Please don't start out a post with an (admirable) plea for fidelity to science, and then link to climate-denier-friendly-weatherman Cliff Mass. Please.
Thank you for adding your voice of reason to the GMO debate. Every argument against GMOs I have seen is a PRATT - Point Refuted A Thousand Times. GMO's are safe, glyphosate is less toxic than caffeine and table salt, non-GMO seeds are also patented, Organic crops use pesticides more toxic than conventional, the list goes on and on.
We were assured that DDT was safe for years, until Rachel Carson showed that it was not.

Plastics such as Polycarbonate were perfectly fine for all manner of drinking & water-carrying vessels --including baby bottles-- since the 1960s, ...until the early 2000s when it was discovered that polycarbonate and the epoxy resins within (especially after being heated) leaches Bisphenol-A into liquids --and us-- damaging chromosomes and distorting fetal brain development.

Now we are assured --assured-- that GMOs are safe. TOTALLY SAFE! It's only tinkering with the genetic code. No biggie. All scientists say so. It's been tested! It's been what, 26 years? That's alot(sic) of years of testing! Even the EU's testing (better than USA/EPAs testing, we can assume) says GMOs are ok. So they must be safe!
We simple folk are just not trusting enough.

Since we are only now becoming aware of things like "horizontal gene transfer", and epigenetics, to say nothing of the recent awareness of human gut bacteria's impact on health and even daily brain function,... how the fuck do we know that tinkering with the genetic code of the plants we eat won't be discovered to have some deleterious genetic impact on us (or our microbiome) in another 2 decades from now? I'll bet our genetic testing capabilities are not even up to the task yet.

So thanks for doing an enormous, irreversible experiment on the entire world's population & food supply.

But don't worry, I'm totally assured that it's safe.
@2 - "…">glyphosate is less toxic than caffiene"
Oh really now?

"That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."
- Hitchens' Razor
Fixed Link: glyphosate
@3 lol
The scientific method gives us the best methodology for investigating material phenomena, it is not an absolute authority. Implicit in science is a demand for skepticism, and most educated people respect the conclusions of science, and recommendations scientists make. Scientists aren't ASSURING THINGS ARE TOTALLY SAFE, they are following the evidence and saying there is no evidence to suggest GMO are any less safe than conventional. There is no fucking conspiracy to take away your organic food, any more than there is a conspiracy to take away guns or cars or whatever. It's called the anthropocene, and the planetary scale experiments have been underway for a while now - the scale of human activity now demands the refinement of those experiments, for better or worse. Mostly worse. But there's no need to be an asshat. Also, the dose makes the poison. Glyphosate has an ld50 a little higher than baking soda, and a hell of a lot higher than caffeine
@7 - Are scientists doing genetic transference testing from food to humans and their microbiome?
"Glyphosate has an ld50 a little higher than baking soda, and a hell of a lot higher than caffeine"

That's correct. The amounts for oral LD50 for glyphosate is >5000 mg/kg. For caffeine it is 127 mg/kg.

You can find these data and lots more on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). MSDS for both available from MSDSOnline and many other sites.

Do you understand how gene's work? I don't transfer gene's from what I eat to me. Eating an octopus doesn't give me any octopus DNA. Eating a tomato doesn't give me any tomato DNA. Eating a tomato with some octopus DNA doesn't do anything to me either.

We've been genetically modifying our food for thousands of years. Through random mutation, through irradiation, and now through direct genetic modification. How do you think all those varieties of tomatoes got to your farmers market? Someone genetically modified a tomato to make them. Not only that, most of those seed varieties were patented at the time. Just like horrible big business is doing now!

Comparing GMO foods to plastic or DDT is a strawman. Even if someone thought they were safe at the time, it could at least be recognized that there was a viable method for them to cause harm. Coming into contact with a new chemical compound can always cause problems. GMO foods aren't doing that. The foods don't contain anything we aren't already eating.

Even with all that said, GMO's are probably studied way more than anything you are going to ingest. You should feel safer by an order of magnitude eating GMO foods versus eating anything with Stevia for example.
The general public still has not accepted that vaccines don't cause autism. Now they've added GMOs to their conspiracy theory compendium.
@11 well I ate an octopus and now, along with typing this, I'm simultaneously flipping pancakes, juggling, walking like and Egyptian and beating off. Coincidence? I think not.

