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

Well I'm already 99.9% sure, and so are all of the worlds top science organization and regulatory bodies.

If you applied the 2 human generation requirement to all other new products and chemicals, you would be limiting yourself to the state of the art medical science circa 1965 (average human generation interval is about 25 years). If you are unwilling to give up the last 50 years of medical advancements, I can understand. I wouldn't want to give them up either. Fortunately there is a way to determine the multigenerational impact of a new chemical, drug, or treatment regime WITHOUT having to wait 50 years to be sure it is safe. This is achieved by the use of Surrogate Models. Basically we use animals with much shorter generation intervals that are measured in weeks or months instead of decades, expose them to very high levels of the chemical every day for several generations, and look at the 2nd or 3rd generation and see if they are any different from the control animals who were NOT exposed. This is a basic requirement for safety testing for a range of different industries such as GMO seeds, pharmaceutical testing, chemical hazard testing for the chemical industry, etc.

That you are apparently unaware of this concept suggests that you should probably learn a bit more about the testing performed and the requirements for regulatory approval before deciding it is inadequate. I'd suggests the USDA/APHIS website as well as the FDA website.

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

I did not make that up, though I'll admit that I did mis-remember the magnitude of the difference. I thought it was more than a single percentage point. Would have been more accurate to say that they were essentially equal, instead of one being stronger than the other. Doesn't really change my point much 88 and 89% are both pretty high.

BSE - Has nothing at all to do with GMO. No GMO has ever inserted a prion protein into a plant so BSE and other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (Kuru, CJD, and variant CJD in humans; chronic wasting disease in deer, etc.) are not relevant. EXCEPT that some researchers have developed a gene knock-out strain of cattle that does not contain the gene for the prion protein in the first place. Clearly a GMO that could make food safer.

Thalidomide - lots of chemicals can affect fetal development by interfering with the genome. That's why multigenerational genotoxicity studies in lab animals are part of the normal battery of tests to which a GMO are subjected before they can be considered safe. Generation interval for humans (disregarding the moral issues raised by testing on humans) is measured in decades. Generation interval in mice is measured in weeks. We can therefore look at multi-generational outcomes, with controlled doses, much more quickly and thus make decisions as to the safety of a new GMO in years instead of decades.

I've got no idea what you were getting at with regard to the jellyfish gene. All GMO at this point are based on well characterized single gene traits. The presence or absence of a single gene, producing a single protein, which performs a single well characterized action. It's not like companies are inserting random DNA segments to see what happens (that's what viruses do every day BTW). It is certainly *possible* that something could go wrong, which is why companies perform extensive internal testing before they decide to seek regulatory approval. The pipeline for developing gene traits is ~ 10 years from first concept to commercial approval, with the majority of that being internal testing. It's not like a new gene is discovered today and in seeds next year for sale.

Finally, you are essentially advocating infinite testing, which is both impractical and unnecessary. Testing under all possible permutations, no matter how similar they may be to permutations already tested. That is not science, that is paralysis based on irrationally high fear. This kind of testing is not really a call for testing, but a backhanded way to prevent approval. To pull out the tired old automobile analogy, cars kill thousands of people every year in the US yet we don't DEMAND that auto manufacturers make a perfectly safe car. We don't call for them to be tested on every single road in American at every single conceivable speed. Instead we've developed a battery of safety tests that we believe are highly predictive of the ultimate safety of a car. We simulate specific driving conditions and specific accident conditions, and base assessments on that. The same thing is done for GMO crops, with a much better success record thus far since no death or harm has ever been attributed to consumption of GMO food. Ironically, the same cannot be said for non-GMO organic foods.

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

What is special about the 80 to 120 year post-market approval date? Oh, you didn't know that the first GM seeds hit the market ~20 years ago?

Also, you may not be aware, but Monsanto tested their first GM seeds for several years before they received approval to sell them from the USDA/APHIS, FDA and EPA. How many years of testing is enough for you, and what do you base that requirement on?

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 2) 325

Since the scientific consensus on the safety of current GMO crops is HIGHER than the scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming, YES it is anti-science.

If you don't like gene patents, get involved in politics and lobby to have laws passed that strongly curtail or eliminate gene patents (I'd be right there with you, BTW). But blaming a technology because you don't like the ways in which one company is using it, is a little like railing against incompetent hammers because the contractor you hired to renovate you bathroom fucked it up.

Aside #1 - The original patent on glyphosate resistance should be expiring in the next 12 months (if it hasn't already), so we will see how reviled that particular technology is once everyone can use it free of charge.
Aside #2 - Much of the practices documented by politically biased film makers like Polan have been industry standard practice for longer than GM technology has been available. For example, no-seed-saving clauses have been pretty standard in contracts for generations. Farmers consider them a fair trade because dedicated breeders can improve seeds much faster (even without modern molecular GM techniques) than busy farmer can do it themselves, and there are plenty of places one can buy non-contract encumbered seeds if one is so inclined. The fact that the vast majority of farmers have chosen the GM seeds (despite the higher costs) should make it pretty clear that farmers consider them worth the cost.

