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Author Topic:   Monsanto - Bad Food, Good Capitalism
Stile
Member
Posts: 2941
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 1 of 46 (685956)
12-28-2012 10:25 AM


Monsanto is a food company. They grow things like corn and soybeans that get used in, well, pretty much everything.

quote:
Through ownership of patents on 90 percent of all GE (Genetically Engineered) seeds, Monsanto effectively owns most of the U.S. food supply, and not just processed foods.
Monsanto, genetic engineering and food

I'm biased, I've seen the videos that say things about how Monsanto get these patents, and adds genetic modifications not just for their food's foodiness... but also so that the crops are extremely aggressive. Then they'll "accidentally" lose some seeds in a farmer's land, then when their seeds take over, they'll take the farmer to court for "breaking the patent" and end up controlling the farm.

But, does someone want to defend these guys?
Is anyone concerned that this company seems to have a monopoly on the US food supply?

This also peeked my interest, I got the idea to look it up from onifre's Message 142:

quote:
Russian authorities temporary suspended the import and sale of Monsantos genetically-modified corn after a French study suggested it may be linked to cancer.
Russia halts imports of Monsanto corn over cancer fears

Monsanto says some stuff on their webpage in their defence:

quote:
There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM (Genetically Modified) foods in humans.

...

There is simply no practical way to learn anything via human studies of whole foods. This is why no existing food--conventional or GM--or food ingredient/additive has been subjected to this type of testing.
Monsanto - Food Safety


Californians seem to not like Monsanto very much. I think GM foods may even be banned there... but I'm not sure.

They are, however, trying to get some laws in that would force food to actually label itself on whether or not it contains GM or GE products. Currently, I do not think food is labelled for such a thing, and most the things we eat are probably genetically altered in some way.

quote:
You'd be forgiven for not noticingunless you live in California, where you've likely been bombarded by geotargeted web ads and TV spotsbut this election could spur a revolution in the way our food is made. Proposition 37, a popular Golden State ballot initiative, would require the labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients.
Could Prop. 37 Kill Monsanto's GM Seeds?

So, what do you eat?


Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 10:47 AM Stile has responded
 Message 3 by nwr, posted 12-28-2012 11:10 AM Stile has responded
 Message 18 by foreveryoung, posted 01-04-2013 1:20 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply
 Message 23 by NoNukes, posted 01-04-2013 4:00 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply
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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 2 of 46 (685962)
12-28-2012 10:47 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
12-28-2012 10:25 AM


Monsanto is a food company.

Technically Monsanto is a biotechnology and chemical company.

I'm biased, I've seen the videos that say things about how Monsanto get these patents, and adds genetic modifications not just for their food's foodiness... but also so that the crops are extremely aggressive.

Look, I have a degree in biochemistry, I worked for years in and around agrosystems, and I can tell you that agricultural crops are the exact opposite of "aggressive." It's just a function of directed evolution - we've long since bred out any natural defense against competition in our crops because it's not necessary. The field environment is so completely artificial - if for no other reason than a human being is deciding which organisms are going to get to grow there - that our crops have long since stopped being able to compete in a truly wild environment. They're very much "hothouse flowers" if you know that term.

And it's so, so hard to engineer these traits - in order to insert the Bt gene into corn, for instance, Monsanto had to almost completely re-engineer the gene to correct for the different codon bias between the genetics of Bacillus thuringiensis and Zea mays, or else the expression of the protein would be hampered by the fact that some tRNA's are rarer in the average Zea mays cell than they are in Bacillus thuringiensis. It took years. Genetic engineering for something as unspecified as "aggressiveness", by which you apparently mean "fecundity" or "pollen dispersion volume" or something, is just not something anybody's yet able to do. Not even the Evil Monsanto.

Then they'll "accidentally" lose some seeds in a farmer's land, then when their seeds take over, they'll take the farmer to court for "breaking the patent" and end up controlling the farm.

This is not something that has actually ever happened.

They are, however, trying to get some laws in that would force food to actually label itself on whether or not it contains GM or GE products.

