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Suppressed Report Shows Cancer Link to GM Potatoes

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the politics-and-potatoes-and-science-mix-poorly dept.

Biotech 325

Doc Ruby writes "After an 8-year-long court battle, Welsh activists have finally been allowed to released a Russian study showing an increased cancer risk linked to eating genetically modified potatoes. While the victory of the Welsh Greenpeace members in the courtroom would seem to vindicate the work of the Russian scientists that did the original research, there are still serious questions to be answered. The trials involved rats being fed several types of potatoes as feed. The rats who were fed GM potatoes suffered much more extensive damage to their organs than with any other type; just the same, serious questions remain about the validity of the findings. The Welsh group wants to use this information to stop the testing of GM crops in the UK, tests currently slated for the spring of this year."

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325 comments

So...all potatoes are bad? (5, Insightful)

bwd234 (806660) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057516)

"Those in the "control groups" that were fed non-GM potatoes suffered ill-effects"

Maybe pototoes are bad for rats. Doesn't mean they will be harmfull to humans.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (5, Funny)

DrifterX79 (824302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057526)

Well I guess that most potatoes manufactured by General Motors may contain used motor oil, proven to cause cancer in humans. I say hold off for Honda potatoes...maybe even Lexus Legumes.

Great.... (1)

8ball629 (963244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057864)

The next thing you know, you'll be seeing commercials for the "All-new, Lexus Legume with 5 star frontal and side-impact crash ratings [small print]unless it has been boiled[/small print]."

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (5, Funny)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058060)

GM Potatoes: Unsafe at Any Spud.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057582)

Doesn't mean they will be harmfull to humans.

There's a reason why certain species of mice are used for these sorts of laboratory experiments: they're nearly identical to humans. Genetically, mice and humans share a great deal of DNA. Not nearly as much as some primates, but still just over 99.5%. Beyond that, the organs of mice are similarly proportioned to that of humans. That is, the relative sizes of the organs to one another are almost identical to that of humans.

People such as yourself, who don't have much of a biology background, have a hard time accepting this. But countless studies performed over decades by various groups have shown that in the vast majority of cases, if a certain chemical harms lab mice, the same chemical will very, very likely harm humans. But that's really not surprising, when you consider how similar our bodies actually are to mice.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057656)

People such as yourself, who don't have much of a biology background, have a hard time accepting this.

What we have a hard time accepting is that 99.5% similarity means jack, when we have something like 90% DNA similarity with sunflowers. If we are only .5% different from rats, that means that .5% represents a hell of a lot of difference, not the other way around. It's relative just like any other amount. Would you want to eat something that was .5% cyanide, just because .5 is a really small number? Without a point of reference the number tells you nothing.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057716)

What we have a hard time accepting is that 99.5% similarity means jack, when we have something like 90% DNA similarity with sunflowers.

Wrong. You can't compare humans/animals and plants in terms of DNA similarity (or lack thereof). The basic structure is too different to make any comparisons worthwhile.

If we are only .5% different from rats, that means that .5% represents a hell of a lot of difference, not the other way around.

Wrong. Most of the 0.5% difference between mice and humans involves genes that are currently classified as inactive. Thus they basically have no identifiable effect, even after decades of study. The amount of DNA that actually causes the differences between humans and mice is remarkably small. While 0.5% of the total DNA is different, approximately 98.5% of that 0.5% is considered inactive.

And like I said in my earlier post, decades of studies have shown that mice are a very accurate representation of humans, when it comes to testing chemicals. The organs are proportioned almost exactly the same, and comparable responses to humans have been observed again and again and again. Doubt it if you wish. The fact remains that if something is harmful to mice, we can be sure that a relative proportion of that chemical is harmful to humans.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057872)

He's basically right. Rats are similar enough, cheap enough, and grow fast enough to make lab testing feasible. We are not, however, genetically identical compared to rats.

We are 96% similar to gorillas at the DNA level and I would be very surprised if we even shared even a 10% similarity with sunflowers.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057780)

I have difficulty in accepting test results where normal potatoes harm a mice's internal organs and they're using that study to draw any conclusions on GM-potatoes.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (2, Informative)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057934)

There's a reason why certain species of mice are used for these sorts of laboratory experiments: they're nearly identical to humans.

there are exactly two reasons why we perform tests on certain mice. You're focused on reason #2 -- namely, "a high past correlation of harm in these creatures to harm in Humans." #1 is "the short lifespan and low genetic variety make for a highly economical test pool."

Mice are significantly different than humans: for example, a 5 ft/lbs blow to the chest isn't much to a human, but it's death to a mouse.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057588)

Potatoes are harmful to humans if you eat the buds, although you'd have to eat a lot of them for it to be serious. The buds are bitter so at least humans are smart enough to throw them away.

Why all? (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057670)

There are something like 1,500 identified types of potato, any of which can contain higher-than-normal levels of chlorophyll. This gives us 3,000 permutations. Of the possible genetic modifications, I'd say there are likely to be dozens by now, if not hundreds. Then, there are probably many hundreds of members of the rodent family that can be classed as rats. At this point, the number of possible permutations of rat and potato are so astronomically high that nothing much can be concluded.