[disappears in a cloud of ink]
It doesn't matter if its safe or not, what matters is the right to know and choose. Who is blocking this and why? Assumption is that its about the money, not the science. If it truly is better, then it will out compete the competition, based on merits, not based on lack of knowledge. The whole thing is a sham. Profit over People.
@2: There are new concerns that glyphosate may have some carcinogenic activity, and it's certainly more toxic to riparian and lacustrine ecosystems than has been commonly reported. The more pressing issue with Roundup Ready crops is that reliance on a single herbicide tends to result in the evolution of resistance to that herbicide; wherever glyphosate-resistant crops have been planted in quantity, glyphosate-resistant weeds have emerged within a few years.
@13: kek
"It doesn't matter if its safe or not, what matters is the right to know and choose."

That is certainly a valid argument. We should have the right to know where our food comes from. The problem is so many people are working with very bad information about GMOs (and organics, for that matter).

"Who is blocking this and why?"

Who is mostly the manufacturers and producers, as well as informed people (including most scientists). Why varies from concerns by manufacturers about the costs of what they regard as unnecessary labeling and loss of market share by people who are afraid of GMOs to others, like most scientists, who object on the grounds that it IS unnecessary as GMOs have not been shown to be any more dangerous than non-GMO (though THIS scientists doesn't care one way or the other).

"Assumption is that its about the money, not the science."

Bad assumption. For some that is a motivator (especially in industry) but it is not the only one.

"If it truly is better, then it will out compete the competition, based on merits, not based on lack of knowledge. "

Yep and it has already done that. In almost all cases GMO crops cost less for producers to make, manufactures to sell and consumers to buy....and they are neither less nutritious nor more dangerous than non-GMO. The market HAS spoken and GMOs are here to stay.

Having said that, I think labeling is fine. The irrational among us will be happy and the rest can buy what they want.
GMOs are hardly the Left's only anti-science issue. Anti-vaxers skew left though not 100%. Lots of earthy-crunchy stuff and HuffPo panic articles spin off askew from best current understanding. None of these are quite on a par with global warming denial, but people believe what they want.
Ethan Linck misrepresents the Pew poll about GMO safety. It referred solely to the safety of eating GMO foods (and even then they only got 88% of scientists). Other valid questions (and reasons for GMO labeling) include safety of these engineered replicators for the ecosystem on which we all depend. Also, the promotion of a sustainable food system on which we all depend for our sustained existence. GMO food plants are often designed to survive & require high chemical inputs, with patented seeds intended to be expensive for farmers. Monsanto has sued many farmers for patent infringement because they planted seed grown in their own fields.…
Almost all GMO cultures are unsustainable fossil fuel based industrial monocultures, which shows there are plenty of valid scientific reasons to oppose GMOs despite what establishment shills would like you to believe. In fact, the IAASTAD report of 2008, agriculture at crossroads (a synthesis of agricultural science and development by 100's of scientists), essentially said that techno fixes like GMOs didn't address the main issue of developing sustainable agriculture.
"Monsanto has sued many farmers for patent infringement because they planted seed grown in their own fields."

This is, of course, grossly distorted. ALL comments on Monsanto devolve into accusations of them being ebil monsters, because they are a soulless corporation out to destroy life as we know it.

ANYWAY, back in the real world, they sued fewer than 200 and only a dozen went to trial, all of which Monsanto won. They brought the suits because those "farmers" (they were almost all corporations) planted large amounts of Monsanto seeds *without paying for them*. Try walking out of your local grocery store with food you haven't paid for. See what happens.
Mr. Linck - there is a principle of argument, it may have died with the advent of twitter, but it is the only way to ensure a discussion moves forward. It is this: argue with the strongest case you can make for the other side. Arguing with people who say GMO corn is going to give us all cancer is simple and pointless.