I applaud the recent electoral defeat of that amendment. Not everybody's irrational prejudice should be catered to. I think people would rightly object if foods had to be labeled about whether they were picked by Mexicans or handled by African-Americans, even though that's something that some number of people find objectionable. It's basically the same thing - opposition to GM crops, at this point, is an irrational prejudice.

But, does someone want to defend these guys?

I dunno, does this constitute a defense? For what it's worth, it's long been recognized that one of the purposes of the law is to protect the germlines that farmers and breeders spend decades or even generations developing. One of the oldest court cases in the US involves a farmer suing another for stud fees, after the other farmer started sneaking mares onto his property to be impregnated by his stallions. The current state of the law is that developing germlines is such an investment of time, money, and effort that the people who do it are entitled to a kind of "copy protection", perhaps similar to copyright, that prevents end users from simply running off millions of perfect biological copies and selling them to other people. I'm not sure that's wrong, or that what Monsanto is doing is any worse in principle than an heirloom tomato breeder who sues to protect her investment.

Despite the usual food-scare propaganda, I've never seen any evidence that Monsanto is worse than any other big corporation. To be fair, though, that's pretty bad on its own.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 10:25 AM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 11:31 AM crashfrog has responded
 Message 7 by Jon, posted 12-28-2012 12:17 PM crashfrog has responded

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5531
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 3 of 46 (685969)
12-28-2012 11:10 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
12-28-2012 10:25 AM


But, does someone want to defend these guys?

I'm not interested in defending Monsanto. But I'm also not interested in attacking them.

There's a lot of hype coming from critics. I prefer to wait for actual evidence.

Almost all food is genetically modified, at least compared to what is/was available in the wild. If the alternative were to live on wild berries and roots, and the wild animals that we could catch, then the planet could only support a tiny fraction of its current human population.


Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 10:25 AM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 11:39 AM nwr has responded
 Message 21 by xongsmith, posted 01-04-2013 3:40 PM nwr has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 2941
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 4 of 46 (685974)
12-28-2012 11:31 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by crashfrog
12-28-2012 10:47 AM


Some good corrections
crashfrog writes:

Technically Monsanto is a biotechnology and chemical company.

Correct. Of course, on their own webpage this is what they say:

quote:
If there were one word to explain what Monsanto is about, it would have to be farmers.
Who We Are - Monsanto at a Glance

So calling them a food company isn't exactly wrong, either.

Look, I have a degree in biochemistry, I worked for years in and around agrosystems, and I can tell you that agricultural crops are the exact opposite of "aggressive."

...

Genetic engineering for something as unspecified as "aggressiveness", by which you apparently mean "fecundity" or "pollen dispersion volume" or something, is just not something anybody's yet able to do. Not even the Evil Monsanto.

Sounds very reasonable.
I retract my statement about Monsanto specifically engineering "aggressiveness" into their products.
Or, at least, I don't think they started out with this in mind.
Of course, it could simply be a by-product.
I mean, part of GMing a seed is to get it to grow better. Grow in worse conditions, grow stronger, not die as easily, yield a higher crop... Aiming for those things would easily result in a product that could be referred to as "aggressive" when compared to non-GM'ed crops.

crashfrog writes:

Stile writes:

Then they'll "accidentally" lose some seeds in a farmer's land, then when their seeds take over, they'll take the farmer to court for "breaking the patent" and end up controlling the farm.

This is not something that has actually ever happened.

I decided to look it up, and you're right. I was wrong. Googled "monsanto takes over farm" and found this article: Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto Over GMO Seed

quote:
...the suit seeks judicial protection against the inevitable lawsuits Monsanto will file against non-GM and organic farmers when its genetically-modified (GM) seeds and other materials contaminate their fields...

The page basically says that the seeds get there by accident. Maybe from blowing in the wind, maybe from insects or birds or other animals. Then the seeds establish themselves in the other farmer's crop. And then "Monsanto has successfully sued farmers in both the US and Canada for allegedly violating patent protections."

So, yes, I was wrong about them actually putting seeds on another farmer's property. And the "controlling the farm" part may or may not be true. It seems that Monsanto would sue the farmers in order to stop their business, at the least.

Not everybody's irrational prejudice should be catered to. It's basically the same thing - opposition to GM crops, at this point, is an irrational prejudice.

I agree with this.