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

This idea that anybody who has reservations on going to town with GMO technology is a stupid luddite, because GMO is a technology that cannot possibly cause any unforeseen harm, is pretty idiotic in it self. I'm all for science but deregulating GMO and allowing greedy corporations to do anything they want without any oversight because GMO is a supposedly such a safe technology is not something I'm prepared to do.

No-one is claiming that having concerns about GMO is stupid, but in order to have strong reservations about the technology today you do have to be largely ignorant (as in unaware, not stupid) of the vast body of knowledge that currently exists as to the safety of the GMO products currently on the market. The fact that most of this information can be found with a simple search of pubmed or the USDA's website.

I can't speak for all nations, but no one is attempting to deregulate GMO in the US. Not mandating a GMO label is not the same thing as not regulating GMO. Each and every GMO variety has undergone Individual Review before being allowed to be sold commercially. The USDA/APHIS, FDA, and EPA all weigh in on the safety within their bailiwick before the product can be approved, and then post them on their website (linked to above). No one is even trying to prevent companies from labeling for GMO status voluntarily. What is happening is that regulators are trying to strike a balance between the costs and benefits of a label, by making sure that those paying the cost of the label are those who want it. I should not have to subsidize the irrational fears of my neighbors if they are fully capable of footing the entire bill themselves.

Finally, greedy corporations, are a completely separate issue from GMO. If you don't like the way the US seed industry operates (professional seed breeders have required contracts that preclude seed saving for many years before GMO seeds came along) then pass laws that change that aspect of their business, not some other, completely unrelated aspect. Monsanto et al. sell both GM and non-GM seeds, and there are non-profit companies developing GMO crops that can literally save lives and plan to GIVE AWAY the seeds they develop.

Comment Re:How do they define GM? (Score 2) 325

No, Monsanto is actually doing both things. Some traits are improved more rapidly through transgene technology (ie herbicide resistance or insecticide production in the roots), whereas most traits that they farmer actually gets paid for (ie yields) are more rapidly improved through "traditional" cross breeding. Monsanto does both. May sound like a nitpick, but it shows your ignorance (as in lack of specific knowledge, not stupidity) on this matter.

Also, they are not "entirely different". The same technology that can be used to insert a transgenic trait can also be used to transfer a single gene between cultivars within the same species. IIRC, the LPA (low phytic acid) allele was original discovered in corn by accident, and then using the same gene insertion technology was inserted into more productive strains of corn. The product ultimately failed on the market due to practical considerations (lower viability of the plant, and problems associated with segregating LPA corn from commodity corn in order to be able to get a higher price). More recent work along this line has solved the first problem by delaying the activation of the LPA allel until after the plant is fully grown so that it primarily affects phytate P deposition in the seed (which is desirable), but that doesn't adequately address the basic logistics question of how to get the higher priced corn to someone who will pay the higher prices. Especially since feed enzymes (phytase) can be used to break down the phytic acid in cheaper commodity corn just fine.

Furthermore, new CRISPR technology will make it possible to edit genes in place with no need to transfer DNA from another plant or species in order to get the desired gene into the genome. It is expected that this will be used to modify plants in all sorts of ways without crossing the species barrier. The future is here, and it has been shown to be safe thus far. At some point you need to just get over the fear and accept that we've got this covered, so you can worry about something that might actually hurt you.

Comment Re:They brought it on themselves (Score 1) 363

Very different. For one thing there is a lot of research being done by people who are far more concerned with the welfare of the animals than they economics for the humans. These people are driving the animal welfare research agenda. People like Joseph Garner or Temple Grandin. Temple is world famous for her work on improving welfare in cattle slaughter plants. I met Joe back when he was a professor at Purdue. He has spent a lot of time working through the moral implications of various management techniques, cage size, environmental temperatures (performance ideal vs animal preferences), etc. His whole group at purdue were some of the most compassionate researchers I've ever known with regards to their research animals.

Your jaded view is just not consistent with the actual work being done by actual people I know in the field, or the actual changes I've witnessed in the last 15 years. I won't argue that we didn't need a kick in the ass, but there is a point where we should start to get credit for the progress we've made and the things we were already doing right, and I think that time has already come.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

As I said, there are farms that do use anesthetic. Usually based on the animal welfare section of their production contract. I'm sure with a little research you can find out which brands require this sort of thing, if you are interested. Of course 6 years a vegetarian is quite a time, so you probably are not interested.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

I was talking about their relative ranks, not trying to imply that they didn't have them. Animal perceive pain, but it's power as a motivator is not as strong. Hunger for hogs on the other hand is a much stronger motivator than for humans. Cattle are incredibly curious, they've been known to lick the grease off of a crank shaft just to feel the sensation, but sheep flee from novelty. Each animal perceives the world differently, and places different emphasis on different stimuli. The relative importance of each differ

Comment Re:They brought it on themselves (Score 1) 363

The basic problem is that ag corporations are not financially incentivized to be humane to the animals

Just about any introductory class on animal husbandry will explain why this is not true. Animals that are abused (from their perspective, not our anthropomorphized perspective) increase the production of all sorts of stress hormones. These hormones cause animals to grow more slowly, get sick more often, produce less milk/wool/etc., delay rebreeding, and all sorts of other negative outcomes that are counter to what the farmer wants from an economic perspective. I won't pretend we maximize animal happiness, but we do try to minimize stress.

