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Comment Re: Perspective helps when talking about large num (Score 1) 154 154

And in each of those years, the saving were still infinitesimally small. Adding up a decade of savings makes the number appear bigger, but not if you also add up the budget over that same decade. At the end of the day, the savings are still a large drop in an much more enormous bucket and proportionally, not very significant. That is less than the price of one of the new joint strike fighters I suspect.

Stating $45million out of context helps no one. I'm sure there are much large potential savings in the defense budget, so why waste our limited time and attention on something so small, proportionally speaking.

Comment Perspective helps when talking about large numbers (Score 1) 154 154

The GAO estimates that this cost taxpayers around $45 million extra in a single year.

Lets put this into perspective. $45 million/yr works out to:

- 0.00129% of the 2014 total US expenditures ($3.5 Trillion)
- 0.00409% of 2015 Discretionary Spending ($1.1 Trillion)
- 0.00752% of the 2015 US Military Spending ($589.5 Billion)

Why is this news? I'm all for efficiency, but savings that small are not worth it in a budget that freaking large

Comment Re: approves an anti (Score 1) 446 446

You seem to missing the point where we (as in the REGULATORS) utilize testing and toxicology to VERIFY that our presumption of safety is, in-fact, valid.

No one invved in biotechnology believes that there is no risk. Just as with a new pharmaceutical we perform specific tests designed to quantify the various risks associated with a new GM trait. Your government does the same thing, I am sure, because that is the job of governments. The EFSA has already tested numerous GMO plants and affirmed their safety, but the EC (which is populated by politicians, not scientists) has refused to authorize any of them to be planted for political reasons (non-tarring trade barriers, political pandering, etc). The U.S. System puts the EFSA equivalent agencies in charge of deciding directly instead of only making determinations and the. Leaving the final decisions to someone else.

at the end of the day the European de facto GMO ban is about money. As much as Europeans like to characterize Americans as greedy capitalists gone wild, they are no different. They are just more circumpspect about how they let that greed show through. You are using biotechnology approvals as a way to protect domestic industry, and pretending it is about safety for political expedience. The vast majority of Europeans are spending far more on food so that european farmers can stay in business despite being inefficient. All nations do it (you should see the laws surrounding domestic sugar production in the U.S.), but the false flag of safety creates FUD surrounding a technology with an excellent track record this far.

Comment Re:Idealism vs Reality in Veterinary Medicine (Score 1) 131 131

I don't believe she is associated with a vet school. Interesting question though. The practicalities of vet practice (witnessed via a job shadowing and several part time jobs) are part of the reason I decided against vet school, and went to graduate school instead.

Comment Re:Factory farming (Score 1) 131 131

While she is an expert on animal welfare and behavior, the environmental foot print of agriculture is outside of her expertise. I suspect she'll be better informed than the average joe, but not better informed than the average animal scientists, and possibly less well informed than the average animal nutritionist. Nutrition at least has a clear connection to the environment. Behavior, not so much.

With that said, I've seen her speak several times at animal science conferences, and she came to receive an award from my University while I was there. She's an engaging speaker, and is more than willing to skewer those she sees behaving badly or defensively. (She slammed the egg producers pretty hard last time I saw here speak because of their reluctance to even consider that their hens might benefit from revised housing systems). I look forward to her answers.

Comment Re: approves an anti (Score 1) 446 446

Maybe not deliberately, but by omitting the range of techniques in between that blur the lines between GMO and selective breeding he creates the perception of 2 competing technologies when, in fact, there are numerous COMPLETEMENTARY techniques used to develop seeds (hybridization, cross-breeding, random mutagenesis, within species gene editing, targeted gene deletions, gene silencing, transgenic gene insertions.

Monsanto, Bayer, Dupont, Syngenta, et al. use Random Mutagenesis to develop crops for regions that don't allow GMO, but they ALSO use more "traditional" techniques like cross breeding for ALL regions. Many important traits (like yield) are controlled by multiple genes. GMO techniques are not cost effective ways to effect these multi-gene traits. They use the right tool for the job. Just because some of us don't know how a tool works, doesn't mean it can't and isn't being used safety, or that its use should be labeled.

