The Big Picture: Feeding Edge

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Thank you moviebob. This was an awesome video.

dastardly:

MovieBob:
Feeding Edge

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

Watch Video

When it comes right down to it, you're right. I think the problem is that people group everything in the "genetic engineering" field into one of two controversial categories:

1) Eugenics - the idea that we're going to "selectively breed" humans, as enforced by law, in an effort to remove certain diseases (and later, any 'undesirable' trait) from the gene pool. This line of discussion flirts with Godwin's Law, so we'll leave it at that.

2) Genetic tampering - Not just switching extant genes off and on, but introducing new traits... like a potato with lips. Amazing how one made of plastic is a timeless child's toy, while a real one with real lips is suddenly an abomination. This comes back to the old, "Man must not tamper in God's domain!" deal, but also comes back to our fear that someone is going to engineer an accidentally-apocalyptic supercritter (be it a hyper-locust or velociraptor)

So, basically, you can thank Gattaca and Jurassic Park for the fact that no one can say "genetic engineering" without being stuffed behind a tiny half-mustache and a Swastika (See? Godwin's Law!)

YOU BETRAYED IT!

I recently posted something in the Politics regarding the idea of a one world state and found it worth mentioning that most of the taboo and boogeyman nature of it come from a little science fiction writer born Eric Blair. Though his work was ver necessary at the time when fascism and communism really were becoming major threats to humanity, his shadow is still cast when it comes time to discuss international governments, or even to really act like anyone can ever trust a government (1).

This is a similar situation, though different. Progressives regularly fear things that aren't necessarilly organic, and that fear is justified when it comes to the topic of factory farming, but the genetic engineering of food doesn't qualify.

(1) As a son of a military couple, I can say with ease that, yes, you most certaiy can.

HankMan:
...
Edit: What was that screen shot of The Princess' Bride at 1:25 about?

He was talking about misunderstood definitions. In an earlier scene in the movie, Inigo Montoya famously says to Vizzini, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means".

Ehhh... overall I agree with you Bob, and I know you didn't have a lot of time to put the full argument in there for context, but you made some statements that weren't exactly true. Selective breeding isn't genetic engineering. The reason it really is genetic engineering instead of just rapid breeding is that they introduce traits into foods that probably would have never shown up there to begin with, and they do it in a way that would have been impossible typically.

The way it's done (and I'm simplifying) is they take something simple like a virus that adapts traits to itself very easily, and has it adapt the trait they are looking for into itself. Then they take a "gene gun" (not kidding, they refer to to thing as that) and blast the simple organism into the food that needs the new trait. The simple organism that has picked up the trait then basically drops off the new gene. So you could take a gene for weather resistance that existed in another food and put it in say.. a tomato. The largest scale deployment of this was the development of "round up ready" crops like corn and soybeans. While farmers used to have to work their asses off to keep large scale growing of these crops from being demolished by weeds and other plants, they can now just spray round up over the crop, and it will kill everything except the round up ready crops. It's pretty cool, though that tactic alone is capable of creating super weeds... however that isn't really the issue.

The hysteria comes from the FDA and how they decided to treat this new technology. Remember that scientists work hand in hand with engineers, business men, and shareholders. Now won't ever interact with all of those people, but their bosses do. When this new technology appeared, they realized very quickly how much hardship genetic engineering could eliminate. However, the FDA has principles about how they operate, and so did the scientists. You could not realistically perform long term testing on every new gene introduced, it would ensure that a product never went to market. So the FDA worked with all of the groups I mentioned and allowed GM foods to be protected by "substantial equivalence". That is what it sounds like, they said GM foods were essentially the same, and required no further testing. So scientists will go through the short-term testing periods for each gene only, leaving the long term effects of those foods in the air. This has led to people questioning whether these foods cause cancer or any other number of issues that we have run into for the last couple decades.

So are these foods good? Yes, I think so. However, they do have a number of very bad political effects attached to them. Food lobbies are huge, and those huge food lobbies have made it legal to patent any original genes they come up with. You can't patent a gene that is widely known in another plant, but things like round-up ready corn and soybeans are protected. This sounds good in concept, but it has led to many problems. Cross-pollination (which is very common among plants) of those plants is now recognized by the law as copyright infringement. Many farmers are now forced to use those crops exclusively for fear of their own plants being cross-pollinated and being taken to court. That sort of thing happens ALL THE TIME. Monsanto, Cargill etc are always snooping around and making sure that their copyrights are protected because they make millions each year fleecing people. That same process is the same reason that there was such political fallout that resulted in a number of African nations from getting GM crops.