I am not against GM in crops, in fact, I am pretty much for it. Sorry if this came off that way.
I am, however, against anyone having a monopoly on food while also not caring about testing to see if their food is safe for human consumption. Seems like a great business practice, but a morally bankrupt one.

The current state of the law is that developing germlines is such an investment of time, money, and effort that the people who do it are entitled to a kind of "copy protection", perhaps similar to copyright, that prevents end users from simply running off millions of perfect biological copies and selling them to other people. I'm not sure that's wrong, or that what Monsanto is doing is any worse in principle than an heirloom tomato breeder who sues to protect her investment.

This is more the thing I would like to focus on.
I understand that what Monsanto is doing (suing farmers that have Monsanto crop on their land) is legally valid.
I also understand the sentiment behind it (protecting their "intellectual property", if you will.)

I also understand that unions have legal rights to strike.
And that unions have a good sentiment behind them (protecting the worker).

But some unions have taken things too far, and caused a monoply against the business owners... one where the business can't function anymore because the unions ask for too much. (If you do not accept this analogy, just say so and I will think of another... let's not get into a discussion about unions here).

I think that Monanto's monopoly on the crops is getting too big, and they're using their "good sentiment" in order to do harm to healthy businesses.
I also think that the GM is entering into an area where perhaps we should start some testing to see if anything is getting unhealthy to humans. It does have a potential to be abused, if it isn't regulated. Or is that sort of testing already done?

I've never seen any evidence that Monsanto is worse than any other big corporation. To be fair, though, that's pretty bad on its own.

I think that's just the bad part I want to talk about. I do not intend to say anything like "all GM is a bad idea." I do not think so, I think it is a vital part of the future of our food. I do, however, think it should be "done right." Do you have any input on how to do it "right"?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 10:47 AM crashfrog has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 12:09 PM Stile has responded

    
Stile
Member
Posts: 2941
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 5 of 46 (685975)
12-28-2012 11:39 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by nwr
12-28-2012 11:10 AM


GM crops are a good thing
nwr writes:

There's a lot of hype coming from critics. I prefer to wait for actual evidence.

My main point in starting this thread is to collect said evidence. If there's anything helpful you could add, it would be appreciated.

Almost all food is genetically modified, at least compared to what is/was available in the wild. If the alternative were to live on wild berries and roots, and the wild animals that we could catch, then the planet could only support a tiny fraction of its current human population.

I agree.

I think I put the OP together a bit too quickly and got carried away with some of the hype.
I really do think GM crops are a good thing and essential to the future of our food for the planet on the whole.
However, I also think they have potential to be abused and used in harmful ways in order to make a profit.
I am looking to understand the current regulations (if any?) and current health checks for human consumption.

It would seem to me that the history of "new fields" for humanity has resulted in some people taking advantage of lax regulations in order to make a profit without caring if other people get hurt.
Perhaps it would be best to do some pro-active thinking about GM crops, and see if we can identify some areas that should be regulated (and some that should not be) in order to promote a healthy environment for the businesses involved as well as those of us who will eat the food?

Waiting for the evidence is one thing.
Waiting until bad people take advantage of a situation is another.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by nwr, posted 12-28-2012 11:10 AM nwr has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by nwr, posted 12-28-2012 1:11 PM Stile has responded

    
crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 46 (685979)
12-28-2012 12:09 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Stile
12-28-2012 11:31 AM


Re: Some good corrections
Of course, on their own webpage this is what they say...

Sure, but if I may - they don't say that they are farmers, they say that they're about farmers.

And that's certainly fair - the things they sell are for farmers. But what they sell is primarily chemicals and traits; the chemicals they sell directly to farmers and the traits they sell to seed breeders who sell seeds to farmers.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that they're "in the food business", I guess, but they don't sell any food. They don't farm, except for their research. The crops they rear are destroyed after harvest and analysis.

I mean, part of GMing a seed is to get it to grow better.

Sure. Resistance to insect damage is their big thing; the Bt toxin they put in corn, etc. It's a little-known fact that glyphosate resistance - which was their first really successful biotechnology, aka "Roundup-Ready" - is actually something they got by selective breeding, at least in soy, not by genetic engineering.

