×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Battle Brewing Over Labeling of Genetically Modified Food

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the foooooood-fiiiiiiight dept.

Biotech 334

gollum123 writes with this excerpt from the NY Times: "For more than a decade, almost all processed foods in the United States — cereals, snack foods, salad dressings — have contained ingredients from plants whose DNA was manipulated in a laboratory. Regulators and many scientists say these pose no danger. But as Americans ask more pointed questions about what they are eating, popular suspicions about the health and environmental effects of biotechnology are fueling a movement to require that food from genetically modified crops be labeled, if not eliminated. The most closely watched labeling effort is a proposed ballot initiative in California that cleared a crucial hurdle this month, setting the stage for a probable November vote that could influence not just food packaging but the future of American agriculture. Tens of millions of dollars are expected to be spent on the election showdown. It pits consumer groups and the organic food industry, both of which support mandatory labeling, against more conventional farmers, agricultural biotechnology companies like Monsanto and many of the nation's best-known food brands like Kellogg's and Kraft."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

334 comments

Glow in the dark corn... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40114633)

...is some good shit. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Yum!

Re:Glow in the dark corn... (5, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#40115017)

How dare individuals presume to obstruct Monsato's right to maximise monopoly corporate profits?

The right to maximise shareholder value is a founding principal of this nation, and trumps any petty indulgence a person might have about selecting what they ingest.

Capitalism defeated Communism, you know. That's why it's more important than the Bill of Rights that you pinkos cling to.

Re:Glow in the dark corn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115407)

The funny part will be when the "organic" dopes win this, and then Monsanto makes sure they have to label their food as GM too.

Re:Glow in the dark corn... (1)

Surt (22457) | about 2 years ago | (#40115791)

...is some good shit. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Yum!

This post brought to you by Yum! brands!

it's about time (5, Informative)

hguorbray (967940) | about 2 years ago | (#40114657)

see Food Inc and other documentaries about the pernicious effects of agribusiness

-I'm just sayin'

but all food is now GM (5, Insightful)

sneakyimp (1161443) | about 2 years ago | (#40114663)

While I applaud the notion, this all overlooks the fact that pollen from Monsanto's GM crops is wind- and insect-borne to even organic farms.

And what about scientists who say it is harmful [phys.org]?

Re:but all food is now GM (5, Insightful)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 2 years ago | (#40114753)

And if your Orange tree is pollinated by one of Monsanto's Frankin Seeds, you get to pay for it. [cbsnews.com] But does Monsanto pay the neighbor if one of Monsanto's Frankin trees is pollinated by a regular seed?

Re:but all food is now GM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115037)

That article doesn't talk about Orange trees. Just so you know, orange farmers don't typically plant their own trees from seed that they harvested the previous generation, they buy them from orchards.

And they are all hybrids of some kind.

Re:but all food is now GM (5, Informative)

HomoErectusDied4U (1042552) | about 2 years ago | (#40114875)

I agree, it's too late. For example, two out of five different local organic farmers' corn I purchased at the Madison (Wisconsin) Farmers' Market last year came up positive for B. thuringiensis toxin genes. This is not an isolated case; the peer-reviewed literature is replete with examples of transgenic introgression into 'natural' populations. If you want to read more about this, you can start with this nearly-decade old paper that's been cited hundreds of times: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14526376 [nih.gov]

Re:but all food is now GM (-1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#40114897)

And it is simply too late. There is no way to avoid it even if you know. While whole swatches of the market might be GMO free, whole other swatches will be GMO only. Unless you are willing to change your diet drastically, there is no way to avoid it.

Re:but all food is now GM (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#40115007)

Unless you are willing to change your diet drastically, there is no way to avoid it.

Growing your own food is another good way to handle this. Seed producers are very protective of their varieties.

Re:but all food is now GM (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#40115153)

Yes, but no.
You cannot grow your own soda, bread (technically possible), ect, ect, ect, and so on a so forth until 99.5% of your entire diet has been listed.

SO yes, but you would still have to change your diet drastically, and for the items your could grow yourself you could even easier buy non GMOs from someone else.

You can still buy the bare essentials anyway you want. You can get a cow that was not fed GMO corn, but probably not a premade beef burger form such a cow.

Re:but all food is now GM (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#40115325)

Sure, you'd have to give up manufactured food. But that's not such a terrible idea anyway.

I'll be growing wheat next year - I still have to clear for it. Heck, I'd be doing that right now if I weren't resynchronizing databases. :(

I found a local miller with good prices. You can also just buy from a local like-minded farmer.

Re:but all food is now GM (1)

bjwest (14070) | about 2 years ago | (#40115939)

How many acres of wheat do you need to keep yourself in flour for the year? I understand there's summer wheat and winter wheat, so I assume you harvest more than once per year?

Just out of curiosity. I'm primal, so don't eat grains. Of course, before making the switch I baked my own bread. I'd easily go through 5lbs of flour or more a month just for myself.

Re:but all food is now GM (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40115889)

I don't want to encourage the kind of monopoly that Monsanto represents. Even if Monsanto has salted everyone else's fields, I would still respond to a label that made it clear that the farmer that grew my food retained the right to save his own seeds.