Well that was a horrifying text wall, and that was the simplified versions of everything... TL;DR version: GM foods = not that bad. GM politics = horrible protectionist garbage that needs to be done away with.

Shit, I'm just done with finals. I do not fell like doing your research. The ENTIRE GENOME IS SCREWED OVER with the addition of the choice chemicals. The process of injecting the amino acids into the seed to produce the desired result is like trying to flip my kitchen switch with a howitzer: I might not need all the walls around the switch to remain intact, but how am I to know that one of those walls isn't the kitchen stove?

Plus, I've heard somewhere that purple carrots are much better for you.

Anyway, a very good "Big Picture", looking forward to next weeks!

theultimateend:
Apples and Oranges here.

Your original example is of genetic alterations that could happen naturally.

Your second example is using techniques to create outcomes that could never happen in the natural world no matter how much a horse and a cow have sex.

Creating crops that produce their own insecticides (very powerful ones) is a bad idea. It creates shitty food and doesn't stop the insects.

So yeah, fun story, but comparing apples to oranges makes the rest of your point pretty weak.

Keep in mind, I love science (and your videos), but at least understand the topic enough to recognize the differences before you make a video about it :/.

PS. I think the word that sprung to my mind watching that video was "Pedantry".

Ok, by actually working at a lab that is involved in investigating bioinsecticides and their eventual use in crops, I have to say your statement is BS. They are not shitty food, or shitty cotton, or shitty anything. You probably wouldn't even be able to tell them apart from the unmodified one unless I told you which one is which. Aaaaand they do kill the insects. They kill them pretty damn well. So well, in fact, that the problem is that one is creating a very strong selective pressure that pushes the insect population into developing resitant traits. Which does happen. Every day faster. I have the data, the pictures and the bibliography. I will supply it if needed.

The only REAL threat GM organisms pose to anything is to biodiversity. I will not say that's not true because that would be a lie. However, careful management of seeds and pollen reduces those risks.

EDIT: By the way, i'm talking about GM crops that produce proteins, not those coherced into manufacturing chemicals KNOWN to be harmful. That's just nonsense.

Austin Howe:
I recently posted something in the Politics regarding the idea of a one world state and found it worth mentioning that most of the taboo and boogeyman nature of it come from a little science fiction writer born Eric Blair. Though his work was ver necessary at the time when fascism and communism really were becoming major threats to humanity, his shadow is still cast when it comes time to discuss international governments, or even to really act like anyone can ever trust a government (1).

This is a similar situation, though different. Progressives regularly fear things that aren't necessarilly organic, and that fear is justified when it comes to the topic of factory farming, but the genetic engineering of food doesn't qualify.

(1) As a son of a military couple, I can say with ease that, yes, you most certaiy can.

Lol. Sometimes you can, but I'd think being the son of a military couple would dissuade you from trusting the government. I refer you to...
Bikini atoll
the syphilis experiments
the LSD experiments
agent orange
etc. etc.

Your parents must have been officers. They're called GI's for a reason.

Also yes the genetic engineering of food definitely qualifies. Read just a few of the above posts, artificial genetic enhancement is far more dangerous than selective breeding.

Not very happy with this one Bob. This very glib presentation has been refuted by other posters far better than I ever could. If your problem is with hollywoodesque stupidity and mainstream media fear mongering, then yes I believe you've got something to argue. My question then would be, "Why the hell I should heed the advice of a gaming websites movie critic or a couple of conservative comedian/magicians on a topic so imporatant as the food we eat, how it affects our lives, and coporations dicking around with it?"

To provide some sort of counterpoint, the concern with GMOs is inadvertently creating an invasive species by making changes that, say, make an organism reproduce much faster than before, or allow it to avoid some of its usual predators (perhaps the changes that increase the nutrient content in foods also make its common predators unable to identify it, allowing it to spread very fast).

Invasive species have caused enormous amounts of damage over the course of history (just look at Australia's rabbit problem) and once released they're incredibly difficult to stop. The chances of inadvertently making a safe crop into an invasive species are low, but it can be very hard to test.

Another concern is that changes to the nutrient content of crops is that they will result in the crop having insufficient amounts of a currently unknown yet important nutrient. New discoveries about nutrition continue to this day, so it's something to consider when you start talking about replacing a nation's staple crop.