Take a look at the broader argument. Will a food system reliant on GMOs solve the problems they are often promised to solve (malnutrition, bankruptcy of small farms)? I think the answer is quite clearly no. Also, while the foods themselves may be safe (or at least equivalently safe) to ingest, is the production of these foods safe (or safer) for the broader ecosystem. Looking a growth in pesticide resistance and the corresponding growth in pesticide use, most likely not.

This labeling effort might be misplaced - labeling GMOs is not a solution to the problems of industrial agriculture. But the promises of GMOs are greatly oversold, and people should be given a choice to support it or not.

@20 ... I stand by my remarks. Your theft analogy is silly. A better analogy would be if I bought seed packets at QFC, grew the plants, let some go to seed, collected seeds and planted them. Now QFC security shows up to bust me for shoplifting because it was "their" seed and they didn't authorize me to grow a second generation.

But you know that, don't you. I really wonder where you are coming from with this comment. Everything else about it is weird also. Do you work at Gates and this is what passes for being super smart over thete? It wouldn't surprise me.
@1) While I agree with your concern regarding Cliff Mass' interpretation of weather trends, and consider his refusal to attribute any particular weather event to climate change unhelpful, he's a good meteorologist and weather writer, and the blog post is about an obviously cool start to summer in Seattle.

@18) I disagree that I misrepresented the Pew Poll: I state the question was about GMOs being safe in food, not whether they are broadly a good idea or not. Obviously, there are other angles to the GMO debate, but the issue at hand is about labeling food, not the impact of genetically modified organisms on ecosystems.

@21) About the oversold promise of GMO foods: that's an interesting point, and one I'm sympathetic to. But for the many reasons nicely outlined in the the Scientific American post, slapping a "GMO" label on the broad spectrum of foods genetically modified in a variety of different doesn't give people an informed choice, and will end up restricting the choices of others.

As a final, broader point: it's totally possible for Monsanto to be every bit of the sinister corporation many think it is AND for the anti-GMO movement to be unscientific fearmongering. These things can coexist.
Asking for more transparency about what I put in my body is not "being anti-science". Food safety is not the only reason to not support GMO's. Other risks of GMO's include increased mono-agriculture, environmental side-effects from introducing new species (mankind has a long history of underestimating this), and pesticide proliferation (from pesticide-resistant or pesticide-producing GMOs). Personally, I find proceeding with GMOs without enough data to put bounds on the above risks to be closer to "anti-science". We have millennia of data on the impacts of unmodified organisms, but limited control in the methods and observations of new GMOs; I think that warrants sharing more information, not less. I am not fear-mongering or claiming that GMOs are evil...there is a rational middle-ground.
@23 "will end up restricting the choices of others"

As if not labeling will not restrict our choice to having to support an agriculture developmental model that isn't sustainable.

As for your being sympathetic, you'll have to back down from that "unscientific" smear on being "anti-GMO" before it looks genuine.
@22 Silly? Whatever. It's plain theft. Those who were sued by Monsanto signed a contract that said they could re-plant their fields with seed grown only if they paid for them. They did not pay but grew their fields anyway. That's theft (breach of contract, more precisely).

You don't like Monsanto, I get it. But you are (deliberately, I think) distorting those lawsuits to suit your agenda. FTR, I don't like them either, but for some of their business practices not for their science.

@25 a couple of things but first - I don't have a problem with labeling, but not because I think GMOs are unsafe (they aren't) or because I think they aren't as good nutritionally (they are) but because I think consumers ought to have as much information as possible. If I don't want to buy GMO products I ought to be able to distinguish them, no? IMO, of course.

Anyway a few points...
1- Humans have a long history of introducing new species to areas, almost every single agriculturally important species and many wild ones (some with disastrous results) have been introduced outside their "native" areas. But GMOs are NOT new species. Though it is possible that some GMO species may be introduced in areas it wasn't in before, to my knowledge that hasn't happened; all current GMOs are agriculturally important species that are already spread far beyond their native sites.
2-Just because you are unfamiliar with the enormous body of scientific work that has been done investigating the safety of GMOS -to both humans and the environment- doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
3-Almost ALL of agriculture and animal husbandry deals with modified organisms - very few are anything like their wild state. They have been modified by intensive cross hybridization and inbreeding to produce animals and plants unlike anything in nature. Grapefruit, tangelos and oroblancos are hybrids between two different species. Cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, cabbage, kailan and collards are all the same species of brassica. GMOs are what farmers have done for centuries. The difference is scientists who do GMOs change only one (or a few) genes whilst farmers change entire genomes.
Maybe not everyone is as sleazy as Monsanto. But Monsanto's existence demonstrates that the regulatory environment is not adequate to prevent Monsanto's business practices. Therefore all other companies will be pushed by market forces to adopt similar practices in order to stay competitive.

