One of the things that our brains excel at is the ability to recognize what things are, even when presented with an incomplete set of data. If we know only that an animal is sold in pet stores and stuffs food in its cheeks, for instance, we can be pretty certain that the animal in question is a hamster. Now, for the first time ever, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a DNA-based artificial neural network that can do the same thing … albeit on a very basic level. They believe that it could have huge implications for the development of true artificial intelligence.
Check out what I just posted at our sister site Rude GMO Critics.
Munich - A recent Testbiotech survey shows that DNA fragments from transgenic plants are increasingly found in animal tissue such as milk, inner organs and muscles. Most recently, in April 2010, scientists from Italy reported DNA sequences stemming from genetically engineered soy in milk from goats. These DNA fragments are presumably, entering the blood stream from the gut and then from there reaching the udder and the milk. Traces of specific DNA were also identified in kids fed with the goat’s milk. These findings are not the first to be reported after DNA fragments have been found in the tissue of animals fed with transgenic plants.
Today Judge Jeffrey White, federal district judge for the Northern District of California, issued a ruling granting the request of plaintiffs Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Sierra Club to rescind the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) approval of genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” sugar beets.
Let’s not forget, all you biotech boosters, that this ruling results from the failure of genetic engineering enthusiasts to follow federal law and do basic environmental science.
Biotech boosters love to go on and on about how GMO crops reduce pesticide use. But once again, reality intervenes.
One weed scientist, David Mortensen at Penn State University, said the government should restrict the use of herbicide-tolerant crops and impose a tax on biotech seeds to fund research and education programs.The resistant weeds cannot be killed by the sole use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, which has become broadly popular with farmers with the advent more than a decade ago of soybeans, cotton, corn and other crops that are immune to the chemical. The weeds now infest about 11 million acres, a fivefold increase in three years, Mortensen said.
Thus requiring more and harsher pesticides.
The sowing season may be just around the corner, but this year German farmers will not be planting genetically modified crops: German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday she was banning the cultivation of GM corn in Germany. Under the new regulations, the cultivation of MON 810, a GM corn produced by thewill be prohibited in Germany, as will the sale of its seed. Aigner told reporters Tuesday she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810 posed “a danger to the environment,” a position which she said the Environment Ministry also supported. In taking the step, Aigner is taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries to impose such bans.
The BBC elevates patronizing to the level of art with this wretchedly titled bit of pap “Fussy Eaters- Whats wrong with GM food?”
Some fear GM food is bad for health. There are no data that support this view.
In the US, where many processed foods contain ingredients derived from GM maize or soy, in the most litigious society in history, nobody has sued for a GM health problem.
Some fear GM is bad for the environment. But in agriculture, idealism does not solve problems. Farmers need “least bad” solutions; they do not have the luxury of insisting on utopian solutions.
It is less bad to control weeds with a rapidly inactivated herbicide after the crop germinates, than to apply more persistent chemicals beforehand.
It is less bad to have the plant make its own insecticidal protein, than to spray insecticides.
It is better to maximise the productivity of arable land via all kinds of sustainable intensification, than to require more land under the plough because of reduced yields.
Some say GM is high risk, but they cannot tell you what the risk is…
Your pals at New Scientist never took up the challenge after we dropped this house on them. Perhaps you all will be a bit more sporting, wot?
Washington, Jun 21 -
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a long-time advocate of family farmers and organic foods, today made the following statement after the Supreme Court voted 7-1 to allow the experimental planting of genetically modified alfalfa seed before an environmental review is completed:
“Today the Supreme Court ruled that when it comes to genetically modified organisms, we as consumers, have to wait until the damage is done and obvious, before we can act to protect health and the environment, even if that damage could be irreversible.
“Haven’t we learned from the catastrophe in the Gulf of the dangers of technological arrogance, of proceeding ahead with technologies without worrying about the consequences? Why do we continue to throw precaution to the wind?
“Tomorrow I will introduce three bills this week that will provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all Genetically Engineered (GE) plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms.
Call your reps.
In a move that surprises no one, the Supreme Court has overturned a ban on genetically engineered alfalfa. At this time, we are waiting for a press release from The Center for Food Safety.
‘’This Supreme Court ruling is important for every American farmer, not just alfalfa growers,'’ said David F. Snively, Monsanto’s senior vice president and general counsel. ‘’All growers can rely on the expertise of USDA, and trust that future challenges to biotech approvals must now be based on scientific facts, not speculation.'’
