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Make Way For "Mutant" Crops As GM Foods Face Opposition 194

Posted by timothy
from the pure-safe-organic-pesticide-free-nightshade dept.
squiggleslash writes "The concerns, legitimate or otherwise, about genetically modified foods such as Monsanto's Round-up Ready soy-beans, may be causing unintended consequences: Monsanto's rivals such as BASF are selling 'naturally' mutated seeds where extreme exposure to ultra-violet is used to increase the rate of mutations in seeds, a process called mutagenesis. These seeds end up with many of the same properties, such as herbicide resistance, as GM seeds, but inevitably end up with other, uncontrolled, mutations too. The National Academy of Sciences warns that there's a much higher risk of unintentionally creating seeds that have active health risks through mutagenesis than by other means, including relatively controlled genetic engineering, presumably because of the blind indiscriminate nature of mutations caused by the process. But because mutagenesis is effectively an acceleration of the natural system of evolution, it's very difficult to regulate."
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Make Way For "Mutant" Crops As GM Foods Face Opposition

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  • by Ubi_NL (313657) <joris&ideeel,nl> on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:22PM (#45507579) Journal

    Is this a joke article? Please.
    We've been using random mutagenesis for over 25 years now to improve seeds, and guess what, we improved our technology over time. Not only is the secondary mutation mitigated via thorough back-crossing, but these days technology moved that only the gene of interest is actually changed. Read some recent patents by Monsanto or Keygene for a clue. This article is fear mongering bullshit that would have had truth in it if it was written in 1975.

    • Well, there is another weird undercurrent here. OK, you can treat plants with mutagens, we get that. You get mutants. (MUTANTS!). Then they sell the irradiated seeds? Just that? Who does the selection (that's the hard part)? Who decides what is a better product - the shinier fruit or the ones are walking down the field?

      Either you're right and this is some weird joke or their is something very much missing in TFA.

      • by hibiki_r (649814)

        I guess they'll do it in the exact same way as you'd do it when you test any other row crop: Some work at a single plant level is made to figure out which plants have any value at all, then you bulk up the seed, plant a bunch of those survivors in a few dozen locations, along with some commercial plants that you use as a control. Then you compare yields, resistance to disease, or whatever else you feel like looking at.

        If you really want to add some tech, you can do a genetic analysis of the plants early on

        • Sounds like a lot of work for an individual farmer. If they're that into things, they could have done this a long time a go by setting up a research station. No need to spend big bucks to expose things to mutagens. Something's missing. Perhaps I need more coffee (a known mutagen, BTW).

          • That kind of testing wouldn't be done at the level of the independent farmer, but by one of the large chemical companies (like Monsanto, BASF, etc). Those companies produce a patentable and productizable strain of food crop through trial and error, and they produce seeds for sale to farmers.
      • by yndrd1984 (730475)

        Who does the selection (that's the hard part)?

        Breeders. That's an actual job title at many seed companies.

        Who decides what is a better product - the shinier fruit or the ones are walking down the field?

        Usually they pick a particular trait that they would like to develop, preferably one that's easy to test for. They measure plants in the field, measure their output, scan the resulting product with near-infrared spectroscopy or nuclear magnetic resonance scans to find composition, and even look at genetic markers. Then they ship the seed for the next generation to be planted somewhere warm to shorten the generation time. Monsanto and Syngenta have

      • by sjames (1099)

        You can't just irradiate seeds and call it good. At the least you have to grow a generation or two to make sure they're viable and see if any have any desirable new traits. Then, you will likely need to cross the mutants with existing lines to get rid of the undesirable mutations while selecting for the desired trait. Then, finally, you can plant a small seed crop to expand your seed supply and better nail down germination rates.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          The only desirable trait they're looking for is one that will make a quick profit. They've got lawyers and corporate sovereignty to protect them from any downside, so bombs away!

          And since the end users. the ones who will eat these products, are not the customers of Monstanto, etc, they don't really give a fuck if any of us want these "desirable traits".

          • Do you seriously think that the people that work at Monsanto are so nefarious that they would have to study and control the food they eat to be sure it didn't have that intentionally bad stuff they engineered into it? Or might they actually and sincerely believe they're making a better food product?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:45PM (#45507691)

      Monsanto lies. A *lot*.