But the point is that the field ecosystem isn't one where plants compete with each other in the traditional evolutionary sense. It's one where a farmer decides which plants get to grow there. If there's competition, the competition is to be the plant the farmer decides to grow there with the result that in Mexico, where maize is weeded by hand, teosinte (a grassy weed which maize evolved out of and a common weed of maize) has developed to grow in rows and look like maize.

Then the seeds establish themselves in the other farmer's crop.

Sure. And then the part that Monsanto is worried about is the part where - as frequently happens - farmers apply a little bit of Roundup to their crops to see which ones have the resistance trait, collect seeds from them, and use those seeds to plant an entire field of next year's crop - thereby getting access to the economically-valuable Roundup-Ready trait without having to pay Monsanto's license fees.

It's like making bootleg copies of Microsoft Office from a single copy that you found in the street. The fact that you obtained the original by "accident", the court found, didn't mean that you could circumvent the terms of the end-user license agreement. I think people intuitively understand that to be the case, and would side with Monsanto provided that the farmer's action was determined to be deliberate (which the application of Roundup to the field as though he knew the crops would be Roundup-Ready does) and not accidental. But remember, you can lose copyright if you don't enforce it, so Monsanto has to pursue the marginal cases as well.

I am, however, against anyone having a monopoly on food while also not caring about testing to see if their food is safe for human consumption.

They were tested. The EPA regulates GM crops, and they aren't approved for sale until they're GRAS - "generally regarded as safe." Recall, though, that you can't actually prove that something is safe - that's akin to proving a negative - you can only fail to demonstrate harm. GM crops have been in our foodstream now for over 40 years with not even a single incident or negative health outcome connected to them. Asking that "they be proven as safe" is, as Monsanto says, asking an impossible standard that we don't require of other products (like organics.)

I think that Monanto's monopoly on the crops is getting too big, and they're using their "good sentiment" in order to do harm to healthy businesses.

They don't have a monopoly on crops. If you want to grow corn or soy, you can do it with seeds from anybody. You can have a seed breeder retrieve decades-old germlines from a germplasm bank and, in about a season or two, have enough seed to plant all your fields. There's a thousand seed breeders across the country that will produce hybrid planting seed combining traits from any two or four lines you care to specify, from anybody, including the big four or five companies in "Big Agra." It's an enormous open market for seed.

Do you have any input on how to do it "right"?

I'm not yet convinced that I see any problems with how these licenses are working out right now. What's currently "wrong" about it, in your view? When Monsanto sues a farmer, people have this image of a bunch of guys in suits coming down on the bucolic ol' Brown Farm, but people seem to forget that Farmer Brown is running a multi-million-dollar-a-year business with vast assets in machinery and real estate, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in free subsidies from his state and Federal governments. It's just two businesses resolving a contract in the courts, as far as I'm concerned.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 11:31 AM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 12:59 PM crashfrog has responded

  
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 46 (685981)
12-28-2012 12:17 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by crashfrog
12-28-2012 10:47 AM


One of the oldest court cases in the US involves a farmer suing another for stud fees, after the other farmer started sneaking mares onto his property to be impregnated by his stallions.

A cute anecdote, but not comparable in any way to what Stile was talking about.

Would the farmer's case have been as valid if his stallions had escaped from their stable and ran around knocking up mares on other farms?


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 10:47 AM crashfrog has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 12:26 PM Jon has not yet responded

  
crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 8 of 46 (685982)
12-28-2012 12:26 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Jon
12-28-2012 12:17 PM


Would the farmer's case have been as valid if his stallions had escaped from their stable and ran around knocking up mares on other farms?

I think it would have, yes. That something falls into your lap "by accident" (and suppose, instead, that the second farmer had simply made a hole in the fence between their properties, and then benefitted when the stallion came over to impregnate the mares in heat) doesn't mean that whatever license agreement its sold under ceases to apply to you. The fact that you've voluntarily nominated yourself as an end-user is what causes the end user license agreement to apply to you.