Comment Re: approves an anti (Score 1) 446 446

You obviously don't know the first thing about genetic engineering, or about the complexity of gene interactions even in manipulated genomes..

With GMO we are inserting a single gene or short sequence of genes, that have been well characterized, into a known location on the genome. We are then testing to verify that the gene is located where we intended, doing what we intended, and not perturbing the system.

With random mutagenesis we are not only changing thousands of genes in unknown, and unknowable ways, but we are not requiring any characterization or testing of the result. (I'm sure the seed companies are doing some testing anyway because no one wants that kind of liability on their hands).

The deliberately designed world of computer programming is a HORRIBLE analogy for the complex milieu of gene interaction in multicellular eukaryotes. Random mutation not only has the potential to change an important gene, but it may change promoter and suppressor regions. Plants produce thousands of compounds that are potentially poisonous to humans (the dose makes the poison), and random mutagenesis is far more likely to increase the production of these compounds than targeted gene insertions.

Take the potato for example. Potatoes' produce a compound called solanine. Normal traditional cross breeding has on occasion resulted in strains that produce dangerously high concentrations of solanine. Random mutagenesis in potatoes is far more likely to unexpectedly increase solanine production than targeted insertion as long as the engineers are careful to target a region of the genome known to be unrelated to solanine production. That kind of targeting cannot be done with mutagenesis, or even traditional cross breeding, which makes it INTRISCIALLY more risky.

Now as a pragmatic scientist, and someone excruciatingly familiar with the risk assessment process used by the FDA, I recognize that the risks of mutagenesis are very low in practical terms. However, that makes the risk associated with GMO very low as well, as GMO is less intrinsically risky than random mutagenesis. Both CAN result in an unsafe product, but it is MORE LIKELY to happen with random mutagenesis that GMO. Throw in the fact that every GMO is extensively safety tested, and the assessments are reviewed by several independent agencies (who's incentives are all biased in the direction of being overly conservative) and the chance of an unsafe GMO actually getting to market if it is created are infinitesimally small at the moment.

Comment Re: Fraud (Score 1) 446 446

Now I'm not fan of big donors swaying elections, but if Monsanto is spending that little, to accuse them of buying congress critters is to be ludicrously naïve regarding the price of doing business in politics. For example, their closest competitor (and market share leader for the last few years) spent $9 million on lobbying in 2014.

As the "hiding" claim. Nothing is being hidden. The power to enforce mandatory labeling requirements is rooted firmly in consumer protection laws. If the information is not needed to ensure safe use of a product, then forcing companies to put it on the label is an abuse of power. However, the authors of this law are not insensitive to the desire of consumers for more clarity. That is why they included provisions for the creation of a VOLUNTARY NON-GMO label to be regulated by the same group at the USDA that oversees the Certified Organic, Kosher, and Halal programs, which are all process verifications.

If you don't want to wait for the new labeling program, then just buy USDA Organic. The National Organic Program does not allow for the use of GMO crops. If it's GMO, it's automatically ineligible for the USDA Organic program.

The Market and the Government are already trying to offer you the clear choices you desire. They are even trying to make it clearer with the new labeling program. But they are trying to make sure that the program is not burdensome or unconstitutional, both of which would be the case for mandatory GMO labeling.

Comment Re: approves an anti (Score 1) 446 446

Ah, but currently there is no requirement for plants developed by mutagenesis (carcinogenic chemicals, ionizing radiation, or other) to be tested. In fact, many of the seed strains used most by Organic farmers were developed in just this way.

Why are people not getting up in arms about these more random and therefore more dangerous tools? Why are they in-fact turning TOWARD these technologies, and AWAY from more tightly regulated and less inherently risky technology?