      Despite the occasional nutjob giving a bad name to other protesters, Monsanto has been responsible for massive dioxin poisoning, the creation and misuse of Agent Orange in Vietnam, abusive oversales of fertilizers leading to Sahara desert expansion as the crop growth was unsustainable, ruiined watersheds, and left the ground bare for desert expansion, and have generally sold agricultural tools and products for maximum short term profit. Monsanto's safety research can no more be trusted than that of cigarette companies saying their wares are "scientifically proven safe". They've been caught lying far too

      Oh, and we've been using "random mutagenesis" to improve crops for more like 25,000 if some of the very early paleontoligical research is correct about pre-historic farming. The dangers of this arise from typical Monsanto approaches: excessive speed of deployment, aggression of sales, and poor safety checks. The chances of even modest Monsanto *loves* their high yield monocultures: they make real profit for Monsanto, customers get locked into the single product line, and then are fiscally devastated if Monsanto raises prices and they can't compete. Targeted mutagenesis *will not help* with this, because the high yield crop line will come to dominate the market place, *again*, and be vulnerable to a specific rot, *again*. Look into the history of bananas, and the current corn blights decimating Monsanto's highest price GMO corn crop.

      • customers get locked into the single product line, and then are fiscally devastated if Monsanto raises prices and they can't compete.

        Uh, how does this work exactly? If someone buys corn seed from Monsanto this year, they can't switch to another seed provider next year? It could be you're just ranting.

        • by segedunum (883035)
          What other seed provider would this be and where will you go when they all do the same thing? I don't think you have the slightest clue how this works, do you?
          • lol you clearly don't
          • by Mashiki (184564)

            What other seed provider would this be and where will you go when they all do the same thing? I don't think you have the slightest clue how this works, do you?

            Wow talk about ignorant. Let's see, off the top of my head I can name co-op, croplan, masters choice, pioneer, pride, horizon, and I know that I'm scratching the very top of the barrel, there's 40 or 50 more.

          • by mopower70 (250015)

            What other seed provider would this be and where will you go when they all do the same thing? I don't think you have the slightest clue how this works, do you?

            You're clearly not a farmer. And asking "where will you go when they all do the same thing" is just baseless fear-mongering. My local Wendy's closed and now it's a McDonalds. "Oh noes! Where will I go when they all do the same thing! Gah! It's the end of Wendy's!"

            Amishland Seeds
            Annapolis Valley
            Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
            Burpee Seeds
            Heritage Seed Company (Nova Scotia, Canada)
            Diane’s Flower Seeds
            Ed Hume Seeds
            Fedco
            Garden City Seeds
            Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
            Heirloom Seeds
            Heirloom Organics
            Horizon Herbs
            Irish-E

        • by sjames (1099)

          If you don't want to be sued, you'd better grow something unrelated for a year of 4 first. Otherwise the contamination from the monsanto seed will make it look like you're a seed pirate. They're as bad as the RIAA.

    • It's All Here - For Those Who Can See [youtube.com]

      Thanks, Herr Goethe!

    • by countach (534280)

      If that's true, it only reinforces that the article makes a good point that its no different to genetic engineering. In fact, then it really is genetic engineering using a different technique and should be regulated the same way.

    • It's been around a lot longer than 25 years. Mutagenesis via irradiation's been with us since the 50s. For a rather silly example, have a read of this look at amateur grower involvement [blogspot.co.uk] as well as the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on atomic gardens. So yeah: very extremely not a new thing.
    • The seed mutations and GM modifications are not necessarily the big deal. The big deal is that the plants have been given improved resistance to herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, as well as the ability to make their own. So the farmer uses more and nastier chemicals on ther plants, and you wind up eating more nasty chemicals. Then you mutate into brain-dead closed-minded idiots. Oh, wait, too late. Haven't you seen the studies of lab rats, etc who have been feed gmo corn? They look horrible.

      • by yndrd1984 (730475)

        So the farmer uses more and nastier chemicals on ther plants, and you wind up eating more nasty chemicals.

        Traits like the Roundup Ready one actually reduce the use of herbicides and let farmers use safer herbicides. I can go into more detail if you want.

        Haven't you seen the studies of lab rats, etc who have been feed gmo corn? They look horrible.

        Of course they do, they start with rats that have been bred to be susceptible to tumors - most of them will look horrible on any diet.

    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:07PM (#45508375) Homepage Journal

      Is this a joke response?