This isn't just about the direct impacts of Monsanto franken-foods on my body or the environment. That's certainly important but it is by no means the end of the issue.

Re:but all food is now GM (2)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 2 years ago | (#40114957)

don't worry about cross-pollenation with organic farms: monsanto will just sue the farm out of business if they detect Monsanto DNA in the crops, then buy the land and expand their business.

lol.

actually.... /cry/

Re:but all food is now GM (-1, Troll)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#40115049)

Name me one instance where that has happened. And before you start dragging out the Schmeiser case, no, I don't mean instances where someone violated their contracts or intentionally selected for the transgenic trait. i want to know of just one case where Monsanto up and sued someone simply for being cross pollinated. People keep making that claim, that Monsanto likes to go around suing farmers (because the one thing a seed company wants is less farmers /sarcasm), but when I ask for actual examples of it happening no one can give them, although I can think of the opposite happening. [abc.net.au]

Re:but all food is now GM (5, Informative)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 2 years ago | (#40115925)

Elbert Dallas Thomason

http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Monsanto-Beats-LA-Farmer.htm [mindfully.org]

Why would a mysterious agriculture department sprout up months after Monsanto threatens a local farmer and illegally takes samples of his crops?

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18563_162-4048288.html [cbsnews.com]

Or going after the infrastructure that non-Monsanto farmers require to make a living:

http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-videos/6-must-see-videos/12161-monsanto-vs-seed-cleaner-moe-parr [gmwatch.org]

Are you defending Monsanto, or just pointing out that the 400+ patent violation cases instigated by Monsanto that are in the judicial system (as of 1999) and are NOT public record don't count as "monsanto up and suing people"? We can't tell if they are cross-pollenation cases becasue they aren't public record due to uncertain influence of Monsanto at the local level:

http://grist.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/cfsmonsantovsfarmerreport1.13.05.pdf [wordpress.com]

I agree that contract violation is illegal (saving seed and all that). Have you stopped to consider why they sign these contracts that don't allow them to save seed, and force them to buy more each year at increasing prices? Jeez, I'd have to have a gun pointed to my head to sign something so ludicrous. /sarcasm

I also agree that it should be illegal to extort people into having no choice but to buy from Monsanto or go broke. Because I'm sure you can google, and I'm sure you can find limitless cases where Monsanto bullies and threatens farmers.

Re:but all food is now GM (2, Informative)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#40114997)

And what about scientists who say it is harmful

Depends on whether they actually publish their results in a peer reviewed journal or not. I looked for that study in NIH [google.com] and darnedest thing, couldn't find it. As far as I know, the Ermakova study was never actually published in a peer reviewed journal. If you want to case doubt on the safety of GE crops, you're going to have to do better than that. even Andrew Wakefield managed to get his study in NIH. And for that one study, here's a couple hundred more [blogspot.com] to look over. Fact is, GE crops have been extensively tested, and there is no convincing evidence whatsoever to suggest that currently used GE crops are harmful to human health.

Re:but all food is now GM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115109)

The AAEM board issued a statement saying: "We recognize this study is preliminary in nature. It hasn't yet been peer reviewed and the methodology has not been spelled out in detail.

Laughable (2)

earthwormgaz (2623209) | about 2 years ago | (#40114711)

"More conventional"!? Which f*£king joker wrote that line? Nothing is more conventional than organic. Laughable.

Re:Laughable (1)

Threni (635302) | about 2 years ago | (#40114791)

Yeah, brilliant. "More conventional, such as that which has only ever taken place over the last 50 years or so in some countries, usually man-made chemicals, as opposed to what was done everywhere on the planet for thousands of years".

Re:Laughable (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 2 years ago | (#40114921)

It's just terminology. Actually it's pretty similar to CSD or Conventional Subdivision Design, the term used for the car-only big-lawn suburban sprawl method of residential planning that - you guessed it - has only been around for 60-70 years or so.

IMO, the term "conventional" stands for "whatever most baby boomers prefer or accept". See also http://xkcd.com/988/ [xkcd.com].

Labelled = Banned (5, Insightful)

Cassini2 (956052) | about 2 years ago | (#40114757)

As far as the food industry is concerned, labelling is equivalent to banning genetically modified food.

As far as I am concerned, if they can't sell it for what it is, then they shouldn't be selling it.

Re:Labelled = Banned (3, Insightful)

SomeJoel (1061138) | about 2 years ago | (#40114809)

As far as the food industry is concerned, labelling is equivalent to banning genetically modified food.

As far as I am concerned, if they can't sell it for what it is, then they shouldn't be selling it.

That's not entirely true. Look at High Fructose Corn Syrup. It has been labelled as such (vs. real sugar) for a while, and there are technically alternatives, but all of the big name sodas (and a whole slew of other products) still use it. Even with its richly deserved bad publicity, it is still out there and being sold a lot.

You mean "Corn Sugar"? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40114887)

It has been labelled as such (vs. real sugar) for a while

Except they're not happy [slashdot.org] with that.

Re:Labelled = Banned (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#40115161)

The last time California made a labeling law, the soda vendors changed their formulation [inquisitr.com]. I see no reason why the reaction to this proposal would be any different.

