Support the IEET




The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.



Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

Bitcoin and Science: DNA is the Original Decentralized System

Summa Technologiae, Or Why The Trouble With Science Is Religion

Technoprogressive Declaration - Transvision 2014

Transhumanism: A Glimpse into the Future of Humanity

Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality

How America’s Obsession With Bad Birth Control Hurts and Even Kills Women


ieet books

Virtually Human: The Promise—-and the Peril—-of Digital Immortality
Author
Martine Rothblatt


comments

CygnusX1 on 'Summa Technologiae, Or Why The Trouble With Science Is Religion' (Nov 24, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'Summa Technologiae, Or Why The Trouble With Science Is Religion' (Nov 24, 2014)

CygnusX1 on 'Summa Technologiae, Or Why The Trouble With Science Is Religion' (Nov 24, 2014)

Leah Carr on 'Technoprogressive Declaration - Transvision 2014' (Nov 23, 2014)

David Wood on 'Technoprogressive Declaration - Transvision 2014' (Nov 23, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'Summa Technologiae, Or Why The Trouble With Science Is Religion' (Nov 23, 2014)

Omar Immortalist Gatti on 'Technoprogressive Declaration - Transvision 2014' (Nov 23, 2014)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


Why Running Simulations May Mean the End is Near
Nov 3, 2014
(20788) Hits
(15) Comments

Does Religion Cause More Harm than Good? Brits Say Yes. Here’s Why They May be Right.
Nov 18, 2014
(19333) Hits
(1) Comments

2040’s America will be like 1840’s Britain, with robots?
Oct 26, 2014
(14557) Hits
(33) Comments

Decentralized Money: Bitcoin 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0
Nov 10, 2014
(8647) Hits
(1) Comments



IEET > Security > Biosecurity > SciTech > Life > Health > Vision > Contributors > John Niman

Print Email permalink (6) Comments (4127) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


GMOs: The Future Of Food


John Niman
By John Niman
boydfuturist

Posted: Jan 7, 2013

For several months now, I’ve wanted to put together a post talking about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and particularly in the context of food. I’ve had several debates with my friends – I tend toward the pro-GMO camp and several of my friends are anti-GMO. I maintained that if they simply looked at the science, reviewed the research, and avoided sources with an agenda that often post incorrect information that they would come around to my way of thinking.

pharmcornIt turns out, someone else just did that job for me.

Big-time environmental advocate Mark Lynas has fought GMOs for nearly two decades. He helped to coin the “Franken-whatever” phrase, and has generally contributed to public hysteria and governmental regulation of GMOs, particularly across Europe. On Thursday, at the Oxford Farmer’s Conference, Lynas recanted. Anyone interested in GMOs should watch the entirety of his speech, but I’ll highlight a few important bits after the video.

 

“[W]hat happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”

This follows my general argument that when people look at the hard data, they understand that most fears about GMOs are unfounded. That someone so ardently opposed to GMOs could revise his opinion, publically no less, is extremely rare and worthy of praise.

“When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.”

Often, when I ask why people dislike GMOs, their reaction comes down to a dislike of Monsanto. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Monsanto either, though I find they’re sometimes demonized more than they ought to be. The Supreme Court is expected to hear a case about some of their practices during the upcoming term.

But creating hysteria about GMOs because one of the major companies that makes them is distasteful is like creating a hysteria about computers because one doesn’t like Microsoft. The technology is separate from the people that implement it. If someone wants to argue that the business model of Monsanto is unethical or harmful that’s an argument I can get behind (or at least entertain.) But to suggest that the technology itself is bad, even if Monsanto is a sort of corporate demon, is ludicrous.

How Some View Monsanto

How Some View Monsanto

“So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths. I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide. I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs. I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened. I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them. I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way. But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.”

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Lynas moved away from the propaganda, did some research, and came to conclusions backed by evidence instead of fear.

Lynas goes on at some length about how GMOs can help mitigate climate change, help feed billions of people, and generally make life a little better for all of us (and a lot better for some of us.)

“There is a depressing irony here that the anti-biotech campaigners complain about GM crops only being marketed by big corporations when this is a situation they have done more than anyone to help bring about.”

Ironic is exactly the right word to use here. The trouble with GMOs is that it can be a dangerous technology. Part of me hopes that so many of these regulations will be loosened and GMO technology can become essentially open source. So much of my distaste for Monsanto comes down to the patent system and approval process. But because there are strong dissenters to the technology who require stringent regulations the R&D and approval processes are very costly. That means that only large corporations can afford to research the technology. And that, in turn, means that Monsanto remains the biggest game in town because smaller, perhaps more ethical, businesses can’t afford to play.

“In the EU the system is at a standstill, and many GM crops have been waiting a decade or more for approval but are permanently held up by the twisted domestic politics of anti-biotech countries like France and Austria. Around the whole world the regulatory delay has increased to more than 5 and a half years now, from 3.7 years back in 2002. The bureaucratic burden is getting worse.”

