them" problem: When a culture decides to effectively "shut down" an entire field of science, all it does is create an environment where the field can - and WILL - be dominated by whoever has the most money to spend.

EDIT: Yikes... that should've read "don't think I'm not considering it," (hence the boldface.) With appologies for my crummy proofreading :)

I know this is a fairly minor complaint but if bob doesn't start pronouncing controversy correctly I'm going to stop watching. I just can't stop noticing it.

*I am surprised you didn't do some more research. I expect better. Too bad you'll never see this comment :P

Well I saw it man, it was an excellent post. Much respect. I felt much the same way you did.

Well, I for one look forward to the day cybernetically enhanced vegetables attack me with lasers in the grocery store.

Because they can't. Because the innevitable torches-n-pitchforks public outcry whenever the words "genetic engineering" come up has made the awarding of University or charity research grants toward such things a practical impossibility - if your a scientist and choose to make genetic research your field, you're essentially tattooing the word "supervillain" on your face as far as the popular culture is concerned.

As long as you're here would you mind addressing people who might not have torch and pitchfork concerns? There are a number of good ones on this page alone, and I'm sure several throughout the thread.

As usual I find that its the fear of what people DON'T know what's going into them is the problem.

People are concerned that you can plant DNA into food that would make to intercept government transmissions with your brain, or be compelled to buy Sony products... mmmmm Sony..... must buy sony products.................

Anyway - as with anything the science has enormous potential but as always "With great power comes great responsibility" (Sorry MovieBob :P)

If you could create crops that would grow to full size in days / hours instead of weeks, food that contained no fat and more good stuff than the 'original' then there is the potential to solve world hunger and make the world better (as long as there are no side effects)

Yes 'Natural genetic engineering' has had plenty of time to be tested and evolve to ensure that its safe, and I'm pretty sure that 'scientific genetic engineering' would also need time to be proven safe and pushing them through without testing is just irrisponsible if not down right dangerous.

The potential cannot be ignored simply out of fear of what could happen - its like when the car was invented people said that you couldn't drive over 10 mph else your skin would come off or something stupid like that. If we don't push the limits of science we'll never be able to create those food synthesisers you see on Star Trek!

The examples of 'frankinfoods' where genes have been splices from different sources to create weird and wonderful effects (hell yeah glow in the dark food!) is a little over the top - we can only hope that people doing this resource aren't the 'mad scientist' type who sit there laughing evilly to themselves and thinking of combining bananas with glow in the dark fish so that you could create bananas that would double as glow sticks! When the light goes out you can eat them! With that creation I could take over the world! Muhahahahahaha!

Hi Bob,
I don't normally write in the forums here, however I felt like I had something to add to your interesting topic regarding 'frankenfood.' I am a plant biochemist with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology. I have myself modified several plants genetically to turn things on and off as you refer to them and I have also closely followed the debates going on regarding the safety of the procedure.

You are absolutely right in saying that humans have been practicing the art of genetic engineering since before recorded history. With the advances of modern technology however, people like me are able to introduce new genes into the genomes of plants and animals. This is of course the fundamental point you completely missed in your video. The introduction of new genes, albeit from the same or different organism requires the use of selection markers that help us scientists know that the transformation was successful. Traditionally this is done with antibiotic resistance genes from bacteria. One of the big concerns is the lateral spread of these genes to other organisms or non-transformed plants resulting in an unwanted spread of a resistance gene.

The introduction of a foreign gene into an organism can also cause what is the most problematic issue regarding genetic modification. For example, the introduction of a gene which encodes a protein toxic to caterpillars. This kills off the pest and helps increase yields, however, like everything else in the world, there is a chance some people will be allergic to that protein and could die from it. The debate on the needs of the few outweighing the needs of the many could fill a large book, but I just wanted to introduce it to you.

In a nutshell, thanks for your video regarding 'frankenfood' and pointing out that we perform genetic engineering since ancient times. However, you oversimplified a topic that many people should be more well informed about before they make up their minds either way. There are ABSOLUTELY both ethical and safety issues surrounding this subject and I had to put in my 2 cents saying that its not an easy case of saying that the people against genetic modification are just crazy hippy nutjobs with nothing better to do.

Happy Holidays!

I think this fails to deal with other concerns. Genetically engineering crops includes putting entirely new genes in which have no history of being in that crop, for examply "anti-freeze" bacterial genes into tomatos. This is a step difference from selective breeding. This may have far wider environmental as well as health implications.