Ultimately, it comes down to how much risk you're willing to take, anyway, I thought this discussion could use another viewpoint.

I don't think you people realize the gravy-ity of this situation, THERE ARE ROBOT TOMATOES TERRORISTS!!!

First point: I am not afraid of G.E. food.
Second point: It is actually risky doing G.E. in a lab the way you describe. Mainly because we don't understand genetics enough to know exactly what will happen. We can guess but we can never be sure. We may change corn to be bigger or easier to grow, but it may also turn it blue. It is slightly more unpredictable then controlled breeding. That doesn't mean we shouldn't make it, or eat it. The people that make a fuss don't understand this anyway so it's kind of moot.

A better way to put this is, controlled breeding is like a flip of the coin, it works or it doesn't. G.E. in a lab is like a multi sided die. You know how many sides it has, but not what numbers. So you don't know what will come out in the end. It doesn't mean you should be afraid of the result.

SpcyhknBC:
Thank you very much Bob for this. Speaking as someone who is currently studying this field, it's great to see someone actually dispelling people's fears. Now, where did I put the DNA to make those living bagpipes?

Also fun field in this vein, synthetic biology, or the making of biological toys, like bacteria which can solve sudoku.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/18/e-coli-bacteria-solve-sud_n_785494.html

hey can you answer to this guy?

Sarkis:
As a chef, I get a lot of information about GMO's.

And frankly yes, just because its altered does not mean is dangerous. The only cause for concern is that when you alter food slightly over generations the body adapts to it. And hybridizing and husbandry combine the genes of the same species.

GMO's can have very harmful side effects, but it is by no means assured. Simple scientific testing can determine its saftety.

The REAL problem is that this testing is not done, and the FDA does not even require biotech firms to tell them if their food is genetically modified.

Im pretty sure he's spouting bullshit, and he has little to no actual knowlege of the field, but just wanted to make sure.

The people against genetically modified foods will often site experiments and act as if these foods are meant for consumption. They are not, they are just experiments to better understand the genetics of the subjects.

Genetically engineered crops are the most heavily tested crops. They are regulated by the EPA, USDA, and the FDA. The EPA regulates them if there is a pesticide involved, the USDA for how they are grown and how it will effect the environment, and the FDA for food safety. It takes millions of dollars of testing and many years to be able to be approved as a commercial crop.

Bottled water is only regulated by the FDA but, tap water is regulated by the EPA.

I can't look at the purple carrot and imagine it tastes like a carrot and not like a beet.

I am a weak urban failure of a man.

For future reference what you showed at 3:32 is a C-arm its often used during interventional radiology procedures.

Wow Moviebob, way to undermine the dangers of GMOs. This is (by far) the worst video you've put out as far as accuracy is concerned. Genetically modified food is extremely different from selective breeding: You cannot ever put fish genes into strawberries in nature, that can only be done in a lab. Or virus DNA into a soybean. Not to mention the fact that laws on GMOs are completely slanted in the favor of large food corps like Monsantos and leave small farmers (a practically endangered breed themselves) to wilt under the weight of looming lawsuits if their crops happen to become cross-contaminated with GMO DNA (which happens frequently because GMOs are bred to be hardy and grow quickly). You didn't even bother to mention the problems of things like pork being crossed with human DNA for a leaner bacon or that genetically modified organisms can greatly harm the natural environment in the same way that cane toads did for Australia... I don't know what you were thinking, but I can't even begin to explain how disgusted I am with you. I thought you were using your nerd powers for good (lamenting the lost space program, drawing similarities between otherwise opposed social groups such as nerds and sports fanatics, even explaining comics for the non-comic book loving people out there), but this is just completely over simplified bullsh*t. You're concern is the scare tactics of GMOs by the natural food movement or 'Frankenfood' verbage? Well congrats, you've done nothing but join the other end: the food lobbyists, the corporate bullies and the scientist that won't curtail releasing new organisms without proper long term testing for fear of lost funding.

Just stick to the movie critiques; you're really, really good at it and it doesn't take much in the way of research. You're like a pretty girl who isn't very bright... Stick with your strengths (and marry a rich man while you're young).

eh selective breeding and genetically modified foods arent the same thing...

if it was as simple as 1 gene creating 1 protein, their would not even be an issue. Until we unlock what genes do what in what other, Id rather just continue to eat my selectively breed food.

I can't wait for everything to be genetically modified!!

Gah! I want my purple carrots back!