      I ask because:

      1. The article doesn't say the technology is new.
      2. The article is about how the techology is being used as an end-run around bans and other restrictions on GM foods.
      3. Claims that the technology has been improved hardly negate the notion that this is inherently a less safe technology than standard genetic engineering for the reasons outlined.
      4. You're criticizing attacks on alternatives to GM foods, that are being introduced because of a nonsensical fear mongering campaign against GM foods, where those alternatives are objectively not as inherently safe as GM foods, as "fear mongering bullshit". Really? Seriously?

      In your knee-jerk rush to defend mutagenesis you've decided to ignore what's being pointed out - that a mindless fear mongering campaign against GM is resulting in use of technologies that more closely fit the complaints made against GM food, you've ignored the article pretending it doesn't state facts that it clearly does, and you've failed to address any of the issues raised.

      All because you want to attack critics of the use of mutagenesis (even though in this case we're talking about people who are criticizing its use as an alternative to GMO, not critics of its use overall) as "uninformed".

      • by segedunum (883035) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:49PM (#45508759)

        2. The article is about how the techology is being used as an end-run around bans and other restrictions on GM foods.

        4. You're criticizing attacks on alternatives to GM foods, that are being introduced because of a nonsensical fear mongering campaign against GM foods, where those alternatives are objectively not as inherently safe as GM foods, as "fear mongering bullshit". Really? Seriously?

        Trying to separate GM food from the use of this technology is also a joke. The logical conclusion of the wide use of GM food is that you won't be able to grow anything without Monsanto. That is their business model. We also have no idea what the long-term effects would be of this level of trust in a handful of powerful companies nor what kind of crops we would get with this unfettered. You're faced with a future situation where even growing anything in your back garden could cease to be a viable alternative. People can call it scare mongering all they like, but we won't know until we're in that situation and if and when we are it will be too late. Allowing companies to control natural food production is inherently dangerous and unethical.

    • by segedunum (883035)

      Read some recent patents by Monsanto or Keygene for a clue.

      Is this a joke?

  • The real risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:24PM (#45507593)

    is letting one corporation get a choke-hold on the world's food supply.

    • Re:The real risk (Score:5, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:37PM (#45507663)

      is letting one corporation get a choke-hold on the world's food supply.

      "Roundup" herbicide is already off patent. The "Roundup-Ready" gene that infers resistance goes off patent in 2015. Most BT corn patents have been invalidated.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        "Roundup" herbicide is already off patent. The "Roundup-Ready" gene that infers resistance goes off patent in 2015. Most BT corn patents have been invalidated.

        Local soil builders have been complaining of Aluminum in readily available soil stocks. Monsanto happens to have a patent on genes for Aluminum uptake resistance. Not sure where Al's coming from.

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          It's the third most common element in Earth's crust. Mostly bound up in forms that are not bio-available but not always.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        But because of irrational fear of GMOs, people are still going to die of malnutrition that could be prevented by growing and eating Golden Rice.

        Not all transgenic crops are the same. It matters what genes you add or remove. You could identify that remove the genes that make the stuff that people are allergic to in peanuts and remove them.

        That's not the same as adding pesticides to the genome. Those are toxic to other organisms at low levels and could potentially become toxic to at least some people at som

    • First off, who has a monopoly? Is it Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, Bayer Cropsciences, Vilmorin? I don't see anyone forced to choose. Second, the reason only one GE crop (the transgenic papaya ringspot virus resistant papaya developed by the University of Hawai'i) is not produced by a large corporation is because of the extremely, excessively high levels of regulation on GE crops. You think that UH could get the Rainbow papaya through the regulatory hurdles today? I doubt

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:26PM (#45507615)
    ...that one of the "other, uncontrolled, mutations" turns out to be a cure for something." From the Roundup-resistant strawman.
    • ...that one of the "other, uncontrolled, mutations" turns out to be a cure for something." From the Roundup-resistant strawman.

      My bet is on cure for hunger. Though, solving the problem of not enough money flowing from the poor to the rich might accidentally happen, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @01:33PM (#45507643)

    This sounds like an add for Monsanto and FUD against their competitors. Notice how Monsanto's brand name is mentioned, but not those of their competitor's products brand names.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I disagree. GM was also mentioned, but they didn't talk about their cars!

  • Errrrmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by countach (534280) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:15PM (#45507849)

    If this is so "natural", they won't be patenting the result.... RIGHT????