(eg: Let's say that the rats were fed a GMed potato that had been GMed to be toxic to rodents. This proves what?)

Whether this is a problem of the research itself or merely the extremely bad reporting of it is hard to say. Personally, I am not keen on GM as it currently exists - we're barely at the point of understanding the functioning of genes, the interaction between genes and "junk DNA", and the interaction between different genes. We're also not very skilled at gene splicing - genetic therapies are rarely used due to their high risk and lack of proven benefit. This is not to say GM is bad, only that I have serious doubts that biotech companies are nearly as knowledgeable as they claim to be. This is one area that BSODs are definitely unwelcome and where we have the luxury to spend a little time on making sure that the bugs are ironed out.

Re:Why all? (2, Informative)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057976)

Then, there are probably many hundreds of members of the rodent family that can be classed as rats.

Which is probably one of the reasons why biologists use genetically identical strains of test animals.

Re:So...all potatoes are bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057776)

First off, this article doesn't even say anything about cancer! The plant under study contained an inserted GNA (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin) gene to confer increased resistance to insects and nematodes. The results of the study concluded that rats which ate the GM potatoes had an increase in the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract.

Secondly, I skimmed over the article, and it doesn't seem like anything is flawed. Rats are a good model for predicting effects in humans.

Just because one genetically modified plant can be harmful doesn't suggest that all GM foods are. Other GM plants may contain different genes coding for different proteins which would affect us in different ways.

when will people learn... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057528)

you don't fuck with nature..

As soon as they learn that rhetoric is valueless (4, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057612)

Hopefully never, because "don't fuck with nature" is a self-defeating position for a human being to hold. We have flourished as a species because of our ability and motivation to manipulate nature to improve our conditions. Vaccines and antibiotics come to mind. Hell, we'll probably be extinct within the next 1000 years unless we learn more about how to better "fuck with nature".

Re:As soon as they learn that rhetoric is valueles (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057746)

Unfortunately, our ability to cure diseases and stave off death has pretty much stopped the selection of the strong over the weak (and obviously, natural selection of disease-resistance).

But the real point here is that many of our decisions are made with such narrow foresight. We do not know the long-term consequences of many of the things we do, we only look out for the short term.

Here is an example: We can learn how to shelter ourselves from the cold, or we could manipulate the weather so that it no longer get excessively cold. If we do the latter, we may gain a temporary benefit and comfort, but what are the long term effects? Both are examples of manipulating nature, but obviously they are not equal manipulations with the same consequences.

So, my argument is that a balance must be struck. Unfortunately, most people do not have this sort of vision, so we will continue to destroy the environment and do possibly dangerous things with our food supply for the benefit of profit-seeking corporations.

We are nature (2, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057868)

we'll probably be extinct within the next 1000 years unless we learn more about how to better "fuck with nature".

I don't think it will take that long.

But that's beside the point and irrelevant anyway. I think what people need to start to realize is that everything we humans do is natural, whether it's clear-cutting a forest, nuking your enemy's cities, or creating a rainforest preserve, it's all natural (though the ethical status of these actions is another matter).

We're just the latest step life is taking to overcome a series of evolutionary humps leading to increased complexity. We made it past the most recent hump, the one separating genetic evolution and cultural evolution. Whether we can manage that for long enough to either get off this planet and start expanding exponentially much as we are now as a species, or we first become more civilized and then decide as a planetary civilization to expand more coherently, ultimately makes no difference to the universe.

Re:when will people learn... (2, Insightful)

Babbster (107076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057778)

When will people learn that an aphorism is a poor substitute for knowledge?

Re:when will people learn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057898)

How about when will people admit that they constitute a part of nature and not a world sufficient unto itself?

Re:when will people learn... (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057944)

Let's keep it family safe [advertisementave.com] , now

Killer potatoes (4, Insightful)

Zouden (232738) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057532)

It showed that the potatoes did considerable damage to the rats' organs. Those in the "control groups" that were fed non-GM potatoes suffered ill-effects, but those fed GM potatoes suffered more serious organ and tissue damage.

Hold on... the non-GM potatoes still caused ill-effects? How much potato were they feeding these rats? Did they even cook them first?
It seems like the only conclusion one can draw from this study is that "if you're eating so much potato that you get sick, GM potatoes will get you even sicker!"

Re:Killer potatoes (3, Interesting)

bwd234 (806660) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057562)

It's just like back in, oh whenever...the 70's or 80's... I forget, anyway when they fed 1000 times the normal dosage of saccharin to rats they developed cancer. Trying to extrapolate data by using 1000 times normal dosage isn't the most reliable form of research. Besides, maybe "everything" gives cancer to rats! :)
Did any human ever come down with cancer from saccharin? My guess is no.

Re:Killer potatoes (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057632)

You're wrong again. Studies along those lines have been performed numerous times over the past few decades. But in all the ones that I've read, the dosage was nowhere near the "1000 times" figure that you're incorrectly attributing.

The studies involving artificial sweetners usually take two different approaches. One common approach is that which you mentioned, of overdosing the lab mice. The second common approach is that of long-term exposure at common levels.