Humans hybridize species within an environment where hybridization has occurred naturally throughout evolutionary history. Therefore there are some natural limits on the screwups that can be accomplished. Genetic engineering bypasses those natural limits.

All we are trying to achieve here is mandatory labeling to let consumers decide. Imagine the whining if we were accomplishing real regulation to assess and control the unintended consequences of this technology. But yes, let's have mandatory labeling.
@28 - about the theft analogy, what you say is directly contradicted by the last 4 paragraphs of the article I linked at @18. In the case at hand, the farmer did not sign any agreement not to replant, having bought seed from a grain elevator with no conditions.

Have you given any thought to who stands to profit if GMO labelling is mandated?


@19, @26 anon1256

The biggest challenge to sustainable agriculture, by far, will be reducing the world's human population to a level that can be supported by agriculture without fossil fertilizers or fossil water (this problem can be solved by doing nothing at all, of course, but boy will that ever suck).

The next largest problem will be soil conservation.

The question of which techniques should be used in the husbandry of crop and cattle varietals won't even make the top half of the list.
Science hasnt reached a consensus on "gmo foods are safe in every possible aspect we can ever care about" because that is not how science works. We ask questions like "is there evidence to suggest that gmo foods have statistically significantly higher levels of toxin x or nutrient y?" And science answers "yes" or "no", or sometimes "it depends".

And so far, the general answer for most of these questions is "not more toxic and not less nutritious". Do NOT conflate this with "safe". Do NOT resort to ad hominem attacks in the face of counterarguments. (These directives assume some genuine desire to seek truth via science and logic, otherwise gtfo)

There is ample evidence of unintentional cross pollinization of gmo crops with surrounding non gmo crops and wild vegetation. Will you shrug at these cases because science has deemed the food to be safe?

Is it unscientific to demand ingredients lists? Surely the only thing we care about regarding food products is the price tag and nutritional values, which are labeled separately...
@29 "Humans hybridize species within an environment where hybridization has occurred naturally throughout evolutionary history."

Nope. Farmers hybridize different species (and inbreed others) - these are rather unnatural ways for genomes to change. In nature successful hybrids are rare. It's in fact one of the definitions of a biological species; two populations that don't -not "can't"- interbreed. Of course hybrids do happen in nature (wild Ligers have been known and a recent report described a Prizzly bear - a Polar Bear v Grizzly cross) but that only proves my point; those are very rare because hybridization rarely occurs (else they wouldn't be different species). The ones *we* manipulated didn't (don't) cross in nature. That's why we did it the first place. There is nothing natural about the way farmers have crossed (or inbred) plants or animals over the millenia.

You seem to think that there is something magical about modifying genes in a lab versus how genomes are modified on the farm or in nature,or for that matter, in us (approximately 6-8% of our genome didn't come from a human ancestor).

Biology is messy. Genes move around. Species boundaries are often nothing more than the timing of the flowering season, or different vocalizations or being separated by a mountain range. The point is there is nothing biologically different to the way scientists change the genome of organisms than the way farmers do it. The difference is the technique.
Regarding the statement:
"Obviously, there are other angles to the GMO debate, but the issue at hand is about labeling food, not the impact of genetically modified organisms on ecosystems."

The issue at hand is labeling a product that happens to be food. There are few reasons to be concerned about the safety of eating the food purely on a "is it GMO?" basis. However, there are sufficient reasons to be concerned about possible environmental effects. Pointing out that the product is food and is safe for consumption does not obviate questions regarding such effects.

