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Tell me more about GMO please

(21 Posts)
jessia Wed 22-Oct-08 11:27:11

...was having a discussion about it with DH, who has been brainwashed convinced that it is a good thing. I am not so sure (biodiversity surely an issue, not to mention corporate domination, etc. - he cites resilience to pests and the potential to feed the world) but maybe I am wrong (am I being too sceptical to think that potential is likely just what it will remain??). or maybe the truth lies in the middle? Thoughts please!

misi Wed 22-Oct-08 13:55:55

GM is both good and bad.
we wouldn't have wheat and many other modern foods without a form of GM, although this selection and breeding takes many years and is by trial and error mostly. all modern food stuffs are GM'ed in a way as most farm seeds are F1 hybrids. GM as in what grabs the headlines is selective breeding in a very short space of time rather than over many years and often involves splicing genes from different plants together. Pest resistance can be a good thing but the as in nature, cross breeding/pollination does occur naturally so the worry is that pest resistance will spread to plants that we do not want it too. this is more essential in herbicide resistance. a plant is spliced with genes that make it resistant to herbicides so that fields can be sprayed to kill off all the weeds but not the crop. as weeds and crops grow in close proximity the worry is that the herbicie reisistance will spread to some weeds and then you are back to square on. all pretty harmless in the scheme of things but as no long term studies have been concluded yet, it is simply not known what messing around with crossing genes will have on the environment and us, who eat the end product. some early forms of GM crops actually raised the likelyhood of stomach cancer, others increase the risk of asthma in preliminary studies.
natural genetic engineering can be very good though, take the rice studies in the phillipines. strains of rice have been developed over many years without gene splicing that have increases rice yeilds by 400% and new strains are being developed all the time to suit different environments. rice can now be grown in places that 50 years ago you wouldn't dream of doing so. wheat several hundred years ago grew 6ft tall and had 1 or 2 ears (1 or 2 lines of seeds on the stalk at the top), now you have 4 eared wheat that grows less than 3' tall saving the plant lots of energy and growing twice or more wheat per acre. (the scene in gladiator always gets me, when he is walking through the field of wheat towards his house he runs his hands across the top of the wheat that clearly has seeds on it and is ripe, yet in spain 2000 years ago, the wheat would have looked nothing like that as they firstly grew spelt and it would have been taller than him when ripe!!)

GM'ing mainly increases reliance on big companies for seed production. most crops will be sterile so you cannot collect seeds for next year so have to buy more seeds from the big bio companies, so although you may get better crops, you pay through the nose for them and the accompanying chemicals needed for many of these crops and many farmers in the countries that could do with these increased yeilding seeds cannot afford them or if they do manage to do so, the end price in local markets is so high they can only afford to sell abroad, benefitting western markets but failing to feed the people who really need it. (western countries can then feel good about themselves by then shipping food aid to the poorer countries in need of food, yet again increasing the reliance on western aid and goods).

after reading this you may think I am anti GM? I am not, but GM'ing by splicing genes is dangerous when introduced into the wider environment without many years of testing. natural selection to increase crop yeilds has worked and worked well, cross breeding widely differing plants with gene therapy has the potential to be disasterous. At uni, I read about a bio companies plan to cross japanese knotweed with a cereal crop, luckily that was stopped due to its status in many western countries.

personally I would only allow natural genetic modifications, the type that has gone on for thousands of years. if 2 plants that are naturally cross bred do not fit together, the plant doesn't grow, but by splicing genes together you can get things to grow without knowing consequences. GM is about money and dominance by the big bio companies, it is not really about feeding the poor and hungry.