Opponents of the genetically-engineered seeds also claimed victory.
‘’The ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate EIS (environmental impact statement) is prepared by USDA and they officially deregulate the crop. This is a year or more away according to the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further litigation if the agency’s analysis is not adequate,'’ said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. ‘’In sum, it’s a significant victory in our ongoing fight to protect farmer and consumer choice, the environment and the organic industry.'’
Whether (strong growth in the organic sector is) a good or a bad thing depends on whether you think the environmental benefits of organic farming outweigh the long-term downsides of defining good farming not with science, but with what feels natural.
Hey asshole - there is a science of organic farming, and a science of anti-gmo sentiment. You might want to get your head out of your ass before making love to your own strawman. Here’s where to start:
You want to side with the soil chemists over the soil biologists that’s fine with me, but don’t go saying this is all about feeling natural. This is a science vs. science story, and as usual, idiots like you are labeling the opposing side unscientific while supporting your own POV with logical fallacies. Real scientific of you. I guess being an asshat just feels natural to you.
The cell was created by stitching together the genome of a goat pathogen called Mycoplasma mycoides from smaller stretches of DNA synthesised in the lab, and inserting the genome into the empty cytoplasm of a related bacterium. The transplanted genome booted up in its host cell, and then divided over and over to make billions of M. mycoides cells.
Venter and his team have previously accomplished both feats – creating a synthetic genome and transplanting a genome from one bacterium into another – but this time they have combined the two.
…here’s a bullet-point summary of my findings:
- If anything, President Barack Obama appears to be warmly in favor of genetic engineering, although there is some wiggle room with his campaign statements.
- President Obama’s picks for Ag Secretary, campaign advisers, and other cabinet positions further suggest that he is positively disposed to GE crops. Given his emphasis on plant-based biofuels, he may also see it as a means to achieve his domestic renewable fuel goals.
- Obama did not make a written campaign statement promising to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.
did not respondto mailingsfrom The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, nor did his presidential campaign contact them.
- Obama’s declared agenda, now housed at the White House website, indicates that these labels are not on his agenda.
- The claim that he will “fast track” GE food labeling appears to be an invention or the result of miscommunication.
- President Obama only once expressed a desire for GE food labeling, but has not made a campaign promise or pledge that he will “require mandatory labeling” for GE food.
There is no evidence that Barack Obama ever made a statement strong enough to be considered as a campaign promise to label GE foods.
Don’t get me wrong - I love me some Obama. He knows what science is and everything. So that’s great and I can work with that. But this unwelcome news about the US trying to squash GMO labeling worldwide is the kind of stuff that’s worth fighting about.
Contact the White House here. (Phoning is always more effective than email; scroll down for phone number.)
And in case you aren’t sure why GMOs are bad, our epic smackdown of hapless pro-GMO science writer Michael Le Page is here.
Of course to GMO-friendly New Scientist magazine, the thoughtful, lucid, data-rich folks running the pro-organic Rodale Institute are an unhinged, irrational people.
It has long been a semi-fantasy of mine to willingly replace my eyes with something artificial. Something along the line of Geordi La Forge’s upgrades seen in First Contact (I think), but with the added capabilities full spectrum vision settings, and hopefully a zoom function, macro and micro (think stargazing).
So with that out in the open, these guys claim to be getting close to curing blindness, which means 25-35 years from now…well, who the hell can really predict that long from now?
A group of experts from the Tel Aviv University (TAU), led by Professor Yael Hanein from the university’s School of Electrical Engineering, announced major progress in developing bionic eyes. The group has been investigating ways of merging man and machine for many years, and they say that the foundational research needed to make this a reality has been completed.
This could mean that the long-heralded future of bionics may finally be upon us.
Shit hits fan in India:
Monsanto’s former managing directior of India operations is talking, and it’s not pretty for the behemoth of genetic modification. Tiruvadi Jagadisan is accusing his former employer of faking scientific data with the intent of evading the government’s regulatory requirements.
The 84 year-old Jagadisan is quoted as saying, “I retired from the company as I felt the management of Monsanto, USA, was exploiting our country.” Jagadisan had been with Monsanto for almost 20 years.