For the overdosing-style studies, the overdose amount is usually quite reasonable. Depending on the chemical in question, we're talking of amounts 1.2 to 1.5 times the maximum recommended dosage. It's quite possible for a human to ingest comparable amounts of these sweetners. I'm sure you've seen your colleagues, some of who drink upwards of 10 cups of coffee during each 8-hour workday. With two packets of artificial sweetner for each coffee, you're ingesting quite a bit.

The second approach, of long-term exposure, usually avoids going anywhere near the maximum recommended dosage. The focus is on creating a scenario that would match what the typical human would experience. For sweetners, this often means small dosages one or two times a day, for the mouse equivalent of several years. Some of the more elabourate and better-funded studies can simulate decades of exposure.

You may want to avoid commenting on this subject any more. I'm guessing from your posts that you don't have much of a biology background. Of the two posts of yours that I've read in this topic so far, both have been quite inaccurate, if not making outright invalid claims. Please go do some basic research so you have a better idea of the science behind these experiements.

Re:Killer potatoes (2, Funny)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057720)

Interesting point. But it is rather lame to anonymously critique the user's science skill level. We don't have the luxury of such peer review of your comments, since you're too irresponsible|scared to identify yourself.

On another matter, I've never seen ANYBODY use TWO Sweet-N-Lows. Always 0.5!

Re:Killer potatoes (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057648)

If 1000 times the normal dosage of an artificial sweetener produces a significant increase in cancer risk, that's *damn well* worthy of note. Three orders of magnitude isn't quite good enough for me there. Eight orders of magnitude? Sure - but 3 isn't a good enough margin of error.

Re:Killer potatoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057730)

If 1000 times the normal dosage of an artificial sweetener produces a significant increase in cancer risk, that's *damn well* worthy of note. Three orders of magnitude isn't quite good enough for me there. Eight orders of magnitude? Sure - but 3 isn't a good enough margin of error.

I hope you don't take any form of painkiller, then. For example, the maximum therapeutic dose for Tylenol is about half the dose which causes liver damage, and it can be fatal if this dose is continued for several days, or if the maximum therapeutic dose is continued for extended periods.

Re:Killer potatoes (2, Insightful)

Babbster (107076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057838)

Not to mention the danger posed by virtually every other medication and foodstuff on the planet if consumed to excess. Even too much water can kill (have we forgotten [joystiq.com] so quickly?).

If I use 10 packets of saccharin in my coffee every day for the rest of my life, the increased cancer risk I'd obtain from that would be so minimal that it would hardly be worth considering (forgetting, of course, that the caffeine would probably be a lot more dangerous to my health). In fact, it would NOT be worth considering since I would get significantly more carcinogen exposure walking down a busy street, inhaling exhaust fumes as I go. So, I'd be happy to eat a reasonable amount of the GM potatoes these rats ate (assuming they taste good, of course). I'd just avoid eating more than 20 potatoes a day...and I'd ban gasoline-powered vehicles, but that's another topic entirely.

Re:Killer potatoes (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058106)

To put it another way, 1000 times my 'normal' dosage of H2O would most likely be fatal to me.

Yet they still say I should drink more water.

Iron, Calcium, various vitamens are all necessary for healthy life, yet a dose of a 1000 times more than FDA recommended is harmful for a number of them. Salt- A necessary substance, is harmful in greater doses.

It's quantity that makes the poison.

Re:Killer potatoes (1)

abes (82351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057678)

There might be some truth to that .. I know at least some lines of lab rats used, there is a very high rate of tumors. My understanding, is that in order to keep the genes from mutating too much, there isn't a lot of diversity in the breeding pools, which can cause strange genetic diseases to happen.

On one hand, it's good to know that the rat you use one day is essentially the same as the rat you use the next day. On the other hand, you could be introducing other strange artifacts.

Re:Killer potatoes (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057598)

Oh, I hope they're not nearly as murderous as their cousin, Killer Tomatoes [imdb.com]

Re:Killer potatoes (1)

natedubbya (645990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057684)

It's the carbs


The good Dr.'s site (3, Informative)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057536)

http://www.freenetpages.co.uk/hp/a.pusztai/ [freenetpages.co.uk] is the site of the paper's author.

Stop testing? Bury heads in sand? (5, Insightful)

Anomolous Cowturd (190524) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057542)

Given the suggestion that GM foods might be more harmful than old-school foods, wouldn't the sane thing be to *increase* testing? What's wrong with these idiots?

Re:Stop testing? Bury heads in sand? (3, Insightful)

Gentlewhisper (759800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057556)

Given the suggestion that GM foods might be more harmful than old-school foods, wouldn't the sane thing be to *increase* testing? What's wrong with these idiots?


$

Re:Stop testing? Bury heads in sand? (2, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057936)

That's Greenpeace we're talking about, they probably meant "stop all genetic modification" with that.

Re:Stop testing? Bury heads in sand? (4, Insightful)

edwdig (47888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057688)

Given the suggestion that GM foods might be more harmful than old-school foods, wouldn't the sane thing be to *increase* testing? What's wrong with these idiots?

There weren't any details in the story, but it depends on what type of testing is being planned. You don't want to do human testing if the early testing on lab rats doesn't look good.

Re:Stop testing? Bury heads in sand? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057804)

The testing sounds like they're going to be doing it in the wild in select areas. If its dangerous, probably want more controlled tests.