There is overwhelming evidence to show that when denied the information while making choices, people will make uninformed choices.
@32"..."gmo foods are safe in every possible aspect we can ever care about""


Bet that strawman was really hard to get to stand upright, eh?
Regarding the argument that genetic manipulation has been occurring for millenia and is therefore safe:

I am able to add numbers on my fingers. I am able to add them faster on paper. And a modern computer can add them significantly faster.

The differences in speed result in different qualitative capabilities. I could not, for example, encrypt, sign, verify, and decrypt a message on pen and paper in a time frame that would make it feasible to securely communicate on a daily basis. Computers make this trivial. In fact, there are laws against making computer systems and software programs that can perform encryption. There are huge environmental side effects of the manufacture of billions of computers every year. And yet, we are just adding numbers so computers cannot possibly cause harm, right?

Stop looking at the 5 days from now, 5 months from now, or even 5 years from now questions and concluding that you know The Immutable Truth. This is not how science works.
And to follow it all up, here's a less science-based argument:

1. GMOs result in more nutritious, cheaper, or more sustainable food with negligible downsides.
2. The manufacturers of these superior products are fighting tooth and nail not to be identified as such.

Say the above with a straight face.
@1 -- Cliff Mass believes in global warming (like just about every meteorologist). To say otherwise is an ignorant insult. He has simply pointed out that a hot summer (or warm winter) is not necessarily the result of global warming. Of course it isn't. You can't point to any particular event and say it was caused by global warming. The roulette table favors the house, but no particular spin can be said to favor it.

As for the GMO debate, as many have pointed out, those who want labels may want them for many reasons. To say that the only reason people want to see labels on GMO food is because of safety concerns is like saying the only reason people want to know if their toys came from China is because of safety as well. It is a straw man argument. There are plenty of reasons why (in both cases) you might want to know (including those mentioned by 18, 19 and others).
@37: This.
Horizontal gene transfer, or HGT, has been known since the 1950s - in prokaryotes (bacteria). There is no clarity at all on the significance of HGT in multicellular organisms, like crop plants and insects and people. (If you've got the dough, or access to a decent library, there's an excellent review in 2007 on "Horizontal Gene Transfer in Plants" in the Journal of Experimental Botany. One can then use that article and do a forward search on articles citing the original to get a sense of where the field is now.) The suggestion that inserting a gene from, say, an Arctic fish, into a tomato plant, is just the same as regular old controlled breeding is ludicrous. Artificial selection makes use of the naturally existing gene pool; GM techniques draw from the entire genome of organisms in the world. You can say it's the same all you want: it's not.

You can also say there are mountains of studies on the safety of consuming GMO foods - there are! You're right! And you can say there are mountains of studies on the ecological safety of growing those crops with the required chemical loads - and there aren't! You're completely full of shit! But hey, if you could drop off a couple of dozen citations on those studies, I'll be happy to read them.

Scientists - and I am one, so I oughta know - have a long and noble history of producing the knowledge that leads to technologies that improve people's lives. We also have a long history of fucking up and producing technologies that have terrible unintended consequences. There is no way of knowing at this point which of these things GMOs represent; the truth is probably there is some of both. There's no doubt that Bt strains of cotton, for instance, actually REDUCE pesticide loads, which is A Good Thing for the surrounding ecosystem. On the other hand, "RoundUp Ready" crops result in a dramatic dump of, well, RoundUp on the crops. This has measurable ecological impact on surrounding communities ("weed" plants suffer both in the crop field and nearby, for instance). The active ingredient, glyphosphate, is probably not horrible, but the carrier substances which make up the vast bulk of the herbicide are undescribed and their impact is therefore unknown -- if you dissolve something harmless in vast quantities of something harmful, you can't just tell me the solute is hunky dory unless you can also tell me what the solvent is. Monsanto declines to do that.

Tl;dr: GMOs have benefits and downsides. It's absurd to pretend it's all one or the other. Don't be absurd.
If we can't stop Monsanto pesticides and habitat loss from killing off all the pollinators: birds, BEES, and butterflies, GMOs will be the least of our agricultural and food supply's problems. Think famine, mass starvation, hundreds of millions DEAD!

