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EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

crmarvin42 Re:The science behind GMOs show they are safe. (272 comments)

Likewise, "companies must submit studies, and the FDA must approve them, before a genetic change may be added to a food" sounds equally reasonable and yet is labeled "zealotry" by folks like the parent poster.

As a matter of fact, the FDA is already one of 3 federal agencies in the US responsible for oversight of GMO:

What gets everyone all hot and bothered (myself included) is the erroneous perception that GMO are not regulated at all, or that they've been confirmed as unsafe for people or the environment despite all of the evidence being in opposition to that position. It is decidedly anti-science zealotry that prevents many from accepting that the scientists involved in developing and certifying GMO's have done their jobs, and done them well.

about a month and a half ago
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EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

crmarvin42 Re:I actually read the article... (272 comments)

There is a specific allergen (short protein sequence) in peanuts that is responsible for the peanut allergy. It is well known which DNA sequence results in the offending protein sequence. Therefore, the DNA inserted into the new GM crop is compared via computer against all known allergens (not just the peanut allergen) based on the DNA and protein sequences. They also look for sequences that are similar to known allergens so that more involved testing can be done (cell culture work, anima models, etc.) to rule out the accidental development of a "New" antigen. So far we have had 20 years of 100 percent success in preventing GM crops from introducing new or already known allergens into the food supply. Can't guarantee we won't slip up eventually, but you have to give credit where credit is due.

about a month and a half ago
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EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

crmarvin42 Re:Wrong (272 comments)

Sure it was stopped before commercialization. But this is hardly something you get when splicing.

You are flat out wrong. This is a case of why GM is so safe, and an example of the system working as designed.

Take a look at Solanine in potatoes. As a member of the nightshade family, there is always the potential that a new variety of potato will contain dangerous levels of solanine or other glycoamyloids just due to random interaction between the parent genomes. Bombarding potatoes with mutagens like ionizing radiation, or carcinogenic chemicals are OK by organic standards, and how new varieties of potatoes were developed before we even understood that DNA was the source of inheritance. This kind of genetic modification is MORE likely to result in accidental changes in Solanine concentration because so many genes are changed simultaniously. Several varieties of potatoes that were not GM have been removed from the market only AFTER they made people sick.

The targeted nature of modern techniques mean we can characterize the new strain to a previously impossible level BEFORE they hit the market. Who cares how many mistakes they make in the lab, as long as they STAY in the lab. The 78 UK made sick by Solanine poisoning in Britain in the 1970's are 78 more adverse events than have ever been reported for ALL GM products combined over the last 20 years precisely BECAUSE we scrutinize all new GM strains so closely before they are allowed on the market.

about a month and a half ago
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EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

crmarvin42 Re:Let's get rid of EU (272 comments)

I was in Germany a few weeks ago for work, and my German colleges all seemed to be of the opinion that the EU was never meant to grow past the initial members, at least in the near term. There is a lot of shared culture and history amongst the original EU member states, and it was viewed as the first step toward the type of federalization you mention. However, with the expansion of the EU to include member nations that can only be considered "Europe" if you've had a few fingers of scotch, are standing on your head, and squinting, the pace of such integration gets slower and slower. It's also part of why Greece is in such dire straights.

Used to me that in such a situation Greece could allow their currency to devalue, relative to the rest of Europe, and they'd pull themselves out in a few years as the value of their existing debt is reduced. However, now that their currency is also pegged to the German et al. economies they cannot do that and what would of taken a few years will now take decades.

about a month and a half ago
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Mutant Registration vs. Vaccine Registration

crmarvin42 Re:Misinformation? (493 comments)

You have no idea what you are talking about. I'll pit my annecdotal experience against your annecdotal experience.

My sister (1 at the time) got a mild case, but then came down with Shingles while in college. She was in agony for almost a year and considered taking a semester off because she was in so much chronic pain.

My brother got it when he was 3 and had it everywhere. On his genitals, in his mouth, down his throat. He was already a sickly child who did not gain any weight for the 1st 6 months of his life. The sores in his throat exacerbated his respiratory problems and he had to be hospitalzied.

Public health is a numbers game. The cost of the invervention weighed against the cumulative costs on society. A disease does not have to be consistently life threatening to be worth erradicating through vaccination. The cost of treating events like my sisters shingles and my brothers hospitalization have a large effect on the total cost of a disease organism. Much higher than would be expected based on the prevalence of such complications. Take the human suffering component into account and a solid case for vaccination becomes even stronger.

about 2 months ago
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Mutant Registration vs. Vaccine Registration

crmarvin42 Re:Well... (493 comments)

What about people with other health conditions who cannot tolerate the vaccine?