While I don't have a problem with these crops in general but I do think there is enough unknown to warrant further study and not to just dismiss people with concerns as not being aware of the facts.

Selective breeding (I.e with carrots and cows) and genetic engineering are not the same thing. Neither are bad, just genetic engineering isn't just shutting on and off genes its making potatoes provide the correct proteins so they can be used for vaccinations (for human diseases) something which would never happen no matter how many potatoes you bred together.

Agreed - genetic engineering via elective breeding is a significantly different process/issue than genetic engineering through directly tampering with the genetic code. Breeding for specific traits has an equalizing effect that occurs over time with centuries of experience to guide the perpetrators.

Just flipping switches by poking around in the bits is still an activity in it's infancy. Not being cautious about changing the way we create what we eat is foolhardy at best. I don't expect that there will be a problem, but not testing and not evaluating baits trouble.

Man! Bob!

I registered just so i can post here. I been following your stuff Bob. And every time a new video pops out you fall deeper in my eyes.

You know your stuff about movies. But your recommendations doesn't worth two pennies. Saying things like "Social Network" is a good film. I would kill my self from shame. A totally empty shell made only to scrape money at box office.

But man

Talking this way about GMO ... and not only this. Being totally ignorant. Comparing selective breeding with genetic engineering. Just made me laugh.

First off dude.

Come over to Europe. And taste the same carrot , this time not genetic engineered.

This alone is deal breaker.

But should we talk about animal genes being introduced into plants ?

Shall we talk about next to no testing for side effects over time ?

Shall we talk about Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease ?

That carrot you just ate , yes it tastes like plastic. But thats beside point. You americanos are used to such tastes by now. But you are introducing something into your system that is basically a cat in a sack. Nobody knows how it affects human body over the time. You are the test bunny.

But shall we talk about harm to the eco system ?

I guess in your limited point of view - it was developed by scientists - and they are smart - so it must be good !

What an embarrassing video.

This is an incredibly vapid piece that could have come straight out of a Monsanto marketing pamphlet.

What you describe in the first half of the video is actually called breeding, not genetic engineering. The carrot you ate has not been genetically engineered. You could however drink some soy milk or even cola containing HFCS made from corn.

In the second half of the video, you make fun of Frankenstein and point out that we regularly use electricity to revive dead people. This shows a complete lack of understanding of the field of science fiction. Ironic given that you also claim to be a movie reviewer.

I will try to explain it in simple terms for you, they did not have defibrillators in the nineteen century. The goal of a science fiction story is to make us think about how some "future" technology will affect our lives. Not just from a practical use point but also to examine the morality of its use.

Your lack of understanding about science fiction extends to the whole video. At no point do you examine the consequences of moving breeding into the labs in the form of genetic engineering. You seem to assume that people who question technology and progress must be stupid. The name Frankenfood comes from a desire to examine both the positive and negative impacts of this new technology.

What negative impacts could there be from GMO?

1 - In normal breeding, you breed animals that are quite similar. There has been hundreds of years of testing to show that these are safe to eat. Is corn with a new gene taken from a fish safe to eat? Is it considered safe after just six months of testing?

2 - GMO moves the process out of the hands of millions of farmers into the hands of small groups of scientists. Does this negatively affect the farmers?

3 - These small groups of scientists can only look at a limited amount so the thousands of species of corn get concentrated into a small number of GMO varieties. Is this possibly dangerous if those new varieties are all affected by a new disease?

4 - It takes a lot of money to do this so most of these scientists work for corporations. Could this possibly take breeding out of the public domain shared by farmers into the private hands of a few corporations?

5 - Most corporations like to patent their inventions so they can profit off them. Decades of breeding come to a halt for a period of 65 years as soon as the corporation patents a single gene in a plant, like say a resistance to the most popular herbicide, Roundup. Could this possibly hurt society as science waits for the patent protection period to end?

6 - Corporations need to profit from their research so they have large budgets to force compliance from farmers using lawsuits. A single farmer doesn't have the financial means to fight so they settle. Could this be giving too much power to these corporations to dictate their relationships with farmers?

7 - Gaining control over the patented seeds, corporations can force farmers to sign complex contracts where the farmers have to give up the right to collect and reuse the seed for planting next season's crop. If farmers no longer have any control over their own seed, does this give control of the food process over to corporations?

As they say, ignorance is bliss. ;)

Genetically engineered?