Besides, knowing California, the law will probably require a prominent label that says, "Warning: This product contains genetically modified food. Some genetically modified food is known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm."

Re:Labelled = Banned (1)

Uncle_Meataxe (702474) | about 2 years ago | (#40115517)

Besides, knowing California, the law will probably require a prominent label that says, "Warning: This product contains genetically modified food. Some genetically modified food is known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm."

Not necessarily.

In California, the state requires Proposition 65 warning labels on anything that is known to cause cancer (http://oehha.ca.gov/prop65.html). You see these warnings everywhere you go here -- on buildings, gas stations, etc. Everyone just ignores them. Otherwise, you'd basically have to stay home. Labeling genetically engineered food may turn out to have the same effect. If you see the warning on practically every food label are you going to quit eating? Of course, you could shop at a natural food store or buy organic but will the average Joe or Jane go to that trouble?

Re:Labelled = Banned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115545)

This kind of hits a pet peeve of mine, because there really is nothing out there that high fructose corn syrup is worse for you than plain old sugar. Sugar isn't good for you in the amounts Americans consume high fructose corn syrup in. It's easy to blame something that sounds like chemicals for the woes of a nation who considers each third of the Oreo package a "serving". (Hint: it is 2 cookies).

As for GMO crops, yes the things that Monsanto does are horrible. But blame them for their business practice. The way crops are modified, they produce BT toxin, which is a natural pesticide frequently used in organic farming. (Another pet peeve of mine is assuming anything "natural" is better/safer than synthetic alternatives.) The only good reason to label food as GMO is so that consumers can send Monsanto et al a message about the way they conduct business.

Re:Labelled = Banned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115565)

As far as the food industry is concerned, labelling is equivalent to banning genetically modified food.

As far as I am concerned, if they can't sell it for what it is, then they shouldn't be selling it.

That's not entirely true. Look at High Fructose Corn Syrup. It has been labelled as such (vs. real sugar) for a while, and there are technically alternatives, but all of the big name sodas (and a whole slew of other products) still use it. Even with its richly deserved bad publicity, it is still out there and being sold a lot.

Amazing what happens when tariffs and farm policy deliberately props up the price of plain ol' sugar. Who'd have ever dreamed in a million years that a business would go for the cheaper ingredient?

Sodas manufactured in countries without these policies in place use regular sugar. Including Coke. Try buying Coke from a Mexican grocery, you'll see.

Re:Labelled = Banned (1)

Zapotek (1032314) | about 2 years ago | (#40114815)

If the guy who had won that Nobel prize for GM food (don't remember his name, I had seen him on Bullshit!) is right then we won't be able to sustain our population with non GM food. And of course people will ban GM food by voting with their wallets, as you said. That's quite a situation...

Ok, I doubt that it'll come to that but it makes for a nice topic.

Re:Labelled = Banned (2)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 2 years ago | (#40115277)

Norman Borlaug's work had nothing to do with genetically modified foods, and everything to do with scientific agricultural practices and productive and robust, but conventionally bred, cultivars.

Re:Labelled = Banned (1)

Zapotek (1032314) | about 2 years ago | (#40115345)

Ah, good to know. Ok then, no harm done. :)

Re:Labelled = Banned (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 2 years ago | (#40115625)

IIRC, that episode of Bullshit! conflates direct genetic manipulation with all scientific agriculture.

The other thing I was going to say, in reply to your comment above, is that the level of productivity required now has more to do with our meat intake than our actual coloric needs, as well as our use of monoculture agriculture (which exacerbates disease and lowers productivity in general).

Re:Labelled = Banned (2)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#40115981)

(which exacerbates disease and lowers productivity in general)

Yes to the first, no to the second. It is pretty easy to understand why monoculture is bad from a disease management standpoint. It creates a great environment for a handful of pests to absolutely thrive. If a potato problem becomes big in an area where it is just nothing but potatoes, and especially if they are generically uniform, then it is like dropping a match in a tinderbox (like the Irish Potato Famine), however, if the potatoes are interspersed with other varieties of potatoes it decreases the chance of disease spread and if they are interspersed with other species it really hinders or even stops it. So yes, monoculture is bad in that respect. But lets not ignore the benefits of economies of scale either. Growing nothing but the same thing allows easier harvesting, planting, and management. There is a reason farmers are willing to use it, and it isn't because they loose yield. I'm a big fan of biodiversity myself, there are so many crop species that could offer so much benefit that we simply don't use it is ridiculous (though that's a rant for another time), but for its flaws monoculture does bring benefits. It is also worth noting that even in big fields of the same crop farmers aren't stupid. they sow different varieties, for example, late and early yielding soybeans to hedge against an early frost.

I disagree about the Bullshit! episode, although they did touch on other issues besides GE crops. What Norman Borlaug actually said was that with only organic we couldn't feed the world, not without GE crops. We might be able to feed the world without them (some people would probably starve though), although as the global population rises water gets scarcer and fertilizer & energy prices rise and peak phosphorus draws closer and climate change rears its ugly head, feeding the world while being picky in which tools we use (including biotechnology, biodiversity, chemical inputs, and biological controls) to do so becomes an increasingly irrational and implausible notion.