Stupid orange ones. XD

Uhm, srsly guys, this is pure trolling.

To equate selective breeding with genetic engeneering is smart if you are a PR drone but I really do not expect to see gen-science propaganda BS on the Escapist. Bob hit rock bottom with this one.

Breeding is something fundamentally different from manipulating genes directly. Did you know that? Yes? Then why do you try to make us believe otherwise? No? Then why didn't you read a bit about it before making this video?

/edit: After reading a few pages of comments I am genuinely shocked about how uninformed most comments are. They are mainly variations of "thank you for giving me a simplified explanation so I do not need to feel bad that the experts know so much more about the subject." Genetic engineering is something radically new. Yes, we can manipulate genes but we have almost no idea of the consequences. Scientists can engineer living organisms with properties that are unnatural. Some of these organisms are not viable, others are extremely dominant and can eliminate other species which cannot adapt to the man-made changes fast enough. GE has lots of implications most of which are not understood at all. To play these implications down is stupid and irresponsible.

keserak:
Bob is absolutely full of shit.

super snip

Dude, seriously? You decry Bob for oversimplying a complex issue, which is fine, but you do it arguing with a tone that implies you have all the info. Guess what? To me, a scientist actually in the field to genetic engineering, and a little into transgenic plant development, you look the same way. I don't have the time right now to counter all the wrong points in your reply (which are not all of them since several are quite valid), but I will say this: I don't like Monsanto too much, mostly because of how they negotiate and other business and political practices. They are like Wal-Mart in a certain way. Their science, however, is much more solid than what you've been allowed to know since a lot of the protocols are trade secrets. Do you actually know how long it takes from the idea of introducing x or y thing into a crop to it reaching the supermarket? It's about 9-11 years. The least. Most of that time is used in a lot of cycles of testing and selecting for normal growth, non-toxicity, pilot field tests, developing control and delivery methods to avoid unwanted spread and a LOT of other steps. Before you go out and say that "Monsanto and allies" have no controls and do no testing please familiarize yourself with the actual process of creating GM crops. It takes LONGER than developing pharmaceuticals, and you know, it's not regulated by the FDA. The department of agriculture is in charge of that.

Also, interest in profit goes both ways on the benefit scale. You think they skimp on controls and tests, etc, etc, to cut down costs? It is also in their interest NOT to skimp on this, since any slip up opens the door to huge legal backlash in lawsuits, loss of patents and HUGE economical set backs.

The whole suicide-seed is a horrible business. Not all GM companies work that way. Stop with the generalizations because you end up glossing over the actual complexities just as you accuse Bob of doing.

EDIT: oops...my bad. FDA is kind of somewhere in there, but the Agriculture department also handles it. Just checked. Apparently it's waaaay more paperwork than I thought. You people in the US have too much jumping through hoops sometimes. Although, in this case, it means more people have to agree to let a product out into the market. Again, politics are the main issue here, not the biology.

The scare isn't about people dying from GM vegetables. It's the lack of testing done to ensure that the GM round-up resistent vegetables don't pass their round-up resistence to normal weeds. Which would cause serious problems.

Sepiida:
First of all allow me to say that I completely agree with everything stated in this video. That being said:

While you're certainly correct that a large part of the controversy of GM crops is just ignorant fear-mongering your comparison with traditional farming isn't quite spot on. A big issue many people have is that agribusiness is taking traits from other species and splicing them into foods that said traits have never evolved in. Now that sounds a lot worse than it actually is but there is still some cause for concern. GM is still a technology in its infancy and we still don't have a good idea about what a lot of genes do or how they interact with one another. So yes, there is plenty of idiocy within the GM foods controversy but there is also a sliver of sense.

No there isn't any sense in the GM food controversy the folks that oppose GM foods are using scare tactics and false information. Without GM foods the worlds organic supply can only feed 4 billion people. There are roughly 7 billion people on the planet; which 3 billion do folks think should starve? Me not a god dang one bring on the GM foods!

Pariahwulfen:
Attaaaaaaaaaaaack of the killer tomatoes!!!

bravo to you sir

HOLY SHIT! that's a blast from the past! wow i completely forgot that show existed, i wish i could remember more of it than the 2 sec blurb from the theme song you just conjured up for me.

*EDIT* btw i'm remembering a cartoon, i guess it was a movie at some point too?

Its like everyone saw that one episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog and took it as fact.

You know, the one where they're in the dome and all the food comes to life and tries to eat them. Good episode.