They would benefit in the event of an oubreak in there area. They could be notified directly that there was an outbreak in the area so that they could then decide to leave the hot zone before becoming infected. I don't think anyone is claiming vaccines should be administered to those at high risk for adverse events (egg allgies, or previous adverse reactions to similar vaccines). However, unvaccinated people do pose a risk not only to themselves, but to others. Being able to mitigate those risks would help everyone.

To be clear, I approve of something like this for the US (where I live) but only if the list is maintained by health officals only. I see no reason for this to be publicly available information. I have no business knowing if you are vaccinated, but the WHO or CDC does in the event of a legitimate risk in your area.

Beyond a certain critical mass of vaccinations, additional vaccinations are subject to diminishing returns.

Very true, but that critical mass is around 95%. The original article makes it clear that in Canada, the vaccination rates are nowhere near that number. Articles I've read in the US place the rates below that number as well. Especially in regions where non-medical vaccination abstentions are high (religious groups, Wealthy communities suffering from the misconception that vaccines are related to autism, etc.).

about 2 months ago
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Robots: a Working Breed At the Dairy

crmarvin42 Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (65 comments)

Your inability to see a reason does not mean one does not exist. Although, I don't disagree regarding the daily contact. However, on the farms I've visited that use robots, their direct human contact is not appreciably lower, it is only the type of interaction that has changed.These cows milk themselves so they are not rushed in the parlor by a hired hand trying to get done with their shift or this particular chore faster, which is interaction the cows are probably better off without. Instead the herdsman has time to walk the pens while he and the cows are more relaxed.

These robots also come with all sorts of sensors and automatic flagging software to notify the producer of potential problems. The sensors in these machines can predict mastitis based changes in the composition of the milk before the cow exhibits any signs that the farmer could detect, they can track milk components on a daily basis per cow, and enable targeted feeding of extra nutrition during milking to supplement the TMR for the highest producing cows. For a modern, data driven dairy, these machines are a treasure trove of information about the cows to supplement the knowledge that comes from working with the cows on a daily basis

Also, keep in mind that robotic milkers don't really scale beyond 500 cow herds. These are a labor saving device for those farms that can least afford to hire another person. Each robot can handle about 60 cows depending on how productive they are. Above 500 cows (8 robots) and it becomes more cost effective to use a traditional parlor with full time employees to do the milking.

This robot, which does look more like a graduate student project than a commercial product, appears to work in an open field. That is a very different application from the moving gates you are referring to. Robots are generally built for a specific purpose, and those automated gates you describe wouldn't do much good for cows spread over several acres, whereas this one might in the future.

about 8 months ago
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Robots: a Working Breed At the Dairy

crmarvin42 Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (65 comments)

Very true, but I see this device as more of a proof-of-concept for robots to work beside livestock in general. Pastured dairy cows are usually pretty dosile due to frequent handling, but what about range fed beef cattle? What about a robot to empty a broiler house or load turkey's without spooking them and losing birds due to acities or damaged breast meat? I'm not saying all of this will come to pass, but the possibilities are intriging.

Also, this could potentially be used in conjuction with a robotic milking parlour to automate fetching cows on rotationally grazed pastures to automate the entire process.

about 8 months ago
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Robots: a Working Breed At the Dairy

crmarvin42 Re:How many humans does the farm require? (65 comments)

You are assuming that farm jobs are jobs people want. In areas where there are a lot of farm jobs available, there are usually a shortage of qualified individuals willing to do them. Ag work is long hours under an unpredictable range of environmental conditions in general, but animal work adds in the vageries that come with a thinking animal that is frequently stronger, bigger and more numerous than you are. Every farm job I've ever had was open for several months before it was I filled it. Many times I was the only person who had expressed any interest in the job at all. Even in lean economic times you can have a hard time finding anyone to do such work, or at least have a hard time finding someone who can do it well.

If machines like this can help keep a farm from closing down, then I welcome the technology.

Dairies less than 500 to 1,000 cows are already replacing people in the milking parlour to great effect for the cows and their human handlers. Instead of spending 6 hours a day coraling cows into a parlour and milking them you can let them be milked when they feel it is necessary (great for those higher producing cows that need to be milked more than 2x/d). That frees you up to work on other on-farm issues like estrus detection, sire selection, feed manufacture, etc. that normally have to be done in the time between milkings.