  • every 5 years (Score:4, Interesting)

    by superwiz (655733) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:56PM (#45508257) Journal
    This needs to mentioned every 5 years since most people don't realize how Europe works. The main political force in the European Union is France. The main political force in France is the french farmers. French take industrial competition to be a state affair. They do so as a matter of fact. The French industry is far behind the US industry as far as genetic engineering. This puts French farmers at a market-place disadvantage. This is the sole driving reason behind all European anti-genetic engineering propaganda. Everything else is excuses. Are there occasional problems with some ge crops? Sure. Just like there are bugs in programs. They get fixed. It's not a disaster. It's a nuisance.
  • The concerns, legitimate or otherwise, about genetically modified foods such as Monsanto's Round-up Ready soy-beans, may be causing unintended consequences

    This is all wrong and mistaken.

    The concerns are legitimate. Look into "gliadin" if you do not already know. That was a product of 1976 mutagenesis experiments. People who eat it consume an additional 400 calories every day. It's popular with the food industry and it is why many people are fat.

    The unintended consequences are the result of lax anti-GM regulations. Mutagenesis is Genetic Modification (GM). The problem is not that the "backlash" against transgenic Cauliflower Mosaic Virus vectors

    • by gregor-e (136142)
      Dude, you need some medication or something. You seem to think the DNA was writ by the immortal hand of god and is therefore sacrosanct. It ain't. Mutation is natural. DNA is thermodynamically unstable. The mechanisms by which DNA is replicated induces errors. Each of us has a dozen or so mutations to our own DNA. Every organism is constantly undergoing mutation. It is possible, though very tedious, to simply use selective breeding and wait for nature to provide the qualities we seek, whether it is
    • #3. that glyphosphate (Roundup) is legal

      Glyphosate is one of the safest herbicides. Your other options are tillage, which destroys the soil, or harsher herbicides. Got a better way to control weeds? Let me know, and don't say putting them. Who's going to pull weeds in the 96 million acres of just corn, and that's just in the US? You?

      #4. that glyphosphate-resistant crops are made via Cauliflower Mosaic Virus transgenic infection is legal.

      You're confusing the promoter region with the genetic transformation method. In other words, you are very fuzzy on this topic.

      #5. that any person who speaks English would write one word in favor of the hubris of Man and the obscure mutation of nature.

      Eaten a seedless orange lately? Thank mutation breeding.

      You sound like an X-Men vill

  • by jd (1658)

    Deadly mutagenesis! Happens naturally all the time. See any number of stories of fungi becoming deadly for no apparent reason.

    We use it ourselves, as others have noted.

    Actually, "deadly" is just code for a failure of your microbiome to process the organics. If you have crappy microflora, don't blame the UV. Blame your diet. If you have flexible, powerful microbes, you're going to be fine.

    Translated: Eat well or die, Earthling scum! (Sorry, channelling my inner Sontaran.)

  • I have two questions for the crowd here and elsewhere who asserts GMOs are safe and haters are just paranoid fools.

    1. When you go to the store and buy roundup to kill grass/weeds at your local home depot the label warns of danger of getting any on your skin suggesting you should immediately wash any off.

    The only reason to modify crops to be resistant to roundup is so they can be sprayed by accident and not die. However if you do this there is no longer any incentive to keep crops from not being sprayed arb

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @08:22PM (#45510637)

      > However if you do this there is no longer any incentive to keep crops from not being sprayed arbitrarily to save time/money.

      That would be true if RoundUp was free. It isn't. Spraying with RoundUp is expensive both in terms of labor and cost of materials, so there definitely is an incentive to minimize its use.

      There is also the issue of relative toxicity. RoundUp is the least toxic herbicide to mammals known. Other large scale farming practices require use of much more toxic practices.

      NIH Tox comments re: Glyphosate:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10854122 [nih.gov]

      Also please note - RoundUp is a trade name for an off-patent herbicide. The generic name is glyphosate, and most of the production of glyphosate is done by Chinese generic manufacturers.

      > How the hell can you just blanket assume all GMOs are safe all strains regardless of the details of each strain and regardless of studies produced before the introduction of subsequent strains?

      Nobody says all GMOs are safe. Heck, all sorts of natural plants are dangerous under various circumstances. Look up Castor beans. Also please note pretty much any artifact of technology is unsafe under some circumstance or another. If we insisted on complete safety for everything before adopting it we'd have banned fire due to its obvious dangers and still be living in unheated caves eating our food raw.