(sorry, will climb down from my high horse now grin)

jessia Thu 23-Oct-08 08:52:02

Thank you misi, you have confirmed what I suspected but did not know why I suspected - the sterility issue is the reason why I suspect feed the world will not come into things (as usual)...
Now I feel much less ignorant. Thank you!

misi Thu 23-Oct-08 11:16:37

Żadne zmartwienia jessica!!

misi Thu 23-Oct-08 11:17:12

try Zadne zmartwienia !!

jessia Thu 23-Oct-08 12:24:25

Hej misi czy my sie skads znamy? I looked on the bilingual threads but couldn't find you?

misi Thu 23-Oct-08 12:37:36

czsecz jessica,
JA tylko poznaja niewiele slowa, Rosjanin jest jezykiem poznaje lepszy Nie poznawal tam byl bilingual chwytany do tego polozenia chociaz, bedzie musial miec spojrzenie

needmorecoffee Thu 23-Oct-08 12:39:37

read 'Seeds of Deception' about what the stuff does to rats tummies and how hungry deer will walk througha GM feild and ignore the plants until they get to a non_GMO field.
And what if the terminator gene (genen to stop fertile seeds so only the company can sell you seeds) got into all plants? We'd be buggered.

jessia Thu 23-Oct-08 12:53:38

NMC: shock.
Are all GM features (e.g. the terminator gene) dominant? I told DH they were but I was trying to sound more knowledgeable than I actually am to save face and salvage an interesting argument. Sorry, am a mega novice.

misi: I smell translation software in yr last post wink

needmorecoffee Thu 23-Oct-08 14:43:23

no idea but its a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad idea.

misi Thu 23-Oct-08 18:08:37

yes, my limited polish ran out on me!! blush I knew what I wanted to say but got stuck how to construct it, I know around 30 words but I am more at home with russian and ukrainian.

the terminator gene is dominant within the test seed but no-one knows what will happen if it got into the wider plant world. a century or more of hybridding many plants has not lead to sterility spreading among other plants, for example, many seeds you can buy in the shops are F1 hybrids and some of these are sterile and others will produce weak plants from the seeds they produce. an example of this is sunflowers. I bought a packet of F1 hybrid sunseeker sunflowers 3 years ago, each year I have harvested the seeds and kept some for growing the next year. the fist crop from the F1's grew to about 7 feet and produced one big head on each plant. the stems were very thick and solid. the next year the seeds grew to 9 or 10 feet tall, but had spindly stems but produced a reasonable head, this year, the stems grew from 5 feet to 12 feet tall, each plant had multiple heads but all were small and little oil has been got from them. this year in fact I got 4 litres of oil from 35 plants whereas the first year I got 4 litres from 15 plants.
so either these F1 seeds will revert back to their original type or will be completely sterile. but as this is natural selection, anything not viable dies but with modern GM'ing, and gene splicing, this is no longer the case and non viable genes often continue in the plant structure, if the sterile part is dominant and spreads, it may take many centuries for everything to be affected but what is likely to be affected first are the close proximity grown other food crops. another interesting thing is about bees. there has been e thread on the decline of bees on MN recently, and thinking about NMC's deer, makes me wonder if GM plants that do have pollen, does this affect the bees food source? (only 20% or less of food crops have pollen as such but things like rapeseed does which is a major GM crop!!)

needmorecoffee Thu 23-Oct-08 18:11:45

the terminator gene has been deliberately inserted to stop people using the seeds. Thats mean even if it wasn't a dangerous idea.

Takver Sun 26-Oct-08 17:04:53

Its worth pointing out that there is a big difference between conventional breeding (including F1 hybrids) and GMOs

ie "we wouldn't have wheat and many other modern foods without a form of GM, although this selection and breeding takes many years and is by trial and error mostly. all modern food stuffs are GM'ed in a way as most farm seeds are F1 hybrids." is not true at all.

There is a world of difference between conventional breeding (even including 'high tech' techniques like meristem culture, putting seeds in with a source of radioactivity then planting to see what useful mutations have occurred etc) and deliberately inserting 'foreign' genes into plants.

There are lots of problems with F1 hybrids, but they are not immediately dangerous in the same way as GMOs.

There is a link here that has a short summary of the problems with GM (its about 3/4 of the way down the newