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Comment Re:Cultural? (Score 2) 345

Is this the one place where embedded automotive code has no traceability? Nobody knows who checked in the mods, who approved the changes, and whether that approval is traceable back to a defect/requirement/change request? Was I totally misunderstanding how the automotive industry handled its microcontroller firmware? It seems to me "Where did this code come from, who approved it, and what was the justification?" should be just about the easiest questions in the world for this type of engineering shop to answer. Maybe things could get sketchy when the manager who approved it points a finger at unwritten orders from his superior, but until that point, the paper trail should be completely clear. Right?


Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 1) 325

Your instincts about the article smelling kind of skechy are almost certainly right. Yes, that's what your source says happened, but as you note, they don't back it up with anything. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that anti-GMO activist groups are, if anything, even less trustworthy than international megacorporations when it comes to spinning the truth, omitting important factors, or just making stuff up from whole cloth. They're up there with creationists and anti-vaxers when it comes to needing to follow up on the primary documents for every claim they make.

If an article quotes those activist groups and they phrase something in such a way as to "not exclude" what they want you to think but not to actually come out and say it, it's usually not a real thing. If it was, they'd be pounding the drum and saying it outright and stating the facts clearly. My guess is when you hear meaningless phrases like "Monsanto went after" instead of "Monsanto threatened/filed suit against" what they really mean is that an investigator went to the farmer and asked if they were saving unlicensed GMO seeds, didn't find evidence of a violation, and then closed the case.

From what I've actually been able to verify, actual actions against farmers are extremely rare. Only a handful have actually gone to court, and the cases I've followed up on by reading the court decisions have been obviously one-sided with the farmer obviously intentionally violating the rules. The fact that when they're asked for specific cases, their big figurehead "victim" is usually Percy Schmeiser (side note: This is Monsanto's web site summarizing the situation and they link to the relevant decisions, which should tell us something) is an indicator that there isn't much in the way of real collateral damage here.

I'm generally pretty quick to believe accusations against big corporations because they're very often true. Unfortunately, the anti-GMO lobby has done so much to burn my trust that I'd take a peek outside if they told me the sky was blue. Will Saletan at Slate has a good summary that just scratches the surface of the whole mess here.

Comment Re:This is not about science. It's about dependenc (Score 1) 325

Are there corn or soybean compatibility issues I'm not aware of? Because I'm pretty sure Microsoft held on to its monopoly because people who used other software had a hard time inter-operating with the dominant software. Is there something about most farmers growing one type of corn that makes it too difficult for some farmers to grow another type of corn?

Comment Re:This is not about science. It's about dependenc (Score 1) 325

Plenty of breeders have bred the same exact resistance to Round-up as Monsanto. Turns out, SURPRISE, selective breeding is a pretty good way of developing gene lines with specific traits. Know what happens? Monsanto sues them tohave the cultivars destroyed. BECAUSE IT HAS A PATENT ON THE GENE.

All of this appears to be complete horseshit. Unless you have some sources to back it up, of course.

Comment Re:And you call the Americans anti-science (Score 1) 325

Could you link to that ruling? Because I remember reading the ruling and I don't remember that sentence or anything quite like it. Google results only produce links to activist web sites that also don't actually quote from the ruling.

Also, Percy Schmeiser was the defendant, not the judge. And his fields were full of Roundup Ready crops because he intentionally put them there, not because of bad luck.

Comment Re:Anti-science is a PR plague (Score 1) 325

I've never quite understood this argument. On the one hand, people rail against the use of glyphosate. Then they turn around and point out that evolution is eventually going to produce glyphosate-resistant weeds and glyphosate will become less useful. First, that's going to be true for any weed control method. Second, why are they worried about the day when "super weeds" make us stop using glyphosate and move on to something else when what they really want is the elimination of glyphosate?

They're generally not arguing, "use glyphosate judiciously to slow the creation of resistant weeds," like we are with antibiotics. They're generally arguing, "Glyphosate turned me into a newt! It should all go away! Also, glyphosate creates glyphosate resistant superweeds!"

Comment Re:Anti-science is a PR plague (Score 1) 325

But you can't tell me that spraying our food with not just a little bit of poison but a TON of poison is not absorbed by the food.