Re:Stop testing? Bury heads in sand? (1, Flamebait)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058100)

You think Greenpeace is pushing for "more controlled testing" of GM foods? HAH! These idiots won't be happy until we stop using any and all GM foods. They only care about testing safety as a side issue, their main thrust is to get rid of it entirely.

What are those "serious questions" with the study? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057550)

The findings of the study appear pretty conclusive: genetically modified potatoes are harmful to living beings, be they animals or humans. I'm not really sure where the questioning comes in. Raising questions won't change the fact that such foods do have very harmful effects.

Re:What are those "serious questions" with the stu (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057820)

An equally valid conclusion is normal potatoes are harmful to living beings, be they animals or humans. As a human who has eaten potatoes all his life, I'm questioning this study.

Re:What are those "serious questions" with the stu (4, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057876)

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the particlar version of GM potato studied was more damaging than a certain type of unmodified potato. Your generalization of "GM potato" is just too broad. For example, would you say that all condensed tree sap is dangerous after watching mice die from ingesting concentrated hemlock sap? Obviously, that would be quite erroneous and our pancakes would be rather plain fare.

Re:What are those "serious questions" with the stu (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057908)

raising questions ALWAYS changes the facts, thats how science works moron.

Re:What are those "serious questions" with the stu (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058000)

A question, for example, would be which modifications cause this. Not all modifications are equal just like a new paintjob on your car isn't the same as removing your airbags.

What the hell? (3, Informative)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058016)

Just because someone put words in a paper doesn't necessarily mean they're true. Even if there's no outright falsification, it's entirely possible that their statistical analyses could be off (for a silly example: they had a sample of only two rats, and one of them suffered more free radical damage than the other). There's the potential for them to have misinterpreted their results, or to have accidentally exposed the rats to a different--

Wait, wait. Wait. I just went to look in the article for where these folks had been published (i.e. what quality of peer review they had). Right at the bottom of the page, it says that Greenpeace _admits_ that the Russian studies had errors. So, they're admitting that they're using a poorly-designed study in order to try and scare the government into banning trials on GM foods? What is going on here?

Re:What the hell? (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058070)

green peace was taken over by anti-corporate people years ago. It's only purpose is to spread ignorance and fear.

As always, this shows (5, Funny)

caseih (160668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057552)

that research causes cancer in rats.

Yes but did you know? (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057600)

78% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Re:As always, this shows (1)

saxoholic (992773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058010)

Due to a bizarre set of circumstances, a friend of mine ended up with four rats and was told they were all male by a biology teacher, so she kept them in the same cage. Either there was an error by the teacher, or some kind of jurassic park thing, because there were very soon 27 rats. Within a year they had all died of cancer. So, I'm of the impression not that things cause cancer in rats, but that all rats die of cancer.

Just bad science... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057564)

From the article - "Greenpeace said the Russian trials were also badly flawed. Half of the rats in the trial died, and results were taken from those that survived, in breach of normal scientific practice."

Go sensationalism. These "findings" were probably "suppressed" because they weren't very valid and obtained under shifty premises.

You need a good case study for GM crops? GM crops have been in American markets for years now starting with the Flavr-savr tomato. It's not like the FDA hadn't done independent testing on their own before approving them. But a sample size like the entire US, a pattern would probably emerge.

Re:Just bad science... (4, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057634)

I wouldn't necessarily make any statements about the general safety of Genetically Modified crops from this (or any other) single study or even experience with a single product. According to TFA, the potatoes in question were modified to produce (I assume additional) lectins [wikipedia.org] . This is a broad class of potentially biologically active molecules that could be helpful or harmful at either "usual" dosages or the typically higher dosages found in these sorts of experiments.

I haven't poured through the literature to see how good or bad this particular study is, but it's concerning that 1) someone's making GM crops with this molecule amplified (can't figure out why) 2) even a poorly done preliminary study seems to have suppressed instead of repeated and expanded.

Re:Just bad science... (2, Interesting)

shma (863063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057694)

Regardless of the validity of the claims made in the paper, the results WERE suppressed and it took an eight year court battle to get them to release it.

At the very least, the paper deserves to be judged on its scientific merits before being dismissed.

Re:Just bad science... (1)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057732)

So GM products make you fat, violent and reactionary?

I kid, I kid. But realistically, there are far more variables at play in the U.S. population than can realistically be controlled for when analyzing the impact of GM crops on our ENTIRE population.

Uhhh.... (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057742)

America is probably not a good example to use. Estimates of autism have shot up in recent years, it is now classed as the second-worst contry in the Western world for children, education standards have fallen, creationists have become a major political force, obesity is sky-high and rising, something caused Britney Spears' hair to fall out, and 90% of all recent US news stories on legal and/or political issues can be best explained by some form of brain damage.

It's not nice to fool with mother nature... (5, Insightful)

STDOUBT (913577) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057570)

I'm all in favor of scientific progress. In fact, I'm a big fan.

But until the science of genetic manipulation is (close to)perfected, all they are doing is 'fooling' with it. Coupled with todays climate of unbridled corporate power, this stuff is very dangerous IMO. Please bear in mind, it's not the scientists who get to push 'products' to market. And, corporations will *always* be able to buy a scientist who supports claims of safety.

