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Anti-biotech crowd convinced GMO food is road to extinction

Anti-biotech crowd convinced GMO food is road to extinction

My last commentary/blog [3] about tackling the GMO food labeling issue head-on in a ballot initiative apparently touched a few nerves in the anti-biotech crowd. Most did not like the notion that genetically modified covers traditional as well as biotech plant breeding and should be included on any ballot initiative discussing the labeling of some food as genetically modified. It’s all genetically modified in my book.

Here are a few of the comments appearing in the commentary/blog [3]:

“I read 5 outright lies before I got to the fifth paragraph. This is biotech propaganda.”

“Many Americans are fed endless amounts of GM food that barely satisfies them and makes them sicker than all other people in the world, despite more money being spent on health care in the U.S. than in any other place in the world. There is a short term "pre-extinction" gain by GMO agri-business, naturally ending. The End. Who wants to feed Dinosaurs?”

“GMO is in our food supply in huge quantities and is poisoning our farmland and the American people. We should label it so NO ONE BUYS this poison.”

“Your lies will catch up with you, Are you feeding your families foods that have had E. Coli put in them so will not fight off the GM inserts? Hmmm. If a plant refuses to accept Genetic Modification and you have to put a food borne illness in it to confuse its immune system and you say it is not harmful. Stop the Lies. It is all about you folks being so greedy that the people of the world have to suffer.”

"Liars. Liars.”

“Thank you Harry, for your calming words. I think Harry Cline is an idiot, but his ranting lies made me want to cry. Hopefully the majority have more sense.”

“The author is either grossly disinformed (sp?) or a shill for the biotech industry. Either way this diatribe amounts to a severely distorted piece of propaganda intended solely to further the biotech industry's objectives by attempting to blur the line between conventional genetic breeding and the completely unnatural and severely disruptive biotech gene insertion methods.”

“This author obviously works for Monsanto or has drank their GE Kool Aid. Our world's hunger is not for lack of the ability to grow enough food, (we have food surpluses worldwide) it is about getting the food that we have into the mouths of those who need it....it is about tyrannical governments withholding food from their poor to exert control over them.”

“What a total outrage. There is a huge difference between breeding plants and animals and GE. IE you will never find a rat breeding with a tomato and producing a viable offspring. Yet you would have people believe that splicing rat DNA into a tomato is no different than mixing different variates (sp?) of tomatoes.” I love this last one. I can see GMO tomatoes running after tomato harvesters on rat legs squeaking “Wait for me!”

Many took me to task for comparing conventional breeding with biotech-enhanced breeding of GMO crops saying the former is “natural” and the other frankenfood that is killing off society. These folks are really going to flip when they learn that the technology used to develop so-called GMO crops is widely used to enhance conventional or as they call it “naturalized” breeding.

According to an Iowa State University study consumers are willing to pay extra for healthier genetically modified foods using this biotechnology.

This science is called “intragenic modification” and refers to plants that are genetically modified with genes from other plants within their own species.

Genetic markers in plants act like chemical flags indicating a particular generic trait is in a plant. Using genomic information called Marker-Assisted Selection (MAS) like that used in transgenic breeding, plant breeders can dramatically speed classic breeding efforts, according to Dr. Peggy Lemaux, University of California, Berkeley, cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist.

MAS allows plant breeders to screen large populations of plants quickly to select plants with a high likelihood of having a specific trait, even if that trait cannot be easily seen in the plant in the field, like malting quality or disease resistance when the actual pathogen is not present. This is particularly useful because some plants are difficult to traditionally crossbreed for a variety of reasons. For example, there are thousands of types of potatoes, for instance, each having some unique genetic traits. But since they reproduce by using an internal seed or eye of the potato, improving them through crossbreeding with other potatoes is difficult.

This biotechnology is used to identify specific desirable plant DNA without the introduction of infected plants in a traditional breeding program. For no other reason, this biotechnology tool can prevent the unintended spread of plant diseases.

Finding markers without genomic/DNA information is like looking through an encyclopedia that is not alphabetized and has no index.

This element of biotechnology could mean the difference between an undeveloped country feeding its population or millions starving because of grain diseases. Anything that reduces the time it takes to develop new food crops is an incredible scientific advancement, and it has come out of the same technology that has given the world GMO crops.

The difference between intragenic and transgenic is that the former is used to breed like species and the latter is used to transfer genes between different species. I see no difference in using the same technology to develop healthier, higher yielding and more healthy food, regardless of where the positive traits are extracted. The whole issue of breeding rats with tomatoes is simply too bizarre and implausible to even debate.

"What we found was when genes for enhancing the amount of antioxidants and vitamin C in fresh produce were transferred by intragenic methods, consumers are willing to pay 25 percent more than for the plain product (with no enhancements). That is a sizable increase," said Wallace Huffman, Iowa State distinguished professor of economics.

Consumers' acceptance of genetically modified plants is a real turnaround from previous research, according to Huffman.

In 2001, Huffman first researched consumers' willingness to pay for transgenic foods. At that time, he showed that consumers would pay 15 percent less for foods made from or containing farmer traits introduced by transgenic methods, compared with produce that was not genetically modified at all.

It does seem that buying foods made healthier for people through intragenics does not make consumers uneasy, he said.

However, consumers were not willing to pay more if those enhancements were introduced through transgenic methods, he added.

That is the ludicrous, since the technology used for intragenic and transgenic plants are the same. It is absurd because the only reason consumers believe that way is the blatant lies and false information spewed from the anti-biotech thugs.

In an open voter initiative debate over labeling food one way or the other, it seems the time is ripe to take on the anti-biotech crowd on their own terms and truly inform the public about how society has benefited from biotech. This initiative must be labeled for what it is; an attack on one company, Monsanto, and corporate America. It has nothing to do with food safety. They think by labeling certain foods as GMO, they will stop the advancement of biotech. It is far too late for that.

Splitting hairs between the sources of positive traits in plants is a fight the anti-biotech crowd would lose.

It would be an ugly fight, but one where reason and science could prevail. It seems things start in California. It is time the anti-biotech movement is stopped here.

(To read Harry Cline's initial GMO column, please see: Time to take on anti-biotech crowd over GMO labeling [3])