India rejects genetically modified crop. I especially like this paragraph about it from Beyond Pesticides:
Advocates of genetically engineered crops have argued that they are the only way to meet the world’s growing demand for food, and that they reduce the need for pesticides, while increasing yields. Studies have shown these claims to be false. The widespread adoption of GE crops in the United States has actually increased pesticide use but failed to increase yield. Recent studies have also linked GMO consumption to organ failure.
Those are the facts. God forbid the press - and the scientific press - should be so objective.
It is the Day of the Triffids - not the genetically modified plants themselves as alluded to in John Wyndham’s novel - but “super weeds that can’t be killed” , created by the planting of genetically modified HT crops, as seen on ABC TV news.
The scene is set at harvest time in Arkansas October 2009. Grim-faced farmers and scientists speak from fields infested with giant pigweed plants that can withstand as much glyphosate herbicide as you can afford to douse on them. One farmer spent US$0.5 million in three months trying to clear the monster weeds in vain; they stop combine harvesters and break hand tools. Already, an estimated one million acres of soybean and cotton crops in Arkansas have become infested.
The palmer amaranth or palmer pigweed is the most dreaded weed. It can grow 7-8 feet tall, withstand withering heat and prolonged droughts, produce thousands of seeds and has a root system that drains nutrients away from crops. If left unchecked, it would take over a field in a year.
Meanwhile in North Carolina Perquimans County, farmer and extension worker Paul Smith has just found the offending weed in his field , and he too, will have to hire a migrant crew to remove the weed by hand.
The resistant weed is expected to move into neighbouring counties. It has already developed resistance to at least three other types of herbicides.
Herbicide-resistance in weeds is nothing new. Ten weed species in North Carolina and 189 weed species nationally have developed resistance to some herbicide.
Amazing that a technology designed to eliminate hand-weeding and mechanical cultivation will bring about the triumphant return of: hand-weeding and mechanical cultivation.
Let’s see. We love the Center for Science in the Public Interest (or CSPI) for their Integrity in Science Database, where you can cross-reference scientists and universities with their corporate cash. It’s one of the best resources on the web for Gonzo Scientists concerned about corporate bias in science and that’s why we link to it in our sidebar under “Critical Thinking”.
But CSPI ain’t perfect. For instance they are still bashing coconut oil for being heart-stopping “artery-clogging” saturated fat, even while a consensus appears to be building that coconut oil has been the vicitm of a US industry-led smear campaign, and is actually crazy healthy.
CSPI also sucks when it comes to genetic engineering of food - while not embracing GE food full-heartedly, they provide an awful lot of cover for this out-of-control industry, in their zeal to be “balanced”. For instance, in their Biotechnology FAQ page, they spout this excrement about the safety of GE food:
GE food companies and others have conducted a number of tests to determine food safety and that testing has not uncovered any evidence of harm. Those tests have included short-term high-dose animal feeding studies of the GE protein, determining whether and how quickly the GE protein is broken down in the stomach (which prevents exposure to the rest of the body), and testing the levels of a number of naturally occurring plant components to make sure they have not been changed in the GE crop. While some of the tests have not always used the best available methods, together the results indicate that current GE crops are safe.
That is demonstrably total crap, and if that’s their idea of the public interest, they can keep it - not a word in there about the health hazards continually popping up in independent research. Why would the Center for Science in the Public Interest throw these independent researchers an anchor? There’s also this entirely outdated, sanitized version of the GE contamination of Mexican landrace corn:
Further tests are being conducted to determine whether the original results about the presence of GE genes in Mexican corn are correct.
The results have been in for a while now: they found ‘em! supporting the original study! - but not a peep from CSPI, who act like the GE controversy somehow can’t be decided one way or the other. Choose a side already - the truly scientific side is against GE.
Verdict: good watchdogs, but could be great, if they can stop being overly influenced by industry.
But since we already know - without research - that GMOs are harmless, this new research showing health risks is de facto poorly designed! Right, New Scientist magazine? God those guys are scientific!!
