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I had previously been skeptical about about some of the concerns about GMO's. I think because I forgot the possible consequences. What brought this to my attention was an article I read about monsanto trying to get approval for a new strain of corn or soy beans (one of the commodity crops) that is resistant to both glyphosate (round-up) and one of the components of agent orange 2-4 D or something.

Some major concerns were discussed in the article and they should be clear to anyone reading even my synopsis. One is the GMO plants that are herbicide resistant leads to the increased use of herbicides which leads to increased pollution from them. By consistent use of herbicides niche environments are removed to the detriment of some species that are dependent on those niche environments. And, continued use of herbicides has led to herbicide resistant plants making some invasive weeds harder to control.

I think I was initially not concerned so much by GMO's because I thought that was what humans have been doing for millennia, by selecting plant and animals for useful characteristics. I realize now that I was a bit naive about some of the possible dangers that could be associated with GMO's, specifically plants that are modified to be herbicide resistant.

There are other plant specific concerns such as high yield crops that do not produce fertile seed causing small farmers to have to go back year after year to the supplier of seed.

I am shocked at my self for not seeing the possible dangers in certain kinds of GMO's before now. I will try to be more aware in the future.
Unfortunately with the current tendency to strip away regulations there is a ton of misinformation out there now about things like this. In general if Monsanto says its okay it probably isn't.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I have no problem with GM in theory, it is just the practice as you describe above that is the problem.

Firstly, it should not be something that should be owned/copy righted by a company, much like a true cause for cancer should be free (pay for the treatment, not the monopoly price of the product) to all.

There are plants that grow naturally which contain their own wards against insect attack, that should be a preferable research basis than making the crop resistant to pesticides.

Yield does not seem to be a great issue anymore, America through to India over-produce when the going is good - so it does all come down to making the plants as hardy as possible, and then creating law which will allow surplus food produced to be put to good use - not figured out how this would be done, capitalism is a bitch, strike that, people in most societies are envious of shit that should actually make them proud to be human.
This topic is hideously complicated, of course.

A few points to consider: (none of which are necessarily intended as arguments against anything above)

1. By planting crops, we are creating niches that previously did not exist and so reducing the populations of organisms that thrive in those niches may in fact be called for.

2. Creating seeds that lead to sterile plants that require farmers to re-purchase their seed from the manufacturer seems "greedy" on the surface, yes. But how else are they to recoup their investment? More importantly, if the GMO is found to be a danger and a government wishes to recall it, or if a government (or company) is worried about it getting "loose" (and it will), then this mechanism is the only one that allows a remedy. Plants will escape. Farmers will continue to use it, even if the government doesn't want them to.

3. Pesticide-resistant plants actually reduces the overall need to use pesticides, not increases it.

4. Herbicide-resistant GMO may accomplish the same thing.

5. On points 3 and 4, this is similar to why it's important to take all of your antibiotic prescription: using lesser doses more often leads to resistance. Using massive doses less often leads to a reduction in resistance. When you don't have to worry about how your plants are going to respond, you can use a dose less likely to cause resistance.

6. Invasive species are increasing world-wide, period. It's happening much faster than plants can realistically adapt to them, and it's a misunderstanding of evolution to expect that adaptation would even occur. (When we look outside our windows, we see only the winners.)

7. Farming is essentially the act of creating a mono-culture of a plant that wouldn't have grown like that on its own. (So is maintaining a lawn.) To make that happen, you have find ways to make the plant you want be more successful. Traditionally, that means fertilizer, which weeds compete for, and is horrible for the environment. Reducing the competition reduces the need.
3. Pesticide-resistant plants actually reduces the overall need to use pesticides, not increases it.

I think you should have put five with this one.
Maybe it is all about hydroponics - work on the environment and leave the crop alone?
The world would starve without modern agriculture.
How modern we talking? We overproduce currently.
We overproduce for the people we're feeding well, but aren't feeding everyone to the same standards.
But that is the issue of supply, production is fine.
As I see it, we (and by we, I include both the US and the UK, because they seem similar in this regard) live in a society that only really tolerates charity toward Others (those far removed from our monkeyspheres) during times of relative abundance. As soon as our own security is threatened, people start to get agitated and suddenly it's "hey, we have our own problems -- let's take care of our own problems and then we can help others."

My point is, scaling back food production causes prices to rise. Rising food prices cause charity to fall. That's supply and demand. The people who aren't eating enough proportionally aren't buying -- they're begging. That's a different set of logistics altogether. So if were using more backward agricultural practices that didn't produce the same kind of yield for the effort used (less bang for your buck), then prices would rise or supply would dwindle -- or both -- and charity would fall.

We live in a world in which more food was used to produce the hamburger I ate last Wednesday than goes into the mouth of a citizen of some of our poorest nations. That's sickening, and yes, that shows our priorities are sorely out of whack as humans, in an ideal sense, but not necessarily in a biological, evolutionary sense. I don't condone it, but it's hard to fight. Right now it would seem the most effective way is to "overproduce".
I agree with everything you have said there Cynic.

To clarify, the 'supply' I was referring to was the basic definition, ignoring what makes sense in a capitalism sense.
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Edited by Skeeve on 01/24/2013 13:19
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