Simply having some of your neighbor's Roundup-Ready canola on your farm doesn't attach the EULA to you, but the part where you collect that canola, separate it out from your other canola, and then plant it (and only it) next season so that you can use Roundup on your canola (which you then do) does cause the EULA to apply to you. And that's what's been happening. The supposed cases where Monsanto is just suing people who happen to have a few Roundup-Ready plants on their farms are largely made up or being misrepresented (by the farmers, usually, who like any businessmen are trying to market their side of the case in the most advantageous light), and again Monsanto has to pursue even the marginal cases - where it's maybe not clear if the farmer knows he's taking advantage of Roundup-Ready traits - or else they risk losing their rights on the basis of nonenforcement. Maybe that's a problem with the law, I don't know; but actually I think rights holders should lose their rights if they opt not to enforce them, those rights should return to the public.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Jon, posted 12-28-2012 12:17 PM Jon has not yet responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 2941
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 9 of 46 (685987)
12-28-2012 12:59 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by crashfrog
12-28-2012 12:09 PM


Trying Again
crashfrog writes:

They don't have a monopoly on crops. If you want to grow corn or soy, you can do it with seeds from anybody.

Maybe I'm just worried about anybody having the ability to control "over 90%" of food that's made from corn or soybeans. Which is a lot of food.
Seems too close to a bad 80's villain's plan to take over the world to rest easy with me.

This isn't to say they must be evil, it just makes me uncomfortable.

I'm not yet convinced that I see any problems with how these licenses are working out right now. What's currently "wrong" about it, in your view?

Well, let me put it this way...
In order to grow crops, we've created weed killers.
Now, we've created special crops that are resistant to those week killers. Therefore, the weed killer's "active ingredient" can be increased in order to pretty much wipe out everything else, while the crop itself remains alive.
This results in not having to use a whack of different chemicals or activities to do the same job, making it easier for crops to be grown and harvested.

To me, that sounds like a very smart, very good way to do things (if it can, indeed, be done in a healthy way).

In the US, Monsanto supplies the far-and-away most highly used week killer (Round-Up).
Monsanto also supplies the far-and-away most highly used resistant crops (Round-Up Ready).

Let's just say that we find out that something like this...

Revealed: Monsanto GM corn caused tumors in rats

...was true.
How practical would it be for the people to stop eating Monsanto GM corn products, and switch to something else until Monsanto can correct the problems with it's product? If Monsanto controls so much... is it even possible to switch to something else if the need arises?

It should be noted that the rat-tumor test was done in France. And (for whatever reason) France seems to have a ban on Monsanto currently. Therefore, it's quite possible that this test was only done in order to "defend" France's stance on Monsanto (as equally possible as it is that Monsanto really is doing some unhealthy things....) However, it has been passed along for proper replication attempts from other groups. (The article is from September, 2012).

I'm just saying that maybe the system in place isn't all that prepared for any sort of possible issues that could arise (regardless of whether or not they're maliciously implemented).

Here's a list of other GM companies:
Genetic Engineering Companies - The Big Six

  • Monsanto is based in St. Louis, Missouri. Monsanto has the largest market share of GE crops in the world
  • Pioneer Hi-Bred International is based in Johnston, Iowa. Pioneer is a subsidiary of DuPont
  • Syngenta AG is based in Basel, Switzerland
  • Dow Agrosciences is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dow Agrosciences is a subsidiary of Dow Chemical
  • BASF is based in Ludwigshafen, Germany. While primarily a chemical company, they are rapidly expanding their biotechnology division
  • Bayer Cropscience is based in Monheim, Germany. Bayer Cropscience is a subsidiary of Bayer

    Would you happen to know if the other 5 work in the same manner?
    That is, does the same company generally work on a GM crop as well as a weed-killer at the same time, and sell them together... is that just how it works?
    I could understand if this were true. Afterall, it would be much easier to create a crop that is resistant to a certain weed-killer if you are the same one that controls that particular weed-killer.

    Do other countries seem to "put all their eggs in one basket" like the US seems to be doing with Monsanto?

    Edited by Stile, : Really? "artical"? This is how my brain thought it should be spelt? I'll have to have a very long talk with that fellow...