Here is a question for you: Do you also lament the switch from horse drawn carriage to automobile? The car put a lot of equine breeders, carriage manufacturers, and buggie whip manufacturers (my home town is nicknamed the "whip city" because of its importance as a center of buggy whip manufacture back in the day) out of business as well, but it appears to have turned out for the best. I think the root problem of such thinking is that jobs are a zero sum game. That for a robot to do a job is to replace a human with that job never to be replaced, but the robot is manufactured, marketed, maintained, re-sold, recycled, etc. and all of those jobs still require humans.

about 8 months ago
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Apple Blocks Lawrence Lessig's Comment On iOS 7 Wi-Fi Glitch

crmarvin42 Re: Pretty common support forums policies (326 comments)

I don't know for sure, that's why I indicated it was a presumption. In my experience hardware issues tend to fail more often than once a week. Could be hardware though. I'm taking a wait and see approach for now.

about 9 months ago
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Apple Blocks Lawrence Lessig's Comment On iOS 7 Wi-Fi Glitch

crmarvin42 Re:Pretty common support forums policies (326 comments)

Are you sure that is what they were objecting to? Honest question, BTW.

I've been having wifi issues since upgrading to iOS7, but only intermitently. I could not connect to wifi at all for the first 2 days, but now it connects most of the time. About once a week I have to power the phone off and on to get wifi working again. I saw a thread on the discussion pages during my first 2 day outage (maybe the same one, maybe not) that was telling everyone your wifi chip had physically been damaged by the update and to go to the Applestore for a new phone. Presumably my wifi chip hasn't been physically damaged because it works the vast majority of the time, and if they are telling everyone something that is demonstrably false (in Apple's opinion anyway), the I could see why Apple might intervene.

about 9 months ago
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The College-Loan Scandal

crmarvin42 Responsible consumption (827 comments)

As someone who has spent most of my adult life in college, I have disagree with the premise. An education is like any other consumer purchase. You need to balance the cost against the value received. One problem is that many people are buying too much education, or the wrong education for them. When spending that kind of money you should not assume that there won't need to be sacrifices outside of the sticker price, or hidden charges as in a new car or house. If you want to have a large family you probably should think twice about getting a phd or a degree in a field with notoriously low pay or employment rates. I managed a decade of college (PhD) and only paid full price for two of those years (junior and senior year of BS) and about half price for another two (community college for freshman and sophomore). The rest I was paid because I picked a field in which graduate research assistants are paid a stipend sufficient to live on (with a roommate).

I knew a lot of kids who didn't even know what they, or their parents, were paying and just assumed they'd be able to make it up in a 6 figure salary upon graduation (I don't even make 6 figures and I live in NJ). I was constantly looking for a way to get my education without bankrupting myself and have managed it so far. The problem is that the salesmen (politicians, college recruiters, arm chair economists) talk about education as though it were a panacea and a guarantee of success. It is a prerequisite in many fields, but by no means a guarantee and people need to be more skeptical when listening to people talk about how an education will improve everything for them. I know a lot of people with a BS in a filed that interested them, but had poor employment rates and are now working in a completely different field and struggling to keep afloat because that education is next to useless for them.

about a year ago
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Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban

crmarvin42 Re: And this is kind of sad (120 comments)

Up to a 50% mortality rate in hospitals. [emphasis added]

Exactly! In hospitals, populated primarily by the immuno compromized such as the elderly, cancer patients, patients recovering from invasive procedures like surgery. Focusing on hospital data only is a textbook example of sampling bias (literally, it was mention in my stats textbook in grad school).

Also, how many of them contracted MRSA from the hospital? Banning antibiotics in livestock will do nothing to curtail Hospital acquired MRSA infections.

What about MRSA rates in the community at large. What percent of people at work today would test positive for MRSA right now? Mortality rate in the hospital is one part of the total virulence of a disease, but it can be a very small part for something that is widespread. Swine flu scared the crap out of everyone becuase those hospitalized by it were so sick, but when they got around to looking at the community at large they found much much higher numbers of people that didn't need to see a doctor or visit a hospital but had been infected by it. In the end it was not that much more virulent than other strains of the flu.

1 year,28 days
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Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban

crmarvin42 Re: And this is kind of sad (120 comments)

Yes, because a google search is the equivalent of a critical review, and not a popularity contest subject to clever tricks such as search engine optimizat at all.

I don't know where this Dr. Morris works within the FDA, but it is not within the center for veterinary medicine (CVM). The group responsible for regulating drugs in animal feed. The officials within CVM are prohibited by law from revoking the approval of a product without sufficient evidence of danger. Studies like the one above don't prove anything, they are all just correllation. And as we all know on /., Correlation is not proof of Causation!