I file GM under "not worth the risks". (And _do not_ give me that old "it'll help starving people" crap. No. What will help starving people are governments that aren't run by evil shits).

Re:It's not nice to fool with mother nature... (1)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057640)

It doesn't have to be perfect, we just have to know which groups of genes do as a wholet, and that's a fairly simple process in comparison to having the whole thing perfect. More testing than you'd believe is done anything that's intended to go to market - and Russian scientists are not exactly known for following community standards in regards to research. After reading the paper and the guy's website, it almost sounds like the report was made just to cause sensationalism. And guess what? You've been eating "GM" crops for years. People have been using selective breeding on pretty much all forms of harvestable plant (and animal) life to increase crop yields, disease and climate resistance, and pest control since at least Roman times.

Re:It's not nice to fool with mother nature... (5, Informative)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057666)

"And _do not_ give me that old "it'll help starving people" crap."

Most of the GM foods being pushed have nothing to do with starving people - it's all about increasing corporate profits, as usual. The "terminator gene" was being pushed to prevent poor third-world farmers from saving their own seed after buying grain crops once. Roundup-ready crops are developed to allow farmers to use increasing amounts of Glyphosate to control weeds, because of the inherent problems with how large-scale agriculture is "managed". Flavr-Savr tomatoes were designed to be picked at an even less ripe state so they survive shipping better. All of that runs counter to helping starving people - heck, even for the "first world" it means crops that are less nutritious than before.

The only GM crop I know of that was developed in an attempt to actually help the third world is golden rice - a rice that provides beta carotine. That was developed at a university, and while given lip service by the agro-giants it's not high on their agenda.

Terminator gene (2, Informative)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057900)

The "terminator gene" was being pushed to prevent poor third-world farmers from saving their own seed
Yeah, that is just plain evil... Luckily for us, there was apparently enough of an outcry to put a stop to Monsanto's idea: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/465222.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:It's not nice to fool with mother nature... (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057698)

But until the science of genetic manipulation is (close to)perfected, all they are doing is 'fooling' with it.

Science doesn't get perfected until quite a bit of "fooling" gets done... even after that, "perfected" is rarely the right word.

Sure... if I were world dictator I'd probably shoot for more lab time and slower market penetration for some of these GM products, but given the choice between nessisary research getting funded by agribusiness and public phobia of science holding it back, I'll chose the research over the Frankenstein myth every day.

That's nothing (0, Offtopic)

shipbrick (929823) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057576)

Look at what else "they" don't want you to see. Astrology is real and science can prove it "Virgos have an increased risk of vomiting during pregnancy". http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-02/nsa e-coh021507.php [eurekalert.org] Either that or CORRELATION != CAUSATION

Re:That's nothing (1)

bwd234 (806660) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057736)

"Astrology is real and science can prove it "

I'm a Libra, and we don't believe in astrology!

What are "GM potatoes"? (2, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057584)

Isn't it a little forward to assume that all "GM potatoes" are harmful, just because some genetic modifications result in plants that are mildly poisonous? Wouldn't it depend on the specific modifications?

Not that a little caution isn't in order. We shouldn't necessarily just blindly assume that every modification to some edible plant will also be perfectly safe to eat, and I'm aware that there are also potential problems with reducing genetic diversity in our food supply on a large scale, but a study showing that particular genetic modifications are harmful is not reason to abandon all genetic engineering in food; It's a reason to find out why those particular modifications create harmful substances.

Re:What are "GM potatoes"? (2, Insightful)

edwdig (47888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057782)

The real issue is that the people trying to push genetically modified foods onto the market are also trying to avoid labeling them as such. And in this particular case, they're also trying to hide research that shows potential problems with the food. The research may be bogus, or it may not. But there's no way of knowing unless they release it.

In general, people just don't feel comfortable when others try to change things that are important while trying to prevent you from knowing about it.

Re:What are "GM potatoes"? (5, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057848)

That's the right question, left neglected and alone by the story.

Poking around a bit, it turns out that the genetic engineers and the researchers were both looking at one particular lectin, introduced to make the potatoes resist insects and nematodes better. Which is important because "lectin" is a whole family of chemicals with different biological effects.

Now, the natural chemical defenses in plants are bad enough. Wild potatoes may need elaborate preparation to be safe to eat. Farmed ones are screened for solanine [wikipedia.org] . Potatoes, in case you didn't know, are in the nightshade family.

So the real question here is what other research was done and what results it had. Does other work confirm or contradict the Russian study?

Then there's the systems question, which is whether we're better off with the risks of the engineered potatoes or the risks of the pesticides needed to keep "natural" ones alive. The word "natural" is in quotes because they're quite different from their wild relatives.

In Soviet Russia (5, Funny)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057586)

Potatoes Modify YOU!

GM food supporters suck (1, Interesting)

spycker (812466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057604)

What? Something like a 1/3 of Americans are obese.

100 Million Indians are obese.

China has many millions of obese people.

Food is not a scarcity. The equitable distribution of food may in fact be the scarcity.

How will GM foods fix something that is not broken in the first place? You have to be stupid to willingly to eat GM foods.

Re:GM food supporters suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057660)

I willingly eat GM foods. I'm also a member of Mensa. Which means there's a 98% chance I'm smarter than you.