I'm at least as worried about nefarious propaganda organs seek to influence our public policy via use of ALL CAPS.
I understand the argument that people will suffer economically in countries like America and health-wise in countries that have severe lack of access to food. I understand the argument. My problem is, why is it that congress is determining whether or not the labels will be there? The people should have the say, and if they don't want to eat GMOs, that's their goddamn right. DO NOT tell me what I should put into my body. This whole argument that keeping GMOs labelled will scare off people from purchasing them is tantamount to saying that warnings on cigarette boxes kept people, especially young people, from smoking. People will do what they want. That is our nature. We just want to know what we are doing, especially when others are telling us what to do. The argument that impoverished countries will suffer if there are no GMO foods available is to me the crux of the problem of this subject. Why don't people have the food they need? It's greed, not whether or not people should trust in GMOs. If you want to feed someone, then feed them. If you can't feed them without altering their food genentically, then maybe it's your systems of government and your multi-national corporations that are to blame. People don't get the food they need, and all of a sudden it's because of first-world problems like labels. Bullshit. We have the resources and the workers to solve problems like lack of access to food. The people who own the food and control the labeling don't want to give up their power. Trouble feeding people? No. It's because we are selfish. We don't want to give up what we have to save another. This is the second "fall of man."

“O young girl, throw yourself again into the water so that I might have a second time the chance to save the two of us!" A second time, eh, what imprudence! Suppose, dear sir, someone actually took our word for it? It would have to be fulfilled. Brr...! the water is so cold! But let's reassure ourselves. It's too late now, it will always be too late. Fortunately!” - from The Fall by Albert Camus

That is the evil we face. Ourselves.

We want to keep our power and still help those in need. This is the same bullshit that people argue when they say that altruism is impossible. It's not about altruism. It's about equality. If you don't help someone in need, you are choosing evil. If you try to justify it, you are deluding yourself. The system says that we need all of this shit, cars, nice clothes, an $150 bottle of wine. Take it all away and what do you have? Each other. That is all we really have.
ps love the title of your website
I have a degree in biochemistry, and to be honest, scientifically educated people on the left have been fine with GMOs for a long long time. Concerns about specific companies being corrupt and donating huge sums of money to congressmen are a separate issue. It doesn't invalidate the fact that we can and must make our food better in order to feed a growing population.
The left has always mistrusted corporate science.

Corporate science said CFCs were safe. Corporate science said the Fukshima reactor was safe from every conceivable disaster. Corporate science said cigarettes were safe. Who stands in the way of real climate science? Corporate science.

Now corporate science says GMOs are safe by every conceivable measure. And you're surprised the left is not buying it?

Part of the disconnect is the confidence of those who say that "every conceivable" risk has been evaluated. CFCs were safe according to the criteria they chose to evaluate. It's just that it had never occurred to anybody to evaluate their effect on the ozone layer. Fukushima was prepared for every kind of earthquake and tsunami they thought might happen. It's just that they had no data on the frequency of 9.0 earthquakes, and so couldn't plan for it.

Corporations make decisions this way. They evaluate a limited set of risks which meet their standard of reasonable. People who asked what might happen in a 9.0 earthquake were dismissed as cranks. The whistle blowers who warned of the Challenger disaster were dismissed as cranks.

This kind of risk management let us to think we would succeed at nation building in Afghanistan where all others had failed, specifically because of a bulleted list of new technologies. Read what Scientific American was writing about how excellent our awesome new drone fleet was doing in Afghanistan. Yes, the same Scientific American that today scoffs at GMO skeptics. Those who said our technology was not enough to make a difference in Afghanistan were dismissed as cranks, for the usual reasons.

Same two types of risk management played out in the debate over WMDs in Iraq. Those who imagined all the ways that adventure could go sideways were, again, dismissed as cranks. The corporate way of making decisions doesn't have room for considering how things could go really, really bad if your assumptions are wrong.