Re:Labelled = Banned (0)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 2 years ago | (#40114977)

unlikely:

look at mcdonalds...

look at cigarettes...

look at crack...

(am I too many decades off with the crack joke?)

those are proven killers and people consume them by the ton (well, except for crack).

Re:Labelled = Banned (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#40114987)

Which is fine, if that's what people want. I suspect more people will want cheaper food, damn the consequences (if any), but that's fine too.

I'm not for compelled speech (mandatory labeling) but I've also heard the FDA has rules preventing 'GMO Free' labels as well. I've never been able to verify this, and I do see a few products in the stores with such labels (but not many). I'd applaud civ. dis. on this, but does anybody here know the real story re: FDA rules?

Re:Labelled = Banned (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#40115129)

As far as I am concerned, if they can't sell it for what it is, then they shouldn't be selling it.

They are selling it for what it is, food. The problem here is that they are effectively being forced to run a FUD campaign against their own products. The vast majority of the public are ignorant / misinformed on many issues. There are many people who won't buy a product because they see a warning label they don't understand. This product over here is "gluten free, sugar free, GM free" and therefore must be better for you right?

Re:Labelled = Banned (4, Insightful)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 2 years ago | (#40115311)

On this basis, nothing that the government or corporations do or plan should become public knowledge, because "the vast majority of the public are ignorant / misinformed on many issues."

Re:Labelled = Banned (0)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#40115777)

As far as I am concerned, if they can't sell it for what it is, then they shouldn't be selling it.

And if people can't label evolution as what it is, just a theory, then they shouldn't be teaching it. See what I did there? Just because groups lie about it enough such that a largely ignorant about the topic population is scared doesn't mean it should be treated specially. What if you labeled bread as 'This product contains mutagen produced wheat'? Think people would like that? Probably not, yet that applies to somewhere around 80% of all wheat varieties. Should they stop selling that? What if you had to label apples, not as Gala or Fuji, but as 'Mutated bud sport of Gala' or 'Mutant bud sport of Fuji'? How do you think that would turn out for bud sports [wikipedia.org] like Daybreak Fuji and Gale Gala, even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with them? What this means is that better education is needed, not that we need special labels.

Re:Labelled = Banned (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40115943)

...except everyone does label the theory of evolution what it is.

It's a theory. It's a SCIENTIFIC theory. That truthful disclosure doesn't hurt anything. Neither does disclosing a mountain of literature written on the subject by actual scientists over the last 150 or so years.

That's a level of scrutiny thay Monsanto is afraid of.

"Mutated" beats "engineered to allow increased pesticide use".

Funny excuses they use (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40114783)

Funny excuses they use to not label the franken-food as GMOed. "We don't want mandatory labeling because nobody can keep track of the ingredients." If you can't keep track of a dozen ingredients in your food products, how are you keeping track of all those genes and the interactions between them?

If they don't have anything to hide, then why not label it GMO? Hint - because nobody in their right mind would buy it, that's why.

Re:Funny excuses they use (1)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about 2 years ago | (#40115201)

because nobody in their right mind would buy it

Smart, non-Luddite people would.

Re:Funny excuses they use (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40115967)

>> because nobody in their right mind would buy it
>
> Smart, non-Luddite people would.

Most people have no taste and greatly overestimate their intelligence.

I dislike the "ownership" aspect of GMO seeds and want to avoid them purely for that reason. It's like everyone's nightmares about software patents in one package. The increased pesticide levels and bee colony destruction are just an added bonus.

Re:Funny excuses they use (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#40115771)

Because guaranteeing genetic 'purity' is very difficult with organisms that reproduce sexually. Also, how are organic farmers keeping track of all the naturally occurring genes and interactions between them? "All those genes" is the same kind of idiocy as "all those chemicals", and being duped into thinking that dihydrogen monoxide is dangerous.

Notme was here. (4, Insightful)

muggs (11582) | about 2 years ago | (#40114825)

So, they want to patent the food but not admit it. Sounds like organized crime.

I don't care about the harm, it's about choice. (3, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#40114855)

If GM food is awesome, then why aren't they proud enough to slap a big 'ol label on it and say so? I mean, I buy "Sugar Free" and "Fat Free" stuff, they're proud of that... "New and Improved" has been the promotional battle cry since marketing began... So, what's so bad about informing the consumers? Consumers should have the choice: Some people might prefer it regardless of any real or perceived benefit or harm. Eg: I buy cage free eggs not because of better living conditions for birds, but because of the taste -- Tastes like Freedom! It's not like all the other eggs say: Unborn Chicken Slaves...

The point is: without a label, how can I exercise consumer choice? Put it another way: If the corn has DNA pesticide enough such that I don't have to fight off Texas sized mosquito swarms anymore, then I might just ONLY eat Deep Woods OFF(tm) brand Gene Boosted food.

Re:I don't care about the harm, it's about choice. (1)

million_monkeys (2480792) | about 2 years ago | (#40115033)

The opposite case can be made: If non-GM food is so awesome, why don't the organic folks slap a non-GM label on their stuff? That accomplishes your goal of giving people choice. And they can do it today - no regulations needed - and no one's gonna oppose it. If it were really just about choice, doesn't that accomplish the goal? The fact that "GM free" labels aren't good enough implies it's really not about giving consumers choices.