      Life is a matter of balancing risks. Do the well-established science on the GMO plant you plan to introduce and you will get a good idea of whether or not you can tolerate the risk.

      • That would be true if RoundUp was free. It isn't. Spraying with RoundUp is expensive both in terms of labor and cost of materials, so there definitely is an incentive to minimize its use.

        Whether roundup is free is not at issue. The issue is the cost difference in relation to additional time needed to do a suitable job missing spraying crops with roundup had crop not been "roundup ready"?

        What after all is the market incentive for roundup ready crops if not reduction of labor cost?

        There is also the issue of relative toxicity. RoundUp is the least toxic herbicide to mammals known. Other large scale farming practices require use of much more toxic practices.

        The issue I raised is limited to the real world implication of crops that can now tolerate more roundup than they could in the past thanks to genetic manipulation. I do not wish to compare other solutions unless

  • What those crops will evolve is a mostly useless trait: radiation resistance.

  • WTF (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @05:00PM (#45509277)
    I am embarrassed that so many people have opinions on this and so few have spent even 10 minutes researching both sides of this subject. I would not be surprised if there wasn't a single person on here is actually a farmer. The fact is that decrying GMO foods is a luxury of those who live in first world countries and have food. This ignorence and the fear caused by it doesn't hurt anyone but the people who need help the most, those without food. The world needs food and it needs better ways of growing that food. Mankind has been actively modifying the genetics of plants since we started cultivating land to grow food. Nature has been doing it for even longer then man. Everything you eat has been genetically modified through selection and breeding. Have you ever seen what the banana looked like before man modified its genetics though selective breeding and cultivation? http://www.bypassfanpages.com/2010/04/what-the-banana-looked-like-before-humans-started-selective-breeding/ [bypassfanpages.com] nature can only get us so far on it's own. That is why we have brains and opposable thumbs, to improve the world around us. If you don't like the way Monsanto does business or creates products then get off your ass and develop an open source alternative to their products. Nobody is stopping anyone from developing a better system or product and sharing it with the world. You could be the worlds hero for solving hunger and be filthy rich. If you are just complaining and not working hard to present a real viable alternative for the whole world then you are wasting oxygen that could be used for people willing to actually do something.
  • by ljw1004 (764174) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @05:26PM (#45509455)

    They talk about genetic "engineering" as if it's a precise technical operation. But my understanding is that the kind of "engineering" done is to get a plasmid with some gene and blast it randomly at the plant. Don't know how it will land, don't know where, don't know how it will be expressed. So you then grow lots of plants with this randomly inserted genetic sequence and test whether any of the plants end up having the behavior you desire and no apparent behaviors that you don't want.

    "Engineering" always seemed a deliberately misleading word.

    That said, I totally buy what the article said from the NAS, that the health risks from blasting genes are low, and the health risks from UV radiation to create random mutations is low.

    The article didn't at all address the environmental risks of over farming due to non-enhanced crops vs the environmental risks of irradiated vs gene-inserted crops. And didn't mention any economic risks with monopolies or IP ownership of seeds themselves.

    Addressing solely "health" risks at point of consumption is also deliberately misleading.

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @10:13PM (#45511247)

    While I am happy to side with people concerned with health concerns about GM, the biggest issue for me is that those people claim to enforce IP rights on what feeds humanity.

    There is also the dissemination problem. Experimenting GM in outdoor fields is not responsible research, since nobody know what will happen with dissemination

  • by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Monday November 25, 2013 @12:16AM (#45511911)
    In as much as we do not necessarily know if a plant has mutated, either through mutagenisis, natural exposure to UV light, or other mutagens, and even random mutations, which alter the food.

    It is critical that humans not consume mutated or otherwise genetically modified plants. These might be harmful

    It is likewise critical that absolutely no mutant or modified plant meke it into the food chain or breed with natural unmodified - and therefore safe foods.

    Therefore we hereby declare that no further modications of foodstuffs are allowed, either through artificial or Pseudo natural means, and all foodstuffs must be extensively tested to ensure that no mutations, modifications or evolvements take place.

    All foodstuffs must be genome mapped as soon as possible, and then declared as the standard.

    The importance of this testing and the results ares of such importance that any food that does not conform to the standard genome mapping must be immediately destroyed.

    We must rid the world of the scourge of modified food of any sort. Only then will the human race be safe from any non-standard food.

    We have formed an army to ensure compliance and the safety of the human race - the Eradicorps.

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