The problem is really that there clearly hasn't been sufficient effort put into making industrial scale farming also humane farming.

This may have been true in the past, but that is rapidly changing. Purdue University, where I got my graduate degrees, has a VERY strong animal behavior and welfare group focusing on commercial livestock. Many of the students who's programs overlapped with mine are working in industry on welfare programs designed to keep these very concerns top of mind. Won't say they always get their way, but a buddy of mine was just offer a huge salary to leave academia and design a layer welfare program for a large egg producer. He was told he'd pretty much get cart blanche to design and implement the program. He turned it down for family reasons, but I get the impression the job is his whenever he wants it. That is huge considering that Temple Grandin came to speak at Purdue while I was there, and she stood up and called the egg producers out on their unwillingness to even consider that their might be a better way. That was less than 10 years ago.

You claim that agribusinesses aren't being treated fairly (sometimes true) but you are painting with the same broad brush.

I don't believe that I am. I've found that there are a lot of animal WELFARE groups that are reasonable and earnest in their efforts, but there is a distinct difference between the animal welfare movement and the animal rights movement. The former is concerned with good stewardship, but practical enough to know that people will always want to eat meat. I consider myself a welfare advocate, and I have on several occasions objected when I've witnessed mishandling of animals. However, animal rights advocates seem to be far more concerned with their objective of complete elimination of animal use by humans to be bothered about being practical, honest, or fair. To be sure there are many who self identify as animal rights supporters who don't share that view, but in my experience that has been because they were unaware that there was another option. or that the two terms have different meanings.

You are right though, we have brought a large part of this down on ourselves by failing to engage with society as a whole.

Comment Re:Good! (Score 1) 363

They certainly don't like it, but it would be anthropomorphizing to assume that kicking them bothers them as much as it would bother you. I know it sounds callous, but large livestock are less concerned with physical pain than we are. There are lots of behavioral studies that show they place different priorities on different stimuli like pain, fear, hunger, etc. than people do.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

Depends on the farm. Some production contracts require some sort of analgesic be used, but I'd guess that most piglets are castrated without anything.

Now, that said they don't cut off the scrotum (at least for pigs). Pigs scrotums are tight up against their rump.They slice open the scrotum, squeeze out the testicles and then cut the vas deferens. The scrotum will close up on its own after a couple of days.

For ungulates like sheep, goats, and cattle I know they cut the scrotum as well, but that's because their scrotums hang down like humans. They can also use a tool called an imasculator, which is essentially a pair of hot sheers that cut and cauterize at the same time.

At this point I normally remind everyone that most circumcisions are done sans anesthetic, and the majority of Americans see no problem with this. Piglets are usually a couple of days old at castration, so it's an apt comparison.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

Ha! Poor word choice on my part. We castrate the male livestock, not the male animal handlers. Although there was a sow barn attendant who was standing too close to the front of a farrowing crate while changing a light bulb (or something like that) who was bit in the testicals by a sow. Said they could hear his scream clear on the other side of the barn, over all the sows in the gestation wing. Funniest damn story I was ever told about working with sows. He's fine now (he claims).

Comment Re: Good! (Score 4, Insightful) 363

Gestation stalls can be beneficial because sows are large (300-600 lb), and can be quite violent when hungry, which is most of the time, but more so right after weaning off the piglets. It is not uncommon in group housed situations for them to injure each other badly enough to require medical interventions and very occasionally euthanasia. Also, these fights occurs most right after breeding, and the stress can lead to reduced viability of the delicate embryos. Fewer piglets per litter is both an indicator of reduced welfare AND a sign of reduced economic potential. The best is a hybrid situation where sows are kept in gestation stalls for a few weeks after weaning to ensure a calm dry off period, and a good start for the embryos, and then moving them into group housing. Castration of boars, cuts down on off flavor (called boat taint), reduces aggression toward each other and their handlers (worker safety matter too), unexpected pregnancies at the slaughter house when males and females are housed together (very common), and rape. Yes, boats when housed together will rape each other. More recently a company has developed a non-surgical way to castrate pigs later in the growth phase (beneficial because boars are more feed efficient than barrows), but it is dangerous to male employees (the shot works on human males as well), and the industry doesn't yet know how consumers will perceive the technology called improvest. These management decisions are not made lightly, and usually are made to optimize several different, and occasionally conflicting objectives.

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