Re:I don't care about the harm, it's about choice. (4, Insightful)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about 2 years ago | (#40115221)

The FDA does not allow labeling something non-GMO
http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/nongmolabel112205.cfm

Re:I don't care about the harm, it's about choice. (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about 2 years ago | (#40115539)

The problem is that the label has been tainted by the anti-GM folks. We don't really know one way or the other whether GM food is ultimately something we want to keep eating, but the problem is that "GM" has already been demonised in the eyes of a large number of consumers.

Perhaps if the labelling were different but still accurate then it wouldn't be so much of a problem. Something like "directed breeding" or "accelerated breeding" to distinguish it from the many thousands of years of "natural" GM foods and animals.

It is labeled if you know what to look for (3, Interesting)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#40114885)

It isn't all that hard to tell if the food you are eating contains genetically engineered ingredients. Corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugarbeet, alfalfa, summer squash, and papaya are the only crops that have been genetically engineered, Due to the way bulk amounts of commodity crops like corn and soy are processed, if something has them one of those ingredients in it and was produced in a country that uses GE crops (like the US, Canada, Argentina, or Brazil), and is not labeled otherwise, then it is a very safe bet that it is GE. This is not very hard to remember.

The problem with mandatory labeling in many. While it is easy to claim 'right to know' the reality is a bit fuzzier if you take the time to think about it. First, we should not require regulations based on who screams the loudest, or based on simple wants. Millions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, vegans, ect. have dietary restrictions, but rather than demand that food processors cater to them, they go through the market, create demand for food labeled kosher or halal or vegan, and buy that food, or simply do their homework, for example, calling to find out if the gelatin in a product came from pigs, or if the 'natural flavors' of a product were animal based. There is nothing wrong with them doing their thing, but they do not try to impose their beliefs on others either.

the second problem I have with it is that it is inconsistent and uninformative. If I say I modified my computer, what does that tell you? Nothing. If I say something is genetically engineered, what does that tell you? Does it tell you how it was changed or what gene was inserted? Nope. Furthermore, there are many ways that we alter the genetics of crops. Selective breeding, hybridization of inbred lines, marker assisted breeding, wide crossing & embryo rescue, somaclonal variation, bud sport selection, mutagenesis, induced polyploidy. There's also ways that modify the plant without affecting the genetics (grafting and tissue culture) and a host inputs that are applied to plants that you could inquire about (including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers, and various plant growth regulators). To single out one thing is very inconsistent.

So, where is the 'right to know' if something was produced with mutagenesis, or to know if rice has the sd-1 gene or a tomato has the Ph3 gene, or to know if something was treated with a synthetic plant growth regulator to thin the fruit? Fact is there are too many things to possible be listed that you could know, so only important thing (like ingredients and allergens) are labeled. You want something else labeled? that's fine, do what the Jews, Muslims, and vegans do and create a free market demand for it (rmember, there is the organic label, and certification from the Non-GMO Project), but if you can't create enough market demand, don't go to the government demanding special treatment. Could you imagine the torches and pitchforks if a Muslim group said that they could not be bothered to read the Quran and find out what was Halal and Haram so they demanded mandaotry labeling?

What this whole thing really reminds me of is the 'Evolution is only a theory' stickers you see people push for in textbooks. Sure, it is true, evolution is 'only' a theory, just like a 'Contains GMOs' sticker would be true, but you know damn well that the purpose of such stickers is to case doubt on legitimate science by preying on the general public's misunderstandings and ignorance for political or ideological reasons, not to educate.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (1, Funny)

Galestar (1473827) | about 2 years ago | (#40115075)

If you artificially modify the genetics of corn, you no longer have a right to call it "corn" since it no longer is. It may look and feel and taste like corn, but you've made it something that isn't corn and calling it "corn" is false advertising and fraud.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (5, Interesting)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#40115211)

Picking corn to use as an example to complain about genetic alterations, now there's an irony. [utah.edu] Do you know how many mutations and genetic alterations are in modern corn varieties (and that's completely ignoring genetic engineering), let alone all the transposons hopping around in there? If I've got, for example, a Country Gentleman sweet corn, a Golden Bantam sweet corn, a Blue Jade sweet corn, and a Ruby Queen sweet corn, just by looking at them you can tell they are obviously genetically different. Is only one corn? By your logic, we shouldn't call anything corn anymore. And why should only changes made by genetic engineering count and not everything else I listed?

Do you know what you get when you add a gene to corn? Corn. It is still corn. It isn't a new species, just a new variety.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (0)

Galestar (1473827) | about 2 years ago | (#40115365)

Corn:
Country Gentleman sweet corn
Golden Bantam sweet corn
Blue Jade sweet corn
Ruby Queen sweet corn

Not Corn:
MON 863
MON 810
Starlink

See the difference?

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (2)

jo_ham (604554) | about 2 years ago | (#40115649)

Ah, I see. Nomenclature trumps all eh?

Would it make you feel better if they named it "Lovely Corn Five", "Great Corn Sideways"?