Take, for example, a GMO salmon that, after 17 years in the approval process and millions upon millions of dollars spent to get it approved, has finally been approved after the FDA conceded that it “posed no major health or environmental risks” and that “ [the FDA] could not find any valid scientific reasons to ban the production of GM Atlantic salmon engineered with extra genes from two other fish species.”

gm-salmon

Lynas says, “If you look at the situation without prejudice, much of the debate, both in terms of anti-biotech and organic, is simply based on the naturalistic fallacy – the belief that natural is good, and artificial is bad. This is a fallacy because there are plenty of entirely natural poisons and ways to die, as the relatives of those who died from E.-coli poisoning would tell you. For organic, the naturalistic fallacy is elevated into the central guiding principle for an entire movement. This is irrational and we owe it to the Earth and to our children to do better.”

Indeed we do.

Just a few examples of the potential benefits of GMO technology (in food alone – I will post a separate article about GMOs in other contexts another time):

Lab grown meat that could provide nutrition to millions of people, without the detrimental impact to the Earth caused by traditional cattle and chicken farms and without the ethical problems of killing animals for food.

Modified tomatoes that can help prevent heart disease.

Modified corn that could help treat a rare disease.

Lynas speaks about several other current uses of GMO food to help feed people or cure disease, and again, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you listen to the entire speech. GMO food, time and again, has proven safe, effective, and offers benefits far beyond what traditional farming techniques offer. The best part: We’re just getting started.

As an aside: There is a separate debate about whether GM food ought to be labeled. For the record, I think that it should. People certainly have a right to know what sort of food they’re purchasing and consuming. Perhaps equally importantly, people ought to be able to see how many of the foods they already eat are genetically modified. This, I think, will dissipate some of the fear about GM food. It would, as a side benefit, allow me to knowingly support foods that are genetically modified.

 


John Niman is an Affiliate Scholar, a J.D. Candidate at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His primary legal interests include bioethics and personhood. He blogs about emerging technology and transhumanism at http://boydfuturist.wordpress.com.
Print Email permalink (6) Comments (4128) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


I agree that genetically modified foods have a great potential to cure disease and help developing countries with starvation, etc.  However Monsanto is a corporation that has time and time again been documented hurting the American farmer by forcing them to use “copyrighted” seeds. Monsanto has also hurt farmers worldwide… just in India alone, (not purely because of Monsanto) over 60,000 farmers have killed themselves because of seed and food trade laws pushed by corporations like Monsanto.

So let’s look at like this: Monsanto is indeed like Windows. (although the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have done some great things!)
The small farmer that wants control over their crops is like Linux.

Monsanto cannot continue to act as they do worldwide.

DIY genetic engineering and literal “stealing” of Monsanto’s copyrighted crops will be the result in the upcoming future. Protests against Monsanto’s actions will continue.

We should look at a positive future where farmers do not have to deal with Monsanto’s dirty tricks. We should listen to farmers who’s lives have been destroyed. We need the genetic modification of plants to be in control of the farmers, not some large corporation that is so powerful that they can influence trade laws, genetic copyright, and responsible for the misery of thousands of American farmers, and the deaths of tens of thousands of farmers worldwide.

________________________________________

Monsanto Faces $7.5 Billion Payout to Brazilian Farmers

http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15747





I’m not sure that small farmers are in a position to genetically modify anything, but I agree with your more general point.





Hi, lab grown meat is unlikely at this stage to be GMO meat. Especially as it’s being developed in Europe.





drbrian, cultured meat will probably be able to be genetically modified soon to be healthier, obviously grown without brains, and much more efficient – producing a fraction of the green house gases that modern factory farms do. I say this because the genomes of rather complex organisms is rapidly being understood everyday. A stem cell that can be programmed to create meat will not only help meat eating people have less heart problems, etc, but will also taste better as well.

John, I understand what your saying and feel that we need more geneticists and biologists out there so that when someone gets their hands on Monsanto’s code on a computer they will be able to manipulate it and create it in the real world. Perhaps not in a DIY home situation, but maybe at some rogue university, college, organization, or small corporation that will have the expertise to be able to “hack” the genome and produce the end result in the real world. Just like software these plants can be reversed engineered, or engineered in such a way where it is indeed, as you say “open source”.





“A cruelty-free, cultured meat is on the horizon that will help save a large percentage of the 27 billion animals slaughtered each year for food.

According to PETA “Raising animals on factory farms is cruel and ecologically devastating. Eating animals is bad for our health, increasing the risk of developing various diseases and illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.”  Given those facts, the idea of cruelty free cultured meats sounds like a viable alternative.

Having been a vegetarian for years I have to admit that sometimes I miss the variety that meat adds to a diet so this subject is especially interesting to me.  Dr. Genovese, answers critical questions to his important research that should turn skeptics into believers.”

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/notaro20111005





There will always be a debate on GMO foods but still it is flourishing since 20 years due to money power from companies like Monsanto and other influential people from agriculture industry. You will be surprised to know that big names are integrated with Monsanto company.

Why Big Ag and the Government Leaves Public Out of the Big Debate!

http://www.rosebudmag.com/truth-squad/gmo-foods-big-ag-government-leaves-public-out





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Future Technology Could Eliminate the Need to Eat Food

Previous entry: Double catastrophe: Intermittent stratospheric geoengineering induced by societal collapse

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-297-2376