They are doing this because their fear is driving them to find justifications, not the other way around. They are opposed to GMO, not based on the evidence, but based on their ignorance or philosophical opposition. They are then data snooping to find any evidence, no matter how small, inconsistent, or flawed, and propping it up as the reason for there opposition when it is just post-hoc justification for a position they had chosen before familiarizing themselves with the data at all.

Comment Re: This legislation brought to you by.. (Score 1) 446 446

Your request for a label may not be about safety, but mandatory labeling requirements ARE about safety.

This new law allows for the creation of a VOLUNTARY NON-GMO label that will be verified by the USDA as is the case with Organic, Kosher, and Halal. You'll get a clear label , but only on the non-GMO products instead of on the GMO ones. It will make it far less expensive for the industry to implement, while giving you the clarity and options you desire.

In point of fact, there already IS a federally verified label that you can use to avoid buying GMO food. The National Organic Program does not allow the USDA Organic label to appear on products unless they can verify that they are free of GMO (among other things). The market and government have already GIVEN you a label you can use.

Comment Re: This legislation brought to you by.. (Score 1) 446 446

So the fact that the government regulators dictate the test design criteria, relevant measurements, endpoints, and can request new tests at any point somehow means nothing to you?

I've been involved in getting new products approved through the FDA (although not GM seeds specifically) and they are not the pushovers you seem to think they are. Good submissions in my field take ~2 years, but difficult submissions can take as many as it takes before the sponsor either gives up or proves their case. ive seen submissions take almost a decade.

They don't care how much money you've spent, how valuable the product will be to you or your customers, or how long it takes. Nor should they. All of the incentives they face encourage them to be conservative in their safety assessments. Taking an extra year, or another $1million costs them nothing, but approving something that is unsafe will cost them their careers, and possibly their pensions.

Comment Re: approves an anti (Score 1) 446 446

There are different kinds of radiation. Low doses can be used for microbial control, but high doses and/or chemical mutagens can be used to change the germ line. The seeds containing the mutated DNA are then grown and the most promising strains are crossed with existing strains to try and breed the new traits (very much a plurality of new genes) into established cultivars.

Comment Re: Fraud (Score 1) 446 446

Do you have any evidence that is happening? lots of innuendo gets thrown around, but I've seen no evidence of such action. Only assertions from conspiracy minded morons that they "must" be bribing people because genetically illiterate soccer moms don't like GMO, and because politically motivated foodies like Michael Pollan like to imply as much as a way to strengthen their own brand and sell more books/DVDs.

Monsanto is not the corporate behemoth every has been lead to believe. They are about the same size as whole foods or Kraft. Considering that they are an international company, and whole foods is US only, Whole Foods is actually bigger in the U.S. than Monsanto. Are you afraid of whole foods buying congress critters?

Also, Monsanto only has a 30% market share in the U.S., which he makes them SECOND to DUPONT with 32%. They've been trailing DuPont for several years. They'd be far better served trying to take market share back from their competitors than buying congressmen.

Comment Re: This legislation brought to you by.. (Score 1) 446 446

Why would Monsanto do that? Is there any evidence that they have tried, or will try in the future? And "because they are evil" is not really an answer, it's an appeal to Monsanto, which has become its own logical phalicy in recent years.

Monsanto is not the boogyman everyone has been made to believe they are. They have nothing to gain by the loss of seed banks, since they themselves make heavy use of them. While they are most famous (infamous) for their GMO traits, they also do a lot of more traditional cross breeding (yield is controed by hudreds of genes and it is far more cost effective to use "normal" hybridization as a way to improve this from year to year). Seed banks are an excellent source of potential new traits for them to breed into their parent stock.

Comment Re: This legislation brought to you by.. (Score 1) 446 446

All GMO have to petition for "nonregulated status" from the USDA-APHIS. They do not sell the seeds until they get this, and it is the USDA that decides when/if safety has been adequately demonstrated.

There is a big difference between "trust me" and several hundred to a couple thousand pages of "here is why we believe this to be safe"

"It might help if we ran the MBA's out of Washington." -- Admiral Grace Hopper