You seem to be fixated on the names. Let me guess, you didn't buy rape seed oil but you do buy canola oil, right?

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115685)

I see: sweet corn, sweet corn, sweet corn, sweet corn, sweet corn, industrial use only corn, industrial use only corn, hippie corn. If product codes meant anything, there wouldn't be branding, like the four examples of sweet corn up there use to say that their corn isn't the same as other corn (a prime example of genetic engineering).

Is it yellow? Does it come on a cob? Can I eat it? It's corn.

What do you call an orange carrot? A carrot.

What do you call meat from a cow? Beef.

What do you call a dog? A dog.

What do you call all of the above? Genetically engineered.

To paraphrase MovieBob some more, just because someone figured out how to bypass generations of engineering by directly injecting a particular gene to make it happen now doesn't mean that genetic engineering is something we haven't always been doing with our food since the days people first started breeding animals or growing crops in order to obtain the particular traits they wanted, or that it's somehow inherently dangerous when we do. It really only matters what is being added, and whether the end trait would be dangerous to have in any plants or animals.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115765)

From Wikipedia: "MON 863 is a genetically engineered variety of maize produced by Monsanto." Emphasis mine. The corn makes BT toxin. BT toxin is sprayed on crops on organic farms, because it is all natural. Corn is still corn if you spray BT toxin on it. Why isn't it corn if the corn makes BT toxin?

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#40115871)

Other than the naming procedure, no, I don't see a clear cut difference. Theoretically, you could even use GMO techniques to turn Country Gentleman descendants into Ruby Queen.

I also wonder how far your nomenclature policy applies. Would GM dogs not be dogs anymore? Would GM children no longer be human? If so, then we can get around a lot of those pesky human rights issues.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (2)

jo_ham (604554) | about 2 years ago | (#40115603)

So that would be every single variety of corn since the Egyptian times then. We have been genetically modifying plants and animals for thousands of years.

I take it my dairy cow can't be called a cow because that's "false advertising" and "fraud" because it's not a natural animal? Dairy cattle did not evolve naturally.

Nor did many species of high-yield corn - they were selectively grown to accentuate wanted features.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115163)

The problem with the situation now is that the FDA has banned producers from labeling their food as GMO-free. Even if a consumer wants to buy GMO-free food, they have no way of knowing because producers aren't allowed to tell them their products are GMO-free. You liken this situation to the specific dietary restrictions of muslims or jews or vegans etc. Well all those groups are allowed to identify products in the supermarket that are labelled as kosher, halal or vegan. This is absolutely not the case with GMO food.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115187)

Well, there was the case way a few years ago when some particular GMO'd corn meal made its way into some Frito-Lay/Yum! Brands (read: Taco Bell) crunchy corn tortilla products that eventually made some people sick due to some byproducts in the corn that came about due to the genetic manipulation for corn oil. The GMO'd corn meal came from strains engineered to produce more corn oil than normal. But this kind of corn in general isn't very digestible by humans anyways, but the GMO factor made it a bit worse.

Corn grown for corn meal and corn starch corn grown for corn oil popcorn sweet corn.

It may be that for a good chunk of the human population, GMO will be necessary for base crops - wheat, corn and rice. It certainly will be for bananas, but those are their own peculiar outlier. But converting arable land into parking lots, housing tracts, etc. is not sustainable and definitely not helping out the situation, either. And as ground water supplies are running low, we'll run into conflicts like watering golf courses, washing cars, drinking & cooking water for people and animals, or irrigation water for food crops (or for mining), and these will increasingly turn into either-or propositions, despite the proclamations that "the market can figure this out".

For example, what will India do if they decide that there is not enough fresh water available for every human, agriculture, and all the cows? What if China decides that the only thing keeping settlement of the Tibetan plateau is water pumped over the Himalayas that they paid Nepal a princely sum to build a huge reservoir on, which then restricts the flow downstream, screwing India and Bangladesh, because that's the free market at work, no?

It will be interesting times.

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115375)

would it be good then to out the genetic code on the label, then use Google gogles to access all the info you want

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (3, Insightful)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 years ago | (#40115525)

if you can't create enough market demand, don't go to the government demanding special treatment.

Actually, there's a very good market-based reason to go to the government for labelling: the free market works better when consumers have information [wikipedia.org].

Re:It is labeled if you know what to look for (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 2 years ago | (#40115859)

I've talked to a lot of scientists on both sides, and read a lot of the literature, and I'm convinced enough that GM food is harmless to eat it myself. But I think people have the right to make their own choices.

You say that people who want non-GM food should go through the market. That's the problem. The FDA forbid food processors from labeling their food as GM or non-GM. So people who don't want GM food don't have a choice in the marketplace. They may be wrong, they may be naive, but they have a right to make their own decisions.

I live in New York and half the food in my local supermarket is labeled as Kosher. If you know what to look for, you can find a Kosher symbol on most nationally-marketed products, since it's often cheaper to make everything Kosher. I just noticed a "U" (for Union of Orthodox Rabbis) on a bottle of soy sauce. Apparently orthodox Jews believe that corn syrup is not Kosher for Passover, so Pepsi-Cola markets one version labeled Kosher for Passover, and another version labeled non-Kosher for Passover. Ridiculous as the whole thing may be, the FDA allows food processors to label their food as Kosher, so I don't see why they can't label food as non-GM too.