It's not about getting a gold star from the likes of Scientific American for being properly pro-science. It's about a deeper chasm between two ways of approaching risk. No surprise at all that the left wants both action on climate change and GMO labeling. The reasons why are obvious if you pay attention.
I haven't followed closely the GMO science lately, but is its safety still based on the "gold standard" 90-day rat trials, or has there been a long-term human study? Regardless we need GMOs to feed the people we're starving with militarism; neglect no profit stream!
@45: "Part of the disconnect is the confidence of those who say that 'every conceivable' risk has been evaluated. CFCs were safe according to the criteria they chose to evaluate. It's just that it had never occurred to anybody to evaluate their effect on the ozone layer."
Because mid-atmosphere chemistry wasn't that well understood in the 1960s and 1970s.
"Fukushima was prepared for every kind of earthquake and tsunami they thought might happen. It's just that they had no data on the frequency of 9.0 earthquakes, and so couldn't plan for it."
Fukushima was built, again, in the 1960s, well before the advent of sophisticated modeling techniques and modern structural analysis.

You are mistaking technical limitations of the time for reckless negligence.
Not to mention, the engineers who predicted possible catastrophic failure of the shuttle O-rings weren't "dismissed as cranks"; their concerns were glossed over by administrators. You know, people with authority but without the technical expertise.
@47 - Technical limitations: Yes. Exactly. The technical limitations on about ability to know the full scope of possible issues with GMO crops by definition limits our ability to recognize & understand the potential dangers. Given that plants readily cross-pollinate, we are condemning essentially all food crops to becoming GMO foods. Unlike CFCs which we can legislate out of existence, the GMO genie is out of the bottle never to be returned.

In 20-40 more years, when genetic research and knowledge is greatly improved, we may know more what we've done for the sake of corporate profit.

@11 - As a non-geneticist, I am aware of how genes work, generally, but there is much I do not know, and I posit there is much that geneticist do not know as well.
" Eating an octopus doesn't give me any octopus DNA."
Sure, I understand that. What about my gut microbiome? Since we can't even culture 97% of gut microbes outside of the body, do we know how GMO foods are impacting them? We barely know what they do at present. Can they absorb genes from foods? What about altered protein expression from modified genes & gene groups in plants?

I strongly urge everyone to stop conflating lab genetically-modified organisms with selective-breeding/hybridization. Clearly plants and animals have been cross-breeding for millions of years, and that process has been borne out. Manually inserting specific genes from a mammal into a plant via a virus is a very different process that has been around for only a few decades; we have no way of knowing the long-term results. Period. Yet we are told this is definitely the way we should go. The 'Precautionary Principle' suggests that we take much more care.

" the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action that may or may not be a risk."

I contend that comparing DDT and polycarbonates/BPA to corporate GMO creation is not strawman argument, because all three were created to solve a legitimate need, all three were tested with all the means available at the time, and all three were driven by corporate profit motives. The jury is out on whether GMOs will be a long term boon or catastrophic error.

However, the very fact that GMOs encourage and facilitate increased monocropping is clearly a bad result as crops are more susceptible to total loss from a single pathogen, especially in the face of climate change (and the extreme weather events, and changing pest & blight ranges that are occurring).
I am a scientist (oceanography). Personally I think GMO foods are safe to eat. But there are a lot of perfectly good reasons to avoid GMO foods. Maybe you don't like the politics of Monsanto et al. Maybe you think there is environmental downsides to GMO foods. Maybe you just don't like the sound of it.

Unlike vaccination, making a personal choice to avoid GMO foods harms no one. People deserve to be able to make that choice, for good reasons and for bad, and we need labeling to do so. I would not support banning GMO foods. But I do support labeling GMO food so people can make their own choices. If GMO foods are so much better, healthier, and cheaper, let them succeed in the marketplace.
@48: "Given that plants readily cross-pollinate, we are condemning essentially all food crops to becoming GMO foods."
This sort of shit is why you should leave the biotech stuff to the actual bioscientists, you imbecile.
@37 - I did not say he didn't believe in 'global warming.' He often and loudly starts climate-denier-friendly screeds with "I believe in global warming, but . . .", using the clause to couch his ego-boosting, attention-seeking 'edgy' statements with an air of seriousness, while saying with a straight face that the primary problem in the climate debate is that news organizations constantly overhype climate change. But really, even the phrase 'global warming' is the preferred language of climate deniers. He attacks science he has no business discussing (look up his statements on ocean acidification). Also, meteorologists on a population level are unusually likely to not believe in climate change.
@51 Sorry nuance is too much for you, but you cannot blame a specific weather event on one single explanation. Weather is too complex and too interconnected to do otherwise. Folks like you want to blame every cloud, every breeze and every variation in the weather on climate change and it's fucking stupid.