Edit: What was that screen shot of The Princess' Bride at 1:25 about? Oh right! I forgot about that bit.

Mind sharing? I still have no idea. :O


This was GREAT. Well done.


Probably because it's burning up millions of taxpayer dollars to just send highly trained people on a vacation in the void. Until we find something out there that's actually worth the cost of getting to it (i.e., natural resources or an inhabitable planet) then it's really not worth the cost.

This is an incredibly vapid piece that could have come straight out of a Monsanto marketing pamphlet.

For those out of the know, Monsanto is basically the Umbrella Corporation of food. And you are completely right, Aolis. Only point you missed there is the fact that these newly implanted genes are now mingling with existing breeds of crops, and once these genes are there they can never be removed. If they do prove to be dangerous, we'll be stuck with them. Then we're basically forced to burn the GM corn, eat it and suffer those negative effects, or hope to God that someone saved some unaltered seed.

Imagine a thousand mid-sized farms, each with their own geneticist onhand to work on their "locally engineered" product.

So that's your reaction?
No "sorry for trying to teach without having a clue"?
Not even "sorry, I oversimplified"?
I'm really disappointed. And I'm even more shocked about the comments here. I feel sad and helpless about this display of ignorance.

Really, the comments here changed my view on people. Not because they do not share my opinion but because they are uninformed, refuse to educate themselves but still voice their preconceptions. Does nobody want to know how things really work? Does nobody want to change the world for the better instead for the worse for a change?

This is a good episode. I never actually heard the truth of the matter, just the propaganda. I just never cared enough to look into it. Well, that and when it was a bigger issue I was a kid.

IMO the misconception about Monsanto is that they do their dirty somehow "in spite of" the controversial nature of genetically-modified foods - as though if we were only MORE wary of such things they wouldn't get away with this stuff. Sorry, that doesn't pass the smell test.

It doesn't pass the "smell test" because you pulled that strawman out of your ass. That's not a misconception about Monsanto, that's a viewpoint that has not been expressed in a thread with over 400 replies, and I sure haven't heard it when working with issues involving agribusiness. And that crap about cutting out Monsanto's "monopoly?"

Seriously, Bob, you have no idea what you're talking about. None. You're spewing complete disinformation; epic-level bullshit. It's almost like you're trolling the entire Escapist site.

Monsanto isn't a "monopoly" resulting from a lack of market initiative. It's a freakin' criminal organization. It bribes legislators and government regulators to get its way. It steals from farmers. It practices legal chicanery. It encourages mass starvation. It has egged on hundreds, if not thousands, of suicides in India.

You're using a market concept to try to conceptualize a criminal actor. Wtf is wrong with you on this issue? It's like you've bet someone money you could be more wrong here than anyone on earth.

. . . the innevitable torches-n-pitchforks public outcry whenever the words "genetic engineering" come up has made the awarding of University or charity research grants toward such things a practical impossibility . . .

Bob, if you were anymore full of shit your posts could single-handedly end the worldwide demand for petrochemical fertilizer. The idea that public outrage is holding back Monsanto isn't just stupid, it's a vile lie. Monsanto and agribusiness in general tramples over the public interest like an elephant over an anthill every single day. Right now, right this minute there's legislation pending that will place huge regulatory burdens on small farmers that make it difficult for them to store seeds, regulation that serves no saftey purpose, purely to make buying seed from Monsanto more attractive. Corporations can already patent entire genomes, a practice that is de jure illegal but that the patent office allowed in a fit of industry-funded stupidity. Entire nations are fighting tooth and nail with the WTO to keep Monsanto's contamination from screwing up foodstuffs that they've been growing for literally milennia -- and you're thinking that this is comparable to gun control?!

No one is "shutting down" genetic engineering. The only place such restrictions are occuring is in your own fevered, incoherent imagination. You wouldn't be more delusional if your next rant accused the Freemasons and the Bavarian Illuminati of being behind the scornful oppression of agribusiness concerns.

But if you were to move onto such equally unfactual lies, at least your absurdities would convince no one and would be somewhat amusing.

People have been calling you on these lies for quite some time now Bob. It's becoming really obnoxious. You're not just wrong, you're encouraging people to believe something that is horribly wrong. I mean, what do you call someone caught in a multitude of destructive lies who, having been found out, blissfully revels in another smug delusion instead of apologizing?

i do agree with what bobs saying, i only don't like how seed companies make their seed with a terminator (stops plants from making seed) "so farmers don't have to take extra time plowing their field getting rid of excess seed" yeah sure thats the only reason

I didn't notice your response when I made my post.