On your second point, there's a sharp line between GM and non-GM food. If it was deliberately created by inserting a DNA sequence with a viral or other vector into a plant or animal, it's GM. Maybe it's inconsistent, maybe it isn't, but if people want to buy non-GM food, or Kosher food, foolish as they may be, they should have that right.

It's more of a problem for me that Monsanto irrationally pressured the government to prohibit labeling. There were a few articles in the New York Times about the heavy-handed campaign by Monsanto and Dupont to impugn and mock the people who wanted GM labeling, under their old management. I don't have the specific details in front of me, but if you want to see people prey on public misunderstanding and emotion, look them up. I don't feel sorry for them. They're getting what they deserve.

I think that GM food is safe, but of course I could be wrong. It's not for me to make decisions for others about what they should eat, and it's not for Monsanto either. You want to sell GM food? Sell it in a free market to an informed consumer.

So long as they label all genetically modded food (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40114907)

Like wheat. That's genetically modified from several of inedible grasses
Tomatoes, too. From inedible nightshade.
Almonds as well - wild almonds will kill you dead.
Bananas are all clones of a single tree.

I can go on.

Will we be permitted to demand labeling? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#40114911)

The People of California demanded tighter automotive emissions standards, and the federal government said we couldn't have them.

Dairy foods which tout their lack of rBGH are required to carry a message stating that the FDA has found no substantive difference between milk from cows with or without rBGH, which is a lie. The opposite has been proven in court. Will California even be permitted to require labeling of GM foods? And when can we get the lies removed from the packaging?

Court != Science (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40115483)

The opposite has been proven in court.

Just because some judge let something into a trial doesn't make it correct. You could state that some study has been peer reviewed and published. But making it into court means nothing scientifically.

Lebel everything genetically modified (1, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 2 years ago | (#40114917)

The problem with labeling things genetically modified especially with processed foods like pretty much anything that comes in a box or can... is that it tends to be mixed up from lots of sources. So some of it is modified and maybe some of it isn't.

So here's the solution. Write on the side of the can "may contain genetically modified goods"... that would have to put on the side pretty much everything. And that's fine. We can put that next to the nutrition chart.

Then there will be a couple companies that don't use genetically modified food and they'll put a BIG label on the side that says "the reason you're paying 40 percent more for this food is because we used more expensive food and we know we can fleece you for extra"...

Everyone happy now? That is dead simple to arrange and everyone gets what they want and what they deserve. The big companies that are pumping out most of the food we eat don't have to do any extra work. Just put on the label "may include genetically modified food"... and we're done with this stupid controversy.

Re:Lebel everything genetically modified (2)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about 2 years ago | (#40115265)

This would be great. It would create a niche market for items without the "may include.." label which would eventually cause the big guys to come up with the gmo free products that people want.

Re:Lebel everything genetically modified (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 2 years ago | (#40115595)

that you want... to pay 30 percent more for... I don't care. I'm very happy with my GMO food. I want more of it.

The irony of people whining for genetic vaccines to cure cancer or heart disease or extend human life on the one hand then bitching about GMO in crops is really pretty absurd.

The Luddites should go back to their caves. That said, putting the "may contain" on the label doesn't cost anything and it's an easy compromise. If that settles this nonsense then I'm cool with it.

Re:Lebel everything genetically modified (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115605)

Yeah, the guy was obviously being facetious with his suggestion and lying that non-GMO has to be much more expensive and fleeces the people who buy it, but really that would make for a more informed consumer and accomplish what people want.

Heath effects is a red herring (5, Insightful)

subreality (157447) | about 2 years ago | (#40114925)

... So please stop lending credence to it. The real concern is creating a crop monoculture engineered to meet Monsanto's short term needs (eg to sell roundup-ready seeds every year, then selling the roundup, etc), and not the long-term needs of society or even just farmers.

Re:Heath effects is a red herring (3, Interesting)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 years ago | (#40115673)

First, genetic engineering is a way of improving a plant. A monoculture is growing all the same thing. these are entirely different concepts. Trying to link the two only makes it look like you don't know the definition of either.

Second, how are Monsanto's seeds wrong? sure, the make Monsanto a profit, but there's nothing wrong with that. The insect resistant ones have feared pretty well, reducing pesticides [pnas.org] and even benefiting farms that don't grow them. [sciencemag.org] The herbicide tolerant ones have, for all their ill will, been environmentally positive [agbioforum.org], having reduced the need for tillage to control weeds (tillage [usda.gov] degrades the soil quality and promotes fertilizer runoff into water systems), reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and replaced harsher herbicides.

Monsanto? Is that why anti-GE groups are protesting the publicly funded Rothamsted GE wheat trial in the UK? Is that why they complain about the Rainbow papaya, Arctic apples, Golden Rice, and BioCassava, or why groups destroyed the GE grapes in French [redgreenandblue.org], GE wheat in Australia [cosmosmagazine.com], GE potatoes in the Netherlands [expatica.com], and GE wheat in the UK [telegraph.co.uk]? It might be true for you, but that is minority thought. You can not play that card while the vast majority of the protest against GE crops is also applied to those that have nothing to do with Monsanto.