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 6 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 12:09 PM crashfrog has responded

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  • nwr
    Member
    Posts: 5531
    From: Geneva, Illinois
    Joined: 08-08-2005


    Message 10 of 46 (685988)
    12-28-2012 1:11 PM
    Reply to: Message 5 by Stile
    12-28-2012 11:39 AM


    Re: GM crops are a good thing
    I really do think GM crops are a good thing and essential to the future of our food for the planet on the whole.
    However, I also think they have potential to be abused and used in harmful ways in order to make a profit.

    I agree on both points.

    Overall, what is happening is a bit too far from my expertise, so I am mostly watching.

    I do think that there are serious problems with patent laws and practices. Both gene patenting and software patenting need some sort of examination, review, and perhaps rethinking.


    Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

    This message is a reply to:
     Message 5 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 11:39 AM Stile has responded

    Replies to this message:
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    Stile
    Member
    Posts: 2941
    From: Ontario, Canada
    Joined: 12-02-2004
    Member Rating: 3.9


    Message 11 of 46 (685989)
    12-28-2012 1:13 PM
    Reply to: Message 10 by nwr
    12-28-2012 1:11 PM


    Re: GM crops are a good thing
    nwr writes:

    Overall, what is happening is a bit too far from my expertise...

    Oh, that's never stopped me before, why start now?


    This message is a reply to:
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    crashfrog
    Inactive Member


    Message 12 of 46 (685990)
    12-28-2012 1:18 PM
    Reply to: Message 9 by Stile
    12-28-2012 12:59 PM


    Re: Trying Again
    Maybe I'm just worried about anybody having the ability to control "over 90%" of food that's made from corn or soybeans.

    That's worth worrying about, I guess, but I don't think they have that. I don't think they could have it. Seed breeding is by definition a local industry. When people say "farmers buy seeds from Monsanto" they're collapsing several levels of the actual process - Monsanto sells traits to local seed breeders in the form of true-breeding P1's, which breeders cross to make F1 hybrids, and that's what they sell to farmers. Farmers plant the F1's, which "self", self-pollinate, producing F2 seeds which are the actual marketable grain.

    Therefore, the weed killer's "active ingredient" can be increased in order to pretty much wipe out everything else, while the crop itself remains alive.

    Sure. Overall, the result is using less pesticide because you can burn down all your weeds in one go, instead of having to progressively weaken the weeds with repeated applications at low enough concentrations to avoid burning your crop.

    Herbicides are the number one must expensive input into the crop system. Farmers are businessmen. They wouldn't want Roundup-Ready crops unless they could save money on expensive pesticides by planting them. And they do. Glyphosate resistance in crops helps the environment (less pollution) and helps farmers. That, frankly, is why farmers try to steal glyphosate resistance.

    How practical would it be for the people to stop eating Monsanto GM corn products, and switch to something else until Monsanto can correct the problems with it's product?

    I don't know how long it would take GM corn to pass out of the food stream, or how long it would take to recall and destroy all products that have GM corn, but the USDA does keep track of that kind of thing now - when you hear about a recall affecting a million jars of peanut butter, for instance, it's because they can track anindividual crop of peanuts through the food stream, through every machine that it was processed in, every pallet-load of peanut butter that was produced by those machines, and so on. Everything that could possibly be contaminated by direct or transitive contact with one crop of peanuts that may have been contaminated with Salmonella.

    How long would it take farmers to switch? One season. They'd just plant the next season with different seeds. Easy.

    That is, does the same company generally work on a GM crop as well as a weed-killer at the same time, and sell them together... is that just how it works?

    Offhand, I don't know if anybody else has been able to capture the "lightning in a bottle" in regards to Roundup and Roundup-Ready. Technically glyphosate isn't even patented anymore, anybody can make and produce it, but the corresponding resistance trait is still belongs to Monsanto. Pest resistance traits are what everybody's working on now, for the most part, particularly root-level pests because you can't really spray anything for those (since they're underground.)


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 9 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 12:59 PM Stile has responded

    Replies to this message:
     Message 13 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 2:06 PM crashfrog has responded

      
    Stile
    Member
    Posts: 2941
    From: Ontario, Canada
    Joined: 12-02-2004
    Member Rating: 3.9


    Message 13 of 46 (686005)
    12-28-2012 2:06 PM
    Reply to: Message 12 by crashfrog
    12-28-2012 1:18 PM


    Peanutbutter and Cheese
    crashfrog writes:

    Sure. Overall, the result is using less pesticide because you can burn down all your weeds in one go, instead of having to progressively weaken the weeds with repeated applications at low enough concentrations to avoid burning your crop.