What is poison, though? If you're a dog, onions and chocolate are on the list of things that are poison, but not so much if you're a human. If you're a caterpillar, Bt toxin is on the list, but not so much if you're a human. If you're an organism that produces EPSP enzymes, glyphosate is a deadly poison, but not so much if you're a human.

Also, nobody seems to be curious about the pesticides that Bt and glyphosate replaced. A lot of those are seriously nasty, and we're better off with more modern methods that use more benign chemicals.

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 1) 325

It's the companies who "own" the super-rice when it becomes mixed up with non-GMO rice and tell you you have to destroy your crop and buy only their super-rice.

1) When has this ever happened?
2) If this is actually a real problem, do you think there might be a way to deal with the problem short of completely banning a tremendously promising technology?

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 1) 325

That article describes a bunch of people who have not been sued by Monsanto asking for preemptive relief in court because they're worried that Monsanto might sue them. That's them being afraid that Monsanto will sue them over accidental cross-pollination, not Monsanto actually doing it. The problem is that people have turned a theoretical concern into "Monsanto actually did this!" They haven't. They've filed a relatively small number of lawsuits against obvious offenders, and they donate the money they get in settlements to charity because they know that actually doing what people accuse them of would cause a huge (and well-deserved) shitstorm.

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 1) 325

If it really was just about labeling things GMO/non-GMO for people to make real informed decisions, that would be fine. But the real goal is to encourage people to make uninformed decisions based on fear. Here's how it will really go:

Greenpeace: "If these GMOs are safe, why do you oppose mandatory government labeling?"
The Public: "Good point!"
Monsanto: "OK, fine. Labels it is. We'll stop opposing it."
Greenpeace: "If these GMOs are safe, why does the government mandate labels on them!!??!"
The Public: "Holy shit, good point!"

We're still trying to convince much of the public that vaccines don't cause autism. For the same reason, I wouldn't be a big fan of mandatory labels on vaccines that say something like, "Contains preservatives," or "Contains traces of virus." It's technically true, but it doesn't provide any useful information to the consumer. It's just a cudgel for crazy activists to swing around to cause more confusion.

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 1) 325

The fear is that they will make it impossible for anyone to compete with their patented crops. It's really very little to do with GMO foods themselves.

I'm trying to understand exactly how Monsanto is supposed to achieve that. There are other seed vendors selling GMO and non-GMO products that farmers can buy any time they want. If farmers decide that the GMO product isn't worth the money, wouldn't they just start buying different seed from a different source? As it is, it certainly looks like the GMO seeds are worth the premium. Nobody is being forced to use any products they don't want to use.

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 1) 325

My question isn't really, "Could this cause genetic damage?" so much as, "Is there a reason to believe this particular thing is more likely to cause genetic damage than any number of other things?" That's where I'm getting hung up. We don't do 100 year studies on newly bred hybrids or plants produced via induced mutation. We don't do 100 year studies on new types of plastic, medications, floor coverings, artificial sweeteners, or anything else. Should we be doing 100 year studies on everything new we create on the off chance that they produce slow-moving problems, or is there some specific thing about transgenic plants that warrants it?

Comment Re:And you call the Americans anti-science (Score 1) 325

OK, that's a different question, though. If we have a grand problem with plant IP, reseeding agreements, music copyright, software license agreements, etc., that's not the same as an argument that farmers who intentionally take seed that they're not legally entitled to are somehow victims. The usual implication is that these farmers just have no way of avoiding being sued into the ground by Monsanto, and that argument is nonsense. All they have to do to avoid that outcome is not fill their fields with Monsanto's IP without paying a licensing fee.

I think there's a good argument to be made for IP protection of GMO plants, but there's a lot of wiggle room and valid reasoning in both directions.

Comment Re:And maybe you should read the MIDDLE ... (Score 1) 325

I'm still trying to figure out what your claim is. Schmeiser planted his fields with intentionally selected IP protected soybeans, got sued for it, and lost. He's not a victim here who just magically had a field full of Monsanto's soybeans through no fault of his own. If he hadn't done that, he wouldn't have been sued. This was clearly a test case and it didn't work out well for him.

"Free markets select for winning solutions." -- Eric S. Raymond