Mod+ Discussion - Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe? Should they be labeled?

Should GMO foods be labeled?

  • Yes

    Votes: 18 78.3%
  • No

    Votes: 1 4.3%
  • Not sure

    Votes: 4 17.4%

  • Total voters
    23
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Will post some articles, though it's hard to shift through and figure out who is scaremongering based on prior beliefs about Nature and such, who is bought and sold by Monsanto and other such companies, etc.

Curious as to the board's thoughts.
 
#2
This is a good read on the topic.

http://www.nongmoproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GMO-Myths-and-Truths-edition2.pdf

I think at the very least, we have to say we're not sure GMOs are safe.

If they can put all that other labeling on cartons, surely they can label for GMOs, so why don't we? If they have nothing to hide and are so confident in their technology, why not share it, let it be openly studied, don't keep study details propriety and hidden from the public and, lastly, label it. If GMOs are so great, people will be proud to buy stuff that is labeled as containing GMOs.

In full disclosure, I strongly suspect we're ultimately going to find out GMOs are "poison" ;-)

Apparently Frito Lay willingly labeled some stuff on their own. I was eating a bag of chips the other day and was shocked to see a label that said sourced with genetically modified ingredients, or something similar. It would be cool if they didn't use GMO, but I thought it was at least pretty cool to inform the customer, especially when they don't have to do so by law.
 
#6
Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe? Should they be labeled?
I can't see how you would know without a substantial and independent testing regime. Unfortunately when I last looked at GMO's a few years ago, we didn't have anything like that sort of testing regime. I think genome shock, stability, degrees of freedom, and genetic migration are all problems for this technology. I think it should be labelled. I also have a very strong aversion to the idea that somebody can patent a living organism, particularly around the area of food.
 
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#7
I'm honestly not sure where the extreme fear of/aversion to GMO's are coming from. For an elective credit in college I took an intro to biotechnology course at which time genetic modification was in its infancy and I thought it was such an awesome technology. Allowing food to grow where it otherwise would be difficult and helping others to protect against insects or diseases that can destroy crops. For many developing countries it's the difference between a full belly and starvation.

As Malf said, humans have engaged in genetic modification of food stuffs since we figured out that genetics was a thing.

If anything, genetic modification methods have allowed for much more precise modifications to be made, so I think it could possibly be less
harmful than traditionally modified crops. Moreover, if we can engineer crops to grow without needing fertilizer or pesticides (not sure if this is entirely possible) then that would be a plus in my book.

Much of the fear laden propaganda I've seen against GMOs seem to be mostly against Monsanto, so it's ultimately more about anti-corporatism than it is health concerns. Which may be a valid concern, but the fear mongering only hurts their case.

Another issue is that everything I've read regarding how "unsafe" GMOs are includes a list of symptoms and diseases that run the gamut of your average medical encyclopedia. When any given additive, preservative, chemical, etc. is claimed to cause virtually every disease state known to man, my bullshit meter starts buzzing.

And hell, if I end up being half-woman/half-corn cob, well...at least I'll be delicious with butter.
 
#8
Aren't all crops "genetically modified"? There are no commercial crops that would be here "naturally", without human manipulation.
The difference being that all pre-genetic modification crops were made into what they are via selective breeding of desirable traits. That process was pretty simple, you bred traits you wanted together and let traits you didn't want die off. Now, the genetic code is being directly altered with additions from sometimes completely different organisms. I would say that, while the paranoia I see in some circles is unwarranted, we don't know the full effects of eating such modified foods yet.
 
#9
I like Steven Novella's blog. FWIW, I think he is good science communicator and goes down as one of the best, most thoughtful "materialists" Alex has interviewed thus far. (Any Skeptiko Newbies might want to go back and listen to his interview.)

This is a pretty fair summary of where we're at with GMOs.

http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-gmo-controversy/

Conclusion

GMOs are neither a panacea nor menace. Genetic modification is simply a powerful technology, and its impact will depend entirely on how it is used. In fact, it is difficult to talk about GMOs as if they are one thing, and when someone does they are likely speaking from an ideological position. Rather, each individual GMO needs to be assessed on its own risks and merits.

Like many technologies, what matters most is how it is used. Safely feeding the growing population of the world in a sustainable way without having a major negative impact on the environment is a great challenge for our civilization. We should not accept uncritically the hype and spin of companies offering simple answers (that involve buying their product), but neither should we reject an entire technology based upon fear and misinformation.

In the end I think the conversation can be a healthy one – exploring all the complex issues of the use of GM technology can lead to better practices and solutions.
 
#10
The difference being that all pre-genetic modification crops were made into what they are via selective breeding of desirable traits. That process was pretty simple, you bred traits you wanted together and let traits you didn't want die off. Now, the genetic code is being directly altered with additions from sometimes completely different organisms. I would say that, while the paranoia I see in some circles is unwarranted, we don't know the full effects of eating such modified foods yet.
I just cannot for the life of me figure out how exactly GMOs would affect the health of the consumer in any way differently than regular food. What is the proposed mechanism?