    Yes, you're right.
    I do agree, and like, the idea of the system. It seems like a very elegant solution to me.

    ...when you hear about a recall affecting a million jars of peanut butter, for instance, it's because they can track anindividual crop of peanuts through the food stream, through every machine that it was processed in, every pallet-load of peanut butter that was produced by those machines, and so on.

    Actually, I have some input on this.

    I work in "automation." Basically, I program the computers that run industrial assembly lines.
    Most of my experience was in the auto-industry. But recently I've done a lot of work in the pharmaceutical industry, and I have done some work in the food industry.

    Now, the computers that control these processes can be edited by any supervisor or controls-related personel or contractor. Really, "anyone who knows how to program them" regardless of their ability to understand the entire system or the ideas/safeties behind the code. There are incentives for the company to reduce the restrictions in order to do it faster. Faster process = more to sell = more money.

    In the auto industry, things aren't too regulated and code changes are made kind of often. There are checks and balances (like eventual call-backs of bad products) but as a line gets older, things tend to get "messy" in there.
    In the pharmaceutical and food industry, they're much more regulated. 3rd party audits, and even governmental audits, are done on a regular basis to ensure that code doesn't get changed and that all updates are documented and accounted for.

    When cheese is made (in a bulk, industrial, automated setting), there is a process where the cheese is heated and then cooled in order to kill bacteria. This process is controlled by computers. The process is extremely important... if it isn't done correctly (right temperature, pressure... blah blah...) bacteria and such can survive and remain in the cheese as it is sold. With cheese, there's a decent chance that some pretty harmful bacteria could survive and make a lot of people sick.

    The bulk of the automated process is controlled by a computer that is on an ethernet connection that, again, can get edited by pretty much anyone. However, the special cheese-heating-cooling-bacteria-process is on an special, seperate computer that doesn't even have an ethernet connection. The only way to program this computer is by connecting to it directly. After the system is installed and tested, the government is actually present for final verification. Upon passing, this computer is locked into a cabinet that only the government has the key for. The cabinet is also sealed with special government-identifiable tape (it's actually red, even... ) so that if the cabinet is ever opened, the government would know.

    This procedure ensures that the highly-important process is kept up to government standards, regardless of how much the company may want to change it for any reason. (In Canada, anyway... but I'm assuming the US would have something similar).

    How long would it take farmers to switch? One season. They'd just plant the next season with different seeds. Easy.

    Well, yeah... the plan is easy. But what about the implementation? Those different seeds would have to come from somewhere, right? With the size of Monsanto... I am not so confident that it would be so easy to replace their share of the market with an alternative if the need came up so suddenly. Do you know of some stockpile of non-Monsanto seeds that is kept for just such an occurrance? If Monsanto gets to a certain size, then the industry (at some point) would become dependent on their presence. If they do, indeed, control 90% of the crops... then it would be reasonable to suggest that from the seeds prepared for next year would be about 90% Monsanto seeds. Take those away... how do you use 10% of your previous nation-wide crop in order to feed 100% of your nation next year?

    Now, I'm sure it's not quite that bad... but it certainly is worth contemplating. Certainly wouldn't be a bad idea to have a backup plan, either.

    Offhand, I don't know if anybody else has been able to capture the "lightning in a bottle" in regards to Roundup and Roundup-Ready.

    If true, it could be the reason why Monsanto has such a large world-wide holding.

    Technically glyphosate isn't even patented anymore, anybody can make and produce it, but the corresponding resistance trait still belongs to Monsanto.

    When dealing with pharmaceuticals, there's a huge Generics industry that bascially just waits 'til the patents on stuff runs out, then makes cheaper ones for cheaper prices. Do you know if GM agriculture has such a Generics industry as well? Maybe all this will even out as soon as the resistance trait patent runs out... and generic Round Up and Round Up-Ready stuff is made by other companies.