Left-wingers being anti-science is not new (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40114943)

Race, GM food, "climate deniers" - there's pretty big areas of the map where being left-wing is largely the same as being anti-science.

Re:Left-wingers being anti-science is not new (1)

Galestar (1473827) | about 2 years ago | (#40115141)

Why do you take an issue and pigeon-hole it into a political ideology? Hell the term "left-winger" is a pigeon-hole in and of itself. All you are doing is displaying your ignorance, I am very surprised you got that single upvote.

Furthermore, [citation needed] for your assumption that there is a correlation between being anti-GMO and being left wing.

Re:Left-wingers being anti-science is not new (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 2 years ago | (#40115923)

Based on my regular reading of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, I think there's a better a argument that the right-wing is anti-science. Read Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science. Creationism, anyone? Stem cell research?

Isn't everything GMO though? (2)

hsmith (818216) | about 2 years ago | (#40114969)

If you selectively breed crops or animals for food - breeding to extend specific traits you find desirable, how is it not the same?

Granted, it takes longer to produce the outcome you want through breeding traditionally - but you still get the same outcome in the end.

Why is "natural" GMO acceptable and this not?

Re:Isn't everything GMO though? (4, Interesting)

Galestar (1473827) | about 2 years ago | (#40115189)

Why is "natural" GMO acceptable and this not?

1. There are many things they are doing that is not even close to possible via selective breeding.
2. Selective breeding occurs over time, any negative effects (health, environmental) appear gradually (over generations) and can be tracked, studied and mitigated.

Re:Isn't everything GMO though? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#40115781)

"1. There are many things they are doing that is not even close to possible via selective breeding."
Name one. You are aware the DNA parts from animal get inserted into flowers in nature, don't you? whats that? you didn't know that? STFU

"and can be tracked, studied and mitigated."
same with GMOs.

Re:Isn't everything GMO though? (2)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about 2 years ago | (#40115357)

The issue is that they take traits that certain plants would never be able to acquire and splice them in with no idea about the long term effects on the environment or ecosystem. Selectively picking the reddest roses is not what they are doing. It is more like bolting frog legs on watermelons.

Re:Isn't everything GMO though? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about 2 years ago | (#40115693)

Does that mean that I can buy watermelons that will walk out to my car without having to carry them? Where can I buy these amazing delicacies?!

Re:Isn't everything GMO though? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#40115763)

wrong
It's more like Selectively picking the reddest roses with surgical precision.
Bolting on frog legs.

Re:Isn't everything GMO though? (1)

longk (2637033) | about 2 years ago | (#40115951)

You can't "breed" a dog with a tomato. Nothing would come of that. That's exactly what GMO does though: mix entirely incompatible species.

So no, they're not the same. Far from it.

Homeopathic labeling next? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40114989)

If they do that, they should also require homeopathic "medicine" have a large label saying "this only contains water and anything that happens to you is a result of magical thinking on your part".

In fact, they should also put the "magical thinking" warning on GMO food as well.

Re:Homeopathic labeling next? (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 2 years ago | (#40115519)

Homeopathy, defined as serial dilution of an active ingredient to the point of being undetectable, is magical thinking.

Believing that genetic modifications can do no harm, when we have virtually no understanding of the underlying biology, is hubris.

Re:Homeopathic labeling next? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#40115751)

True. But this statement:

" when we have virtually no understanding of the underlying biology,"
Is wrong.

let them to it, and suffer the consequences! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115179)

when enough of the big companies don't give in to their new requirements and stop selling them food they will get real hungry real quick.

Technically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40115487)

Pretty much all crops for the last few hundred years has been GM food. The only difference is instead of a monk trying to cross-pollinate different varieties of crops together, we have scientists actually looking at the genetic makeup of the crops.

Clarification Between GMO and Hybrids (2)

IonOtter (629215) | about 2 years ago | (#40115795)

I'm seeing people in here saying that tomatoes are GMO because they're in the same family as Nightshade.

Not correct. Here's how it works...

Hybrid: Pollen from plant A is daubed on the stamen of plant B, yielding a hybrid. Both the parents and the offspring are the same Genus and species, such as Snap peas, or Pisum sativum. You can hybridize them into many varieties, with different characteristics, such as time to maturity, mildew resistance or sugar content.

Genetically Modified Organism: Genetic material is extracted from organism A and artificially implanted/replaced into the genetic material of organism B. Neither organism are even close to each other, such as adding the genes for luciferase in jellyfish to tobacco plants to track calcium uptake. [accessexcellence.org]

The name for corn is Zea mays. The name for StarLink(TM) is StarLink(TM), because it is an entirely new species that has not been classified under the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants [wikipedia.org], by the International Botanical Congress [wikipedia.org].

So.

Daubing pollen on plants is good. Daubing jellyfish on plants doesn't work. Splicing jellyfish into plants is a Bad Thing.

Not about health (1)

longk (2637033) | about 2 years ago | (#40115927)

I don't belief that GMO, as we see it today, will affect my health so I don't mind eating it. I cannot however in good conscience send my money to Monsanto and the likes.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...