For example, if I consume beef I am at risk of contracting a bacterial infection or (rarely) a parasitic infection if the meat was improperly handled or cooked. The mechanism is the bacteria or parasite either reproducing and causing tissue damage or toxins can be produced by the bacteria that causes tissue damage as well as an immune response that causes further damage. But it's not like the DNA from the cattle is going to somehow alter my DNA and I'm going to start growing hooves and a tail.

Is it the fear that these gene modifications are causing other, unknown changes to the DNA of.. say...corn that then causes the corn to start producing some sort of toxin? If that were the case, it really wouldn't be that hard to identify a specific set of symptoms that coincide with the presence of a specific chemical. But as it is, the anti-GMO crowd is claiming everything from toe cancer to dermatitis to memory loss. It's ridiculous. There isn't one single known infective agent or toxin that singularly causes a whole list of completely unrelated symptoms and disease states. If I am infected with a pathogenic strain of E. Coli, it's going to affect my digestive system, giving specific symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and fever (as well as secondary symptoms like dehydration). But you basically never hear of an ear infection caused by E. Coli. The same could be said of other toxic agents. They usually affect one or a group of related organ systems such as the respiratory tract, the mucosal membranes or the central nervous system.
 
#11
BTW, thanks for the article link Malf, it has a lot of really good information on this issue and is really quite balanced. I, too, encourage anyone interested to check it out.
 
#16
that's why they do testing... lol
Well, duh...

It's not the questioning of safety I take issue with, it's the way most anti-GMO go about their campaigning.

Absolutely any new food, medicine, chemical etc. intended to be put into or upon our bodies should be thoroughly tested. And that's the problem, many GMOs have been and all testing so far shows no greater risk in consuming GMOs than "regular" food.

It's the outright lies, misinformation and ideological posturing that gets under my skin. It's the same ideology behind "organic" foods (again, virtually zero scientific evidence that organic foods are better than or healthier than "regular") food and being so anti-big agriculture. I get it, there's issues there. I personally despise big agriculture when it comes to the raising of livestock, so I choose not to consume beef or pork and I'm careful about the sourcing of poultry. But I'm not so naive that I don't realize that I have the option to do so because of big Ag. Without many of the technologies devised for use in big Ag, even more of the worlds population would be suffering and dying of starvation and malnutrition. As pointed out in the article Malf linked, there is a place for all of these things, and the answer doesn't lie solely in any single one alone.

I realize how fortunate I am to be part of that teeny, tiny percentage of the population that actually has the luxury of choosing whether I want to eat organic, non-GMO or free range. It's incredibly arrogant, self-serving and downright cruel for those of us in the so-called first world to demand others starve over our ideological positions. Who cares if most of the world goes to bed hungry as long as we can feel warm and smugly preventing that EVIL Monsanto and EVIL Big Ag from "poisoning" us all (which there is zero proof of).

On the one hand, yes, be cautious, don't just blindly trust. On the other, we cannot let our ideologies and fear stand in the way of technologies that can literally change the reality of so many for the better. /rant
 
#17
The difference being that all pre-genetic modification crops were made into what they are via selective breeding of desirable traits. That process was pretty simple, you bred traits you wanted together and let traits you didn't want die off.
Not really.

Even with just selective breeding, we were frequently trying to exploit mutations that would happen in a plant to try to get that mutation mixed in with the rest of the population. Why would a random mutation be any less worrisome that finding a gene that we know what it does, and sticking that into the plant's genome?

Further, many plant varieties were created by bombarding the seeds with radiation, or mutagenic chemicals, and then seeing what kind of plants grew from them.

There's no reason to think that random mutations are any safer than inserting known genes - in fact, the opposite should be true.
 
#18
It's not the questioning of safety I take issue with, it's the way most anti-GMO go about their campaigning.
I'm relatively disinterested in how people choose campaign, compared to the actual legislation that I believe needs to be put in place to ensure that there is substantial and independent testing of organisms altered by recombinant DNA technology.
 
#20
I just cannot for the life of me figure out how exactly GMOs would affect the health of the consumer in any way differently than regular food. What is the proposed mechanism?
Don't know all the proposed mechanisms of action, but one issue that seems pretty cut and dry to me is the GMOs that are "Round-up ready" or modified to be tolerant of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc so that the crops can be sprayed with these chemicals. So it is the residual "-cides" that are the mechanism of action rather than the food itself.

I seem to recall some studies in Europe where rats fed the round up ready corn (I think) got tumored up. I know lots of countries including Russia are banning GMOs. Is it economic warfare or are they legitimately trying to protect their citizens? I don't know.

Edit: here's that study I was thinking of:
http://www.nature.com/news/paper-claiming-gm-link-with-tumours-republished-1.15463
 
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