Re:GM food supporters suck (1)

RandomPrecision (911416) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057796)

You're smart because you belong to a table? I'll take my chances.

Dear Anonymous, (3, Funny)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057854)

There's a 98% chance you're an eleven year old dork in a ninja costume.

Re:GM food supporters suck (2, Insightful)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057680)

Food is not a scarcity...How will GM foods fix something that is not broken in the first place? You have to be stupid to willingly to eat GM foods.

What the hell? What gave you the idea that we genetically modify crops in order to fix some sort of scarcity? They're genetically modified to create crops that have increased resistance to the elements (too much heat, too much cold, not enough water, too much water). So that farmers can have more of their product survive until sale, and make more money.

I eat GM foods because I like my seedless grapes. Wouldn't eat them otherwise. And because I know genetic modification isn't some black magic that's going to wipe out humanity. We've been doing selective breeding of plants and animals for a very long time and there's nothing unusual or unnatural about it.

Re:GM food supporters suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057696)

Selective breeding != GM

WHY?? (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057822)

Why are all the anti-GM whack jobs Anonymous??

Re:GM food supporters suck (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058040)

GM foods come in a lot of varieties, and generally refer to crops that have genes very different then what would normally be found. When peopel say 'GM' they don't mean breeding for a desired outcome.

Breeding grapes until there is a variety that is seedless isone thing, taking DNA from a fish and splicing it into is another.

To not test GM foods is foolish.

TO abolish GM foods at this point is also foolish.

Creating a rice with more vitamin E and iron could be a good thing. Of couse suddenly changing someones dies can lead to unexpected result. Ask Hershy.

Obesity is also caused by improper diet. You can be obese and starving. This actually happens to poos inner city kids who only eat McDonalds.

Re:GM food supporters suck (2, Informative)

drewski3420 (969623) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058066)

I eat GM foods because I like my seedless grapes.

Umm, seedlessness isn't a genetic modification. It's the result of intentionally selecting and breeding grape plants that produce grapes with less seeds than the average grape. This is done over several generations until no seeds are produced. Think Gregor Mendel and a Punnett square. It's the manipulation of pre-existing genetic information to achieve some desired end.

Genetic Modification is inserting (or deleting) pieces from the genome (DNA) of a certain whatever. Introducing pieces of new genetic material is certainly different from what you're talking about.

Re:GM food supporters suck (1)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057768)

True, food is not scarce, but we spend an enormous amount of energy to plant, fertilize, harvest, process, and distribute the food that we grow and raise. Increasing the efficiency (by various means, pest resistance, hardiness, ripeness duration, fertilizer requirements, water requirements) of food production can reduce our overall footprint.

Obesity has little to do with food availability. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057774)

A number of studies have shown that obesity often has little to do with the amount of food available to an individual, but much more to do with other factors, including the that person's financial situation and education level.

Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Japan have very low levels of obesity. This is because they're some of the most highly-educated people, as a whole. Not only that, but the social assistance systems in those countries helps to ensure that almost everyone has a better-than-average standard of living.

Now, you can of course go to the extreme the other way, to the famine situations that occur in significant areas of Africa, you will see a complete lack of obesity. But remember, that's only the extreme. In the African nations where starvation is not a major issue, we actually a high percentage of obesity.

The US itself is a good example of how education and financial position affect obesity. The notheastern states have some of the lowest levels of obesity in the country, far below the national average. But that region is also financially sound, with an excellent level of education for almost everyone living there. The same holds for most of the west coast north of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the opposite holds true for the southeast US. The level of obesity has skyrocketed in states like Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia. These are some of the poorest states in the union, with the lowest overall education levels. And so the people there tend to spend a greater portion of their money on food, in an attempt to bring comfort, and make up for their lower education levels and lack of money.

Re:GM food supporters suck (0, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057894)

try telling someone starving in africa that food isn't scarce. i hope he rips your guts out.

Re:GM food supporters suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057994)

It isn't scarce when you consider all people vs. all food. There IS plenty of food for everybody globally, and saying otherwise means you don't know what you're talking about.

HOWEVER, It is scarce in localized areas. And some people like to pretend at times that it's trivially easy to move a healthy mix of food to places where it is locally scarce. I think, as I expect you do, everybody should be fed, and certain costs can be borne to make that happen, and it's kind of a shame that they aren't. But one way of making them fed is to make it so that they can grow more of their own food locally, so this is a blindness also of the GP.

I know there's some shipment of food OUT of some areas of scarce food. I'm less sure that there's any net out (vs. in) from regions of scarce food. But even if there is, more food in areas of scarcity means that unless 100% of the increase is snapped up for elsewhere, there's less scarcity; and if 100% IS snapped up, then the farmers get paid more, and infrastructure to move this increased amount of food is created, ultimately helping to reduce scarcity due to increased local wealth as a whole. A counterargument is that profit won't be increased to these areas of scarcity because people in fat countries will also grow more, driving prices down worldwide. However, that would seem to imply there's more food in the fat countries and thus less NEED or WANT for food from starving countries, and so that food doesn't get shipped away, and presto! STILL more food for the country of scarcity.