Still, nice video. It'd be nice if more people saw it. But since it makes some sense it'll be ignored by the general public.

wasalp:

geierkreisen:
-snip-

yup, creating seedless plants is the truly dangerous part of geneticaly enginering food, because lets face it corporations do and will continue doing this.

Hmmm...think about this for a second. If the plant can't make seeds it's because its reproduction cycle is truncated. Therefore, how could it breed with a wild type plant? Or, if it did, how would it poison and destroy the rest of that wild type population? There would be no offspring and therefore no continued effect. It would all stop after one round of crossing.

For example, there are factories (yes, factories) that produce sterile flies to control (not obliterate) certain pests. They have to keep making them since nature will easily walk by past any dead end organism that can't breed. The wild type population continues to grow and reproduce, just a minor part of it will breed with sterile flies. The ones that don't will maintain the population.

Full metal!!!!!!!

Why has no one yet pointed out that the story about orange carrots and William of orange is not true? see here:

http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history.html

I hate it when people continue to perpetuate these popular historical myths.

Onyx Oblivion:
Freaking fear-mongering media.

Trying to make stupid people scared of nothing.

Indeed I found this quite educational. Especially the Carrot part :D

This was kind of oversimplifying things, if you want a more detailed look into the benefits of genetically engineered food I suggest looking up some of Norman Borlaug's analysis. The man definitely knows what he's talking about, what with creating the Green Revolution and what-not.

He actually earned his Nobel Prize, which is more then I can say for certain other people haha.

rhizhim:

dastardly:

MovieBob:
Feeding Edge

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

Watch Video

When it comes right down to it, you're right. I think the problem is that people group everything in the "genetic engineering" field into one of two controversial categories:

1) Eugenics - the idea that we're going to "selectively breed" humans, as enforced by law, in an effort to remove certain diseases (and later, any 'undesirable' trait) from the gene pool. This line of discussion flirts with Godwin's Law, so we'll leave it at that.

2) Genetic tampering - Not just switching extant genes off and on, but introducing new traits... like a potato with lips. Amazing how one made of plastic is a timeless child's toy, while a real one with real lips is suddenly an abomination. This comes back to the old, "Man must not tamper in God's domain!" deal, but also comes back to our fear that someone is going to engineer an accidentally-apocalyptic supercritter (be it a hyper-locust or velociraptor)

So, basically, you can thank Gattaca and Jurassic Park for the fact that no one can say "genetic engineering" without being stuffed behind a tiny half-mustache and a Swastika (See? Godwin's Law!)

YOU BETRAYED IT!

The Log!? The Lawn? The Lodge!? What are they saying!?!

McShizzle:
Not very happy with this one Bob. This very glib presentation has been refuted by other posters far better than I ever could. If your problem is with hollywoodesque stupidity and mainstream media fear mongering, then yes I believe you've got something to argue. My question then would be, "Why the hell I should heed the advice of a gaming websites movie critic or a couple of conservative comedian/magicians on a topic so imporatant as the food we eat, how it affects our lives, and coporations dicking around with it?"

Because you heard the arguments from both sides and the hippies in greenpeace have no idea what they are talking about, whether it is genetics or agriculture. Besides when did Greenpeace save a billion people from starvation? Hint: It never did, that was Dr. Norman Borlaug who introduced new strains of wheat, rice, and other agricultural technologies to other parts of the world. If your going to bed with full bellies you have no right to protest GM foods. Oh and you spelled important and corporations wrong, bub.

his rant about Frankenstein went to far and used far to many generalizations. In reality whenever someone uses the word frankenfood they probably have no idea what frankenfood even means other than franken = bad. The beast in the original book is far more gruesome far more evil and far more dangerous than what was explained in this episode. To clarify the entire reanimation idea is only one avenue by witch Frankenstein's monster could have been created, because by the descriptions in the book they are made so general that it could have been a being made from scratch like a robot, or a baby in a mechanical womb. The entire idea of the book was not that tampering with nature is scary, but that tampering with nature is like playing the cosmic lottery with other people's lives in the name of knowledge and that in return all you get is suffering. This is shown by the comparison between Dr. Frankenstein and the ship captain who finds him at the grips of death, while the ship captain try's to discover the north pole. Most of the book was designed to indicate that people are meant to be born and die and that tampering with this fact by adding people being created by a whole new option leaves a whole plethora of problems and questions the likes of witch would shatter our would as we know it.

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