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Comment MOD PARENT UP + A question (Score 1) 414

Great point that point that these patents are starting to expire.

Out of curiosity I heard Monsanto had put out a second-generation round-up ready trait (that of course lets them reset the patent clock, but is also supposed to increase yield more). Do you have a sense that many farmers are going to shell out the money for RR2 or do you think will most stay with the first generation round up trait, either from saved seeds, or other seed companies like Pioneer?

Comment You can't breed bananas because they're sterile (Score 1) 414

Considering bananas are sterile, and propagated vegetatively (ie no sex, and the resulting plants are genetically identical) they're one of the few examples you could have picked that is NOT the result of centuries of selective breeding.

Bananas are one of the crops that stand to benefit the most from genetic engineering because there's no way to introduce disease resistance or other new traits through conventional breeding. In the US that's not a big deal, but bananas in Africa are the primary food source for whole countries, and are constantly being attacked by devastating diseases like Black Sigatoka. So there's an example of how the technique of genetic engineering stands to benefit someone other than Monsanto. (And note that the attempts to produce varieties of banana resistant to Black Sigatoka are being run by non-profits and government scientists, particularly those of Uganda).

The bananas you see at your local supermarket are already produced using vast quantities of highly toxic fungicides, which barely impacts the price you pay in the checkout lane, but can cause real problems in the banana producing countries, which are predominantly poor, generally have far fewer and less strictly enforced regulations on pesticides.

Comment Cooking like this (Score 1) 253

You're right there are a bunch of leaps of faith in his premise but let me address some of your concerns:

Cooked foods, whether meats or vegetables have more calories (energy) although the process may destroy some vitamins. For most of historical and pre-historical time humans have been calorie limited. Vitamin deficiencies are a separate issue and hunter gatherers living on a diverse diet of whatever they could lay their hands on would have had plenty of those with and without cooking.

As for the mechanics of cooking, you've overlooked two simple techniques. Cut off a piece of the animal you just killed, stick it on a sharp stick, and hold it over the fire (think of it as a bloodier alternative to a hot dog). Alternatively you can burry things in the coals of a fire and then dig them out again (we used to do this with potatoes when I went camping as a kid). Both are going to have cooking benefits although they won't taste nearly as good as something cooked over a charcoal fired grill (although you know what they say about hungry being the best spice, and our ancestors were definitely hungry).

You're right grains came much later and producing things like bread or even boiled rice takes more effective cooking technology. Agriculture came much later, you need the good brain first, then you can start altering your environment over months or years to ensure you can keep getting enough food to support that brain.

Comment But were Neanderthals dumb? (Score 1) 253

Has anyone conclusively demonstrated we really are smarter than Neanderthals were? I mean clear we had some advantage since we're here today and they aren't but I think you could make a pretty good argument that our advantage was some specific trait, like better language skills which allowed us to work better in groups, rather than overall intelligence.

Please let me know if you know something more about this than I do.

Comment Re:Those are in development, not avaliable (Score 1) 427

Yeah. That sounds like they're growing a protein or RNA in a lab and then just spraying it on the plants. So no worries about heritability, but more cost to farmers.

Heirlooms are awesome, but it's not that there's less breeding than modern ones, just back then the economic incentive was to breed tastier fruits and vegetables. We could still do that today, we just have to fix to food system so those incentives come back.

Comment Re:You can't inherit sterility (Score 1) 427

Yes. If you want to cite statistics or experience go for it, but in my experience, pollen drift drops quite low (maybe one kernel per ear for corn) within 5-10 rows. This is very easy to tell when you grow corn containing genes for purple or red kernels next to lines that produce white or yellow ones. And once you get into transposons you pay even more attention to contamination rates.

If this hypthotical farmer is actually selling his seed to other growers he'll have more buffer than that, as his reputation will be ruined even faster by selling seeds contaminated by other lines (which will behave differently, be suited for different environments, require different levels of fertilizer, and flower and be ready for harvest at different times than the seed he claims to be selling.) than by seed with a small drop in germination rate.

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