I have several ideas for trial designs that might show stronger support, one way or the other, but instead of coming up with better designs they keep just repeating the same designs.

Idea #1: Find two demographically similar communities (preferably both having similar farm populations and production levels), one with a hospital and the other without and look at community MRSA rates. If I'm right, the town with the hospital will have much higher MRSA levels within the community if not, there will be no difference.

Idea #2: Similar approach, but without hospitals and with farms under opposing antibiotic use rules. In the US there are several university farms that have gone without antibiotics for decades, or a US community could be comparied to an EU community. If I'm wrong, then there would be higher MRSA rates in the community with higher drug use on swine farms. If I'm right there will be no difference.

I'm willing to conced the point if someone will show me something more rigorous than "We tested a bunch of people in a sub group without any control and found MRSA" because all people have some exposure to both potential sources of MRSA. As I said before, it is in my personal best interest for sub-theraputic antibiotics to be banned becuase I support a sales force that sells allternatives to antibiotics. I'd just like to see the science done right instead of having the decision based on crap correlations.

1 year,28 days
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Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban

crmarvin42 Re: And this is kind of sad (120 comments)

Actually, the average is 83 per year for the US from 1990 to 2006, but your point is a valid one. However, we still allow antibiotics in animal feed in the US so we don't know what the rate would be if we banned them, and Salmonella was only one example of a food borne pathogen currently controlled by antibiotics in feed. There are studies looking at carcass contamination with various microbes with and without antibiotic use in livestock and the data shows increased risk. Furthermore, I was trying to draw attention to the fact that MRSA is not especially virulent among the healthy.

1 year,28 days
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Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban

crmarvin42 Re:Who says they aren't? (120 comments)

You cannot safely make such a broad generalization here.

Many farms, in my addmitedly anecdotal experience "most", only use antibiotics in a targeted way becuase of the cost associated with their use. Swine farms routinely administer them via feed or water to nursery pigs, but outside of the first month post-weaning, using is dramatically curtailed. Piglets in first couple of weeks post-weaning are very prone to clinical disease outbreaks (which require much higher antibiotic doses to treat), higher mortalities (as a result of disease challenge normally), and yes slower growth.

Sub-theraputic antibiotics can help with all three of these, but the growth factor is actually the least important, becuase by the end of the 2nd month post-weaning any differences disappear into the normal variability in animal performance. It is more about keeping more pigs alive and healthy through the stress of weaning than it is about performance. After they've made it through the most difficult period the value proposition for antibiotics is dramatically reduced, which is why sub-theraputic doses are not as common there. Bascially, they are not worth the cost to many farmers later

1 year,28 days
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Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban

crmarvin42 Re: And this is kind of sad (120 comments)

Who says we are applying them randomly to livestock? Antibiotics cost money and animal producers have to deal with a boom bust cycle of profitabilitlity that means unnecessary expenses must be cut whenever possible. They are VERY deliberate in their decisions regarding any feed ingredient becuase feed accounts for 60 to 80% of the cost of bringing their prouduct to market. A 5% savings in total feed costs could spell the difference between losing money and making money.

For an MD, however, the incentives are all stacked in favor of reckless use. Malpractice insurance forces MD's to side on the side of overprescription becuase they don't want to be sued for witholding antibiotics that turn out to have been necessary. Patients come in expecting to be prescribed something, and if they aren't they are more than willing to make another appointment with a doctor who will prescribe them what they want. Currently all of the negatives of antibiotic resistance development can be blamed on Agriculture (even in the EU which is rediculous considering the bans), so why risk malpractice or disgruntled patients to prevent a negative outcome no one will blame you for anyway?

I believe that use in animals does contribute. I stated as such in my post. However, it is my opinion that the relative impact of animal vs. human prescribing on the resistance problem are orders of magnitude different and banning in livestock will only make marginal improvements at best. That may be good for human medicine, but I believe that a cost-benefit analysis will show that the benefit to human medicine will be far outstriped by the cost to human food security from both a supply and sanitation perspective. I base this opinion not on my own vested interest (I'm responsible for supporting a sales force that sells antibiotic alternatives to livestock producers, so ban is good for me personally), but on attempts I've seen to model antibiotic resistance development.