Briefly, concerning Monsanto:
They are indeed clearly evil bastards of the highest order, as far as I'm concerned.

I am not trying to say Monsanto is evil or that they have done anything illegal. Can anyone be surprised that any corporation, whose only legal goal is to make money, doesn't make the best moral choice for society? I point out Monsanto to show how they profit at the expense of farmers, consumers and society in general; and that we allow them to do so. They did not intend to, nor was it illegal for them, to take actions that led to mass crop failures and famine. It came from embracing a new technology without considering all the ramifications. Something that this very video is suggesting that we do.

This is an issue that has been growing for 50 years. G.E. was not invented yesterday and the public is not reacting with mass hysteria. People see the negative impacts that this technology has been creating from the way it has been implemented. They are raising warning flags.

My power as a consumer is to choose to buy products from companies that I support. If I have no way to tell if my corn is using a patented gene or not, my only logical recourse is to ban GMO altogether as has been done in Europe. This is not the same as "torches-n-pitchforks public outcry". It is a rational response to a situation consumers have little power over.

Imagine a thousand mid-sized farms, each with their own geneticist onhand to work on their "locally engineered" product. So why isn't anyone doing it?


Federal funding? Forget it.

Farmers were already doing this in the form of selective breeding. Why would they have invest billions into a brand new research field? Not to mention that they are in the business of farming, not genetic research.

Both the US and Canadian governments have poured billions of dollars into biotechnology. So biotech companies have had a huge financial advantage over the farmers for decades.

The important thing to note is that in the fifties, the farmers did not realize how important all of this would become. They are now starting to realize that they have lost control over their own seeds. Their profit margins have dropped and seed companies profit margins have grown. Monsanto now has control over the whole vertical food chain from seed to supermarket.

You think a thousand farms are going to come out of nowhere and challenge one of the largest corporations in the world? And that the only thing stopping these farmers is public outcry with a side dose of "supervillain"? Any scientist working for farmers would be hailed as a hero. They would also be cut out of the field. Research takes cooperation, which the corporations do not do without some benefit to themselves. Even university researchers have a hard time doing research in this field.

You could just blame the farmers and call them dumb. But their loss affects the very fabric of our society. I feel responsible for creating this situation and am not about to let them go quietly.

I thought carrots started off white and then mutated into different colors.

I think Bob needs to recognise the difference between artificial selection and genetic modification. They are not as similar as he makes out.
Still I'm glad he's doing his part to un-demonise the topic. When my friends and family ask me about it (I'm studying for my biochemistry degree) I explain that all insulin comes from genetically modified E. Coli and that hasn't caused problems.

Monoculture has a way of killing off other plants if the intended crop is more resilient. That's the risk; fucking up our ecosystems to feed our own greedy asses.
Maybe I'm a hippy.

I'm digging that bit of jazz you have going.
But yes, good video, I never did know about purple carrots before, fascinating.

I have to admit im giggling a little bit at the number of people willing to put long purple sticks in their mouths but before shit gets Freudian I'll throw my two cents in behind Bob for the first time in a while.

Genetically engineered foods are fine because without them we wouldn't be as strong as we are today, you cant get as much nutrients and on such a large scale with the ancient strains of foods.
But I personally don't want too see too much nutrient boosting in my foods because if we become used too that level of good healthy chemicals in our food, when that level drops it has a bad effect on us and our bodies struggle to deal with it. Its kind of why I don't use alot of medicine like asparin or pain killers. I don't use them for every niggling little pain I have because if I did they would have less of an effect when I really need them.
I know it would take a major diet shift in order to get the kind of effects I'm talking about but I just don't want to get close to that.

Anyway lets back away from my mad ideas and back too the video.

Yeah frankenfood discussions piss me off. You should have seen the sheer volume of dribble when people discovered their foods were being sprayed with pesticides.

Bob, currently altering genes manually (in a lab) tends to end up creating carcinogenic chemicals in the foods, at least when it comes to fruits and veggies.




Anyone seen the episode of Penn and Teller: Bullshit that covers this?

Yeah, I loved that episode, particularly the blind taste test segments. :)

Ugh, don't get me started on that absolute crock of a show...

What's wrong with it? I mean sure they're biased but they admit it.

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