Thus, if there are no significant health penalties (debatable), I tentatively conclude that GM can be a benefit for starving Africans and Asians and so on.

Re:GM food supporters suck (1)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057928)

You don't want to eat GM foods, that's fair enough. I don't consider you stupid for this.

I personally don't care if I eat GM foods. Why does that make me stupid?

I'm Safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057620)

It's times like this I'm glad I only eat meats and cheeses. No GM food for me, just nice safe hormones there.

Garbage Science... (5, Interesting)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057628)

Genetic modification is the artificial changing of DNA... you can say that a specific DNA change is harmful, so that a specific type of engineered potato is bad... but that doesn't say anything about GM foods. The safety or danger of the foods would have to be evaluated on the specific genetic changes made. Even then, the GM products don't carry any more risk than plants created by mutation breeding (in fact, GM was concieved as a less risky version of mutation breeding).

That, of course, is totally ignoring the fact that the guy conducting the research was a hardcore anti-GM activist before the research. It is like asking activist creationists to do an impartial study on evolution.

Re:Garbage Science... (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057790)

And further, GM was developed as a safer alternative to the mutation techniques that have been employed in the recent past. The Economist had an interesting article on this about a year ago. I can't find a citation. But prior to application of GM, wheat improvements are gained by inducing random mutations with radiation and dna-snipping chemicals. It seems more sensible to me to skip the dangerous hassle and work on the genome directly, now that the tools to do so are available.

Re:Garbage Science... (2, Insightful)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057814)

That, of course, is totally ignoring the fact that the guy conducting the research was a hardcore anti-GM activist before the research. It is like asking activist creationists to do an impartial study on evolution.

Pretty much every scientist has a side on GM. If you're going to ignore research by people with biases, you're going to ignore all research.

If you're capable (I'm not), take a look at his methods, rip them apart, or if they're sound, repeat them and see if the result is the same. Good science should work regardless of pre-existing notions. That's why there's experiments in the first place.

I say this as someone who really, really hopes this guy is full of it, 'cause GM is cool, and potatoes are delicious.

Re:Garbage Science... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057860)

"If you're going to ignore research by people with biases, you're going to ignore all research."

i think his point is that even when the results prove them wrong they can manage to put their own spin on them. also, they have to be really scraping to have to go to RUSSIA to find someone who agree's with them. i mean come one, you can't get more corny then this shit.

even though you don't like it, the facts are that GM crops are THE most tested crops in history, and are perfectly safe to use.

Yeah (2, Insightful)

KKlaus (1012919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058132)

Someone needs to explain to the general populace that GM food is still just food. If the genetic changes are bad, and cause the food to produce something dangerous, or more of something dangerous, that's one thing (and we should be weary of that of course). But there's nothing inherently dangerous about genetic alterations. I'm tired of the belief that the GM somehow gets into the food and makes it evil, explanation unneccassary. It's like people being convinced that irradiated food is radioactive or something. Sigh.

well then (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057652)

Suppressed Report Shows Cancer Link to GM Potatoes

If you think their potatoes are bad, you should hear what people are saying about their cars!

... and they couldn't do a study themselves??? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057702)

The fought a legal battle for EIGHT YEARS!?!? That's HOW many generations of rats? Hell, anyone can raise rats in a controlled environment and observe the effect on feeding them potatoes, GM or otherwise. This doesn't sound like it's too difficult to replicate the results, so why fight for an obscure report for so long?

If it were really an issue, they could have found someone to write a grant proposal, do some research and publish in a peer-reviewed journal.

Something stinks....

All GM food is not the same (3, Interesting)

giorgosts (920092) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057712)

The reason for GM crops is only one: profit. Profit may come from improved appearance, from increased shelf-life, or from increased yields due to lower pest numbers. The agrochemical companies make two birds with one stone. They sell the GM seeds which usually are modified as to be pesticide-tolerant, and then they sell the pesticide to be used in excessive amounts to kill off everything else. Using vast amounts of chemicals is bad for the foodstuff as it leaves toxic residue inside, as well as for the environment that the toxic waste is released into. There is also increased risk of cross-pollination with other non-GM crops, which is the main reason of banning GM agriculture in Europe.

Re:All GM food is not the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057786)

The reason for reliable cars is only one: profit. Honda may gain profit from improved performance, from improved appearance, from increased reliability.......

profit is a great thing, and more profitable products are generally better products. Nothing evil about GM food and this study was obviously completely bunk.

otherwise it would have been repeated (scientific method, anyone?) instead of fought over in court for a million years and for a lot of money.

greenpeace isn't reputable either. Plenty of actually reputable professors would happily and aggressively promote their careers and come out with this information if they could.

Not to mention that many totally natural plants cause cancer (marijuana, tobacco, fattening food) maybe plump and delicious potatoes are bad for us like plump cows. (lean meat is less carcinogenic)

this whole concept is so utterly bunk.

Re:All GM food is not the same (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057832)

cross pollination? show me an actual example of this happening in the real world. you've got it all ass about face, they sell GM crops as being PEST RESISTANT, so you can use LESS presticides and save on money. oh and also, you need to ditch your pc NOW as it's exposing you to have more toxin's then the food you eat is.

Re:All GM food is not the same (1)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058062)

Pesticide resistance is engineered into some plants so farmers can spray as much pesticide as they want without hurting the crop - e.g. Roundup Ready plants.