Also, at the risk of sounding callous we need to keep in mind that most resistant infections are not fatal. No one said that these farmers with MRSA were dying. Only that they had MRSA present. As long as their immune system is not dramatically compromized they are capable of fighting off MRSA, becuase MRSA is not immune to antibodies, macrophages, or any other part of the acue phase response. They are only resistant to a single supportive therapy that most people don't actually need. That doesn't reduce the importance in the immunocompromized (Very young, elderly, those with other immune compromizing conditions, etc.). But it's not like MRSA is Ebola.

MRSA isn't even as bad as Salmonella, which can actually make an otherwise healthy person sick, is endogenous to poultry, and can be controlled via antibiotics in poultry feed. By banning sub-theraputic doses of antibiotics in poultry you increase the risk of food-borne salmonella infections which can kill the perfectly healthy among us... Unlike MRSA! This is why the decision to ban should have been based on a holistic cost-benefit analysis instead of the regressive "Precautionary Principle" which is motivated more by irrational fear than evidence.

1 year,28 days
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Farm Workers Carry Drug-Resistant Staph Despite Partial FDA Antibiotics Ban

crmarvin42 Re: And this is kind of sad (120 comments)

The EU did ban them for almost no reason. Here is an alternative explanation for the same data. Farm workers are people (no duh right!) and like all other people they go to hospitals (visiting others, actual illness/injury, etc) those banned antibiotics are still used with reckless abandon in hospitals and MRSA is endemic to hospitals as a result. Therefore, which is more likely? That the farm workers got their MRSA from a hospital where the drugs and MRSA are both already known to be present, or on a farm animals where there is no reason for either to be present? Everyone wants to believe the second, but the US has (so far) not banned them because of the lack of any way to determine if the infections come from either of the two possible sources. I personally believe it is both, but with a greater proportion being laid at the feet of hospitals since every human in the US goes to a hospital at somepoint, but only about 1 percent of Americans work on farms of any kind.

1 year,28 days
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Supreme Court Rules For Monsanto In Patent Case

crmarvin42 Re:This is disgusting!! (579 comments)

From the USTPO website:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. In doing this, the USPTO fulfills the mandate of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution that the legislative branch "promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries."

That the patent on round-up ready resistance "Promote[d] the progress of science and the useful arts" is not really debatable. We now have crops which require far fewer input costs in time, labor, fuel, and herbicides than would ever have been possible otherwise. If that isn't "useful" then I don't know what is, and the high uptake of the technology by farmers despite the higher upfront costs is the best endorsement I can think of. That the patent under discussion expires next year is right in line with the second half of their mandate "...by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries". Starting next year ANYONE will be able to add glyphosate resistance to their corn without having to pay Monsanto a dime in licensing. This is the system operating as designed for once. You may not like the system, but to get worked up over the company for playing by the rules is not really appropriate. Instead you should address what you see as flaws in the system.

I think you have a tendency to veer back into the insulting with reference to the Dunning-Kruger delusion

No insult intended. As proof I offer this nugget of self incrimination: I myself suffered from a Dunning-Kruger delusion regarding Anthropogenic Global Warming for several years. I though I knew better than the climatologists precisely BECAUSE I had no training in that area. I have since corrected this by acquiring enough information to finally see that I was dramatically over-estimating my own competence in this area. I accuse you of nothing for which I have not been guilty myself.

Monsanto may add value (frankly I don't know enough to tell for sure) but it is certainly open for debate

Not really. If they did not add value, then no one would have any reason to by GM seeds. The value has been determined in numerous research papers, and by many thousands of farmers purchasing decisions. Their product would have been a blip to the market which sees thousands of new seed varieties added to the market every season. Instead they have come to achieve greater than 90% market penetration (after adding in licensees such as DeKalb, Syngenta, and others).

...the question of whether or not the subject of the patents can be practically used freely after expiry ...

I have not even seen a hint to suggest that the subject of this patent will be somehow restricted after the patent expires next year. The gene is too prevelant (and has been since day 1 on the market) for Monsanto to keep the technology out of the hands of competitors, even if they wanted to. The fact that they've licensed the technology to their competitors means that the gene is already in Non-monsanto seeds. The only difference in 2014 will be that Monsanto will no longer be receiving licensing fees for the those seeds.

about a year ago
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Supreme Court Rules For Monsanto In Patent Case

crmarvin42 Re:This is disgusting!! (579 comments)

I've already addressed some of these issues in an earlier post, so here is the short version with links:

1. Seed breeders don't do their work willy-nilly in an open field. They use controlled conditions to prevent accidental pollinization. See here

2. Pollinization with from a neighboring GM field is not counted against you by the USDA who is responsible for the National Organics List. See here

about a year ago

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