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 12 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 1:18 PM crashfrog has responded

    Replies to this message:
     Message 14 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 2:25 PM Stile has responded

        
    crashfrog
    Inactive Member


    Message 14 of 46 (686010)
    12-28-2012 2:25 PM
    Reply to: Message 13 by Stile
    12-28-2012 2:06 PM


    Re: Peanutbutter and Cheese
    This procedure ensures that the highly-important process is kept up to government standards, regardless of how much the company may want to change it for any reason. (In Canada, anyway... but I'm assuming the US would have something similar).

    That's really interesting. I don't know if we do it that way. One would hope, though.

    Those different seeds would have to come from somewhere, right?

    They come from seed breeders. Seed breeders keep stocks of seed.

    Do you know of some stockpile of non-Monsanto seeds that is kept for just such an occurrance?

    Your local seed breeder keeps a "stockpile" of non-Monsanto seeds for the farmers who want to buy seed with traits that Monsanto doesn't offer, in the same way that Best Buy keeps a "stockpile" of non-Apple computers for people who want to buy a computer that Apple doesn't make.

    If they do, indeed, control 90% of the crops... then it would be reasonable to suggest that from the seeds prepared for next year would be about 90% Monsanto seeds.

    No, that doesn't make any sense at all. The seeds for each season's planting don't come from the previous season's crop. It hasn't worked like that in sixty years. Farmers buy their seeds from seed breeders, because they want to plant F1 seeds to grow F1 crops. F1 crops produce F2 seeds. F2 crops grown from F2 seeds would have wildly inconsistent traits because for each individual trait a quarter of the crops would be homozygous dominant, a quarter would be homozygous recessive, and the rest would be heterozygous. You know, like you learned in high school. Do the Purnett square, you'll see.


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 13 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 2:06 PM Stile has responded

    Replies to this message:
     Message 15 by Stile, posted 12-28-2012 2:59 PM crashfrog has responded

      
    Stile
    Member
    Posts: 2941
    From: Ontario, Canada
    Joined: 12-02-2004
    Member Rating: 3.9


    Message 15 of 46 (686026)
    12-28-2012 2:59 PM
    Reply to: Message 14 by crashfrog
    12-28-2012 2:25 PM


    Seed Breeding
    crashfrog writes:

    That's really interesting. I don't know if we do it that way. One would hope, though.

    My cheese example actually had more to do with the milk going into the process. I'm pretty sure the important process was called "HTST" (High Temperature, Short Time). I've never come across anything else that's actually been sealed and protected by the government like this in my line of work. But I'm not too experienced in the food industry, and only have some experience in the pharma industry.

    crashfrog writes:

    Stile writes:

    If they do, indeed, control 90% of the crops... then it would be reasonable to suggest that from the seeds prepared for next year would be about 90% Monsanto seeds.

    No, that doesn't make any sense at all. The seeds for each season's planting don't come from the previous season's crop. It hasn't worked like that in sixty years.

    I don't know much of anything about farming.

    Farmers buy their seeds from seed breeders, because they want to plant F1 seeds to grow F1 crops. F1 crops produce F2 seeds. F2 crops grown from F2 seeds would have wildly inconsistent traits because for each individual trait a quarter of the crops would be homozygous dominant, a quarter would be homozygous recessive, and the rest would be heterozygous. You know, like you learned in high school. Do the Purnett square, you'll see.

    Heh... I don't use anything I was taught in University and you want me to go all the way back to highschool?

    But yes, I understand the concept.
    So... these seed breeders, how fast can they supply a demand?

    That is, let's just use my bad-example to shed light on the way things are actually done.

    Under my bad example, you do understand what I was talking about, right? That the seeds for the next season came from the previous and so you couldn't just plant better seeds next year because there'd be no way to prepare for something like that nation-wide. The seeds just couldn't be produced.

    So, how do seed breeders produce seeds?
    How long does it take to produce a seed "cycle"? That is... my bad-example "cycle" would be 1-year. If you're just breeding seeds, is the cycle reduced to, like... a month? a week?

    I tried to google these questions... but just ended up with a bunch of marijuana seed breeding hits...


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 14 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 2:25 PM crashfrog has responded

    Replies to this message:
     Message 16 by crashfrog, posted 12-28-2012 3:07 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply

        
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