Some plants are indeed engineered to be pest resistant, but that isn't what the GP was talking about.

Re:All GM food is not the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057892)

"The reason for GM crops is only one: profit."

Only sheer theft can possibly gain profit and nothing else (and even that can "gain" by the harm to an opponent that you specifically steal from). A legal business (to avoid the baggage of the term legitimate) cannot profit without providing something. That something could be a net detriment (especially when compared with opportunity cost), but it is something. DeBeers provides diamonds, even as they hoard and monopolize the resource to drive up prices. Whoever sold the gas used in the holocaust chambers provided something to people who wanted it. These are bad things, but the point is, these are things which are not profit.

Now, the company itself might not have had a true interest in spreading diamonds or killing Jews, but then, god-damn, there's a lot of people and companies doing things for profit, and that's including good things -- arguably far more good things than bad, on the whole (you hear more about the bad things). Where do you work for a living? Would you honestly do it if you weren't paid or had to take a huge paycut? Even if you would, would you keep doing as much of it? If somebody offered you a very different job that is also within your capability and takes a similar amount of time, and paid 10 times your current job, would you take that? A farmer rarely gives away food. Open Source is a large exception which can continue to exist because it costs virtually nothing to replicate and distribute digital content.

Increased yields due to lower pest numbers and increased shelf-life are excellent reasons for GM crops which you stated in your own damn post.

Also, "Using vast amounts of chemicals is bad for the foodstuff" is naive, because everything is a chemical. Some chemicals are bad, and for suitably large definitions of vast, all that I know of are bad eventually (eg. water flooding a land plant completely and choking its oxygen supply) -- but that leaves the term "vast amounts of chemicals" alarmingly vacuous.

I see posts like this all the time. Empty repetition of talking points which may have merit, but also may not, and certainly leave the impression that the poster doesn't know what he's talking about.

Lest you think I'm purely an asshole, it's a good point you raise in your last sentence (although I'm not sure it's factual in the sense of it being "the main reason", it seems reasonable). That's part of why some of the companies have introduced terminator genes. But then you frustratingly see people notice that farmers have to re-buy seeds every year from the same company, and they scream "profit motive!". I scanned your post very specifically to see if you were in self-conflict, believing in two contradictory principles as suited your side of the argument at the time, and you weren't! :D. Congratulations, you aren't a moron or a deliberate liar (yet). I myself have occasionally repeated something, because it's notoriously hard to be omniscient.

Anonymous Coward out!

Did you look at your subject line? (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058112)

How can you state that "all GM food is not the same" and then immediately go on to paint all GM food with one brush?

i guess they better stop eating altogether (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057800)

every single type of food you eat has had it's genetic's controlled by selective breeding. GM food is no different, it's just quicker and easier to do (and cheaper). i really hate these kinds of idiots, they will take any tiny tidbit of information and blow it out of purportion and take it out of context to push their own agenda, which is really about anti government and anti corperate. you will also find, that ALL of these people come from middle class, and have never seen much of the world or actually had to live in poverty. a large motovator for GM food is creating crops that can grow in harsh conditions and provide food to people in africa etc, where they currently go without.

Wrong Wrong Wrong of course it's deifferent. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18058092)

"GM food is no different,.."

Taking genes from a frog and putting them in rice is not like 'selective breeding' at all.
Not On Bit.

Unless you can show me where rice and frogs where paaing genetic material and creating off spring in nature.
As such, they should be tested with the utmost rigor.
I am not saying they are bad, just that they are different. The pro-GM camp has lied to a lot of people using that 'it's just like selective greeding lie' for a long time.

This is more than a little thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18057906)

Shouldn't the /. headline read "Welsh Greenpeace activists purport suppressed report shows cancer link to GM potatoes."?
Does the specific type of GM potato used in the Russian study exist in UK?
Judging from the Independent story, I don't see that the study proves anything, good or bad, about GM potatoes. Maybe rats should not eat potatoes.

Anyone have a link on gm foods "altering" you? (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057966)

Its been a very long time, but im really tired of hearing people gripe about how GM food industry is just an innocent victim of bad pr.

I remember hearing from a reliable source that GM foods alter you (presumably by hormones or retroviruses used in the modification process).

Additionally, I can't ignore the strong correlation between the exponential decline in US population health with the ever increasing adoption of GM foods (compared to europe where they have stringent standards for GM foods).

The pushing of GM foods keeps reminding me of the fast-tracking of pills like fen-phen.. then saying "whoops, its killing people" after denying anything is wrong. (kind of like apple and first generation quality problems)

Maybe i'm just too sleepy.. whatever.

Re:Anyone have a link on gm foods "altering" you? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057990)

"I remember hearing from a reliable source ..."
The smelly guy on the corner isn't a reliable source.

I type of GM food or strain isn't like another. Yes, they should be tested but remember, one strain of potatoes causes cancer, doesn't mean a different strain isn't perfectly good.

I don't think fen-phen needed to pas any regulation because it wasn't used as 'medicine'.

Film at Eleven! (2, Insightful)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18057972)

In other news, it has been found that nearly 100% of Heroin Addicts started out drinking milk.
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