In addition to having to overcome the sickening biotech-boosterism of much of the science world and the scientific press (cough cough New Scientist cough cough), it is also an uphill battle for researchers to obtain sufficient data to do science - observe, from the research:
In order to scientifically address this issue, it is necessary to have access to toxicological tests, preferably on mammals, performed over the longest time-scales involving detailed blood and organ system analyses. Furthermore, these tests should, if possible, be in accordance with OECD guidelines. Unfortunately, this has been a challenge since usually these are regulatory tests performed confidentially by industry prior to commercialization of their GM crops, pesticides, drugs or chemicals. As a result, it is more instructive to investigate the available data that allows comparisons of several GMOs consumptions on health effects. … The raw data have been obtained by European governments and made publically available for scrutiny and counter-evaluation. … The raw biochemical data, necessary to allow a statistical re-evaluation, should be made publically available according to European Union Directive CE/2001/18 but unfortunately this is not always the case in practice. On this occasion, the data we required for this analysis were obtained either through court actions (lost by Monsanto) to obtain the MON 863 feeding study material (June 2005), or by courtesy of governments or Greenpeace lawyers.
Oh and about those health risks?
These are the longest in vivo tests performed with mammals consuming these GMOs. … in the three GM maize varieties that formed the basis of this investigation, new side effects linked to the consumption of these cereals were revealed, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others . We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity. This can be due to the new pesticides (herbicide or insecticide) present specifically in each type of GM maize, although unintended metabolic effects due to the mutagenic properties of the GM transformation process cannot be excluded .
But New Scientist said there was no rational basis for distinguishing GM from non-GM!!
(hat tip to Organic Consumers Association)
Geez, these adverse findings are racking up. Can pro-GMO scientists bat them all away in time to save Monsanto?? Priorities…
via the Organic Consumers Association:
Next stop: your genome. Just remember, we have to destabilize the environment to save it!
Paraphrasing there. Best bit:
$2 million US dollar verdict against Bayer confirms company’s liability for an uncontrollable technology
….This verdict confirms that the responsibility for the consequences of GE (genetic engineering) contamination rests with the company that releases GE crops.
Sweet Georgia sunshine!!
Who wouldn’t sign up to chow down on forbidden synthetic human meat out of a futuristic food tube?
Frankenrabbit biofactories rabbit herd waiting for regulator approval to be hooked to little milking machines to help produce a lifesaving drug for those with angioedema.
National Geographic: “Drug soon for sale?”
Gonzo Science: All respect to the vicitms of angioedema, welcome to day one of Transgenic Rabbit Escape Watch.
New research in planetary astronomy has significantly upped the estimate of the amount of oxygen in Europa’s global ocean:
At least three million tons of fishlike creatures could theoretically live and breathe on Europa, said study author Richard Greenberg of the University of Arizona in Tucson.
National Geographic even got an oceanographer to chime in:
“I’d be shocked if no life existed on Europa,” said Shank, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
taking the Gonzo Science position.
As many as 25 percent of the American farmers growing genetically engineered corn are no longer complying with federal rules intended to maintain the resistance of the crops to damage from insects, according to a report Thursday from an advocacy group.
So I guess the EPA is all over this?
The E.P.A. said it would evaluate the report and take action if necessary.
This is over an hour long but worth it - recommended. Smith is the guy that New Scientist writer Michael Le Page referred to, in a comments section on this very blog, when he wrote:
“The actual examples all seem pretty dubious, to say the least, but let’s assume they are true for the sake of argument. If so, there is clearly a failure of the testing and regulatory system supposed to make sure GM food is safe - but this is not an argument against GM crops per se. You don’t ban all medical drugs because some turn out to be harmful, any more than you would ban all conventional crops because some turn out to be harmful (look up the lenape potato).
“As for the idea that GM is inherently dangerous, genetic studies have revealed that the genomes of all species are constantly being ‘genetically engineered’. Hundreds of mutations can occur in each new individual, jumping genes (transposons) can cause havoc, viruses insert foreign DNA all over the place, etc, etc. If you think these processes pose a risk to food safety then all crops need better safety testing, not just GM crops.”
Smith destroys Le Page’s arguments in this video.
Of course we’ve also done so ourselves.
We saw all of these GMO-related articles today at the Organic Consumers Association in which:
-a scientist states his objections to GMOs. I guess this guy doesn’t know New Scientist magazine says it’s irrational to draw a distinction.
-a scientist wrote a career-destroying paper critical of GMOs. Solution: publish no more critical papers, because anything other than boosterism is irrational
-a scientist says a corporation suppressed inconvenient data showing environmental harm from their GMO corn, and so it got approved for planting. Good thing New Scientist already knows it’s safe.