Stop it.

Climate change is real, it's caused by humans, and it's really fucking up this planet but it's not to blame for every last thing that happens in the atmosphere.

By the way, those who keep going on and on about "corporate science" have already phoned their members of congress for more public funding of the sciences, right?
@51: What Solk512 said. Don't be a fuckwit.
My points, laid out simply, lest I be taken as an enemy of nuance or a practitioner of fuckwittery:

1: Cliff Mass has a long, well-documented history of attacking climate scientists' work when he has no expertise in that field (see the ocean acidification posts).
2: He speaks about anthropogenic climate change in client-change-denier friendly language, which is at best unhelpful and at worst enabling.
3: He has a level of celebrity in this town that makes both of the above much worse.

I get it - atmospheric scientists study variability, and everything can be explained by variability if you poke the data enough. My problem with uncritically referencing ex-NPR weatherman Cliff Mass' blog posts is that he is doing real damage to the discourse that serves no apparent purpose other than to stroke his well-documented ego. The problem with climate change discourse is not that news orgs are constantly whipping up people into a frenzied fear over impacts - quite the opposite. The problem with the discourse is that a cynical party in the US seeks to undermine the science, and when you have people like Mass criticizing actual climate scientists, it lends credence to that strategy. Fucks sake.


1. From the multiple articles and different sources I can find, he seems to be making a distinction between ocean acidification and surface waters. Even if he was wrong here, this doesn't mean he's a complete kook to be written off willy-nilly and should certainly be trusted over a journalist with no training in the relevant sciences at all.

2. This is where I really start having problems with your argument. What in the hell does "climate-change-denier-friendly language" even mean? And how is a scientist supposed to describe complex phenomena when the climate change world are full of people ready and waiting to twist, distort and outright lie about what's going on? He could simply speak about what he likes on his pizza and climate change deniers would find a way to twist it.

3. This is a rather silly complaint to make - screaming "he's just an attention whore!!" does nothing for the discussion here, and you seem better than the average commenter here.

You're wrong about variability as well. The more data you have, the easier it becomes to rule something out as noise or simple variability, that's basic statistics. Science happens when experiments are performed and results challenged by those acting in good faith. It's ugly, it's messy and it's mainly pedantic nitpicking over tiny details. It's worse than watching C-SPAN.

Save your vitriol for those it belongs to - those actually denying climate change!

Why do you act like GMO crops are somehow harder or more impossible to understand over crops created using mutagenic chemicals, ionizing radiation, cross-breeding or grafting? GM techniques only alter single genes, making testing rather easy.

With mutagenic chemicals and ionizing radiation, you're randomly scrambling the genome of a plant without any direct control and really no way of knowing how much of the genome has been changed. Given the blackbox nature of these methods, why aren't they also subject to these calls for labeling? Why are they allowed to be certified as Organic all over the world? Why don't you or anyone else for this matter mention them?

With cross-breeding, you're of course crossing two whole genomes. Not one gene here or there, not even random mixes of genes, the whole fucking thing. These should be the most difficult to test due to the complexity of changes, yet they're the gold standard of every person wanting a return to the days of the organic, yeoman farmer of the land. And even then, as complex as these are, they're perfectly fine! The occasional Lenape potato comes around of course, but they get taken care of quite easily.

And grafting? That's the only thing that can legitimately be called "frankenfood".

Oh, and that bit about "GMOSs encourage and facilitate increased monocropping is clearly a bad result as crops are more susceptible to total loss from a single pathogen"? BT Cotton and BT Corn were specifically designed to solve pathogen issues. So was the Rainbow Papaya. All three have been hugely successful.

DNA is DNA. Humans share 90% of their DNA with Cats, 80% with Cows, 75% with Mice, 60% with Fruit Flies and 50% with fucking bananas. Show us some actual evidence of greater harm directly related to GM methods that is unique to the use of GM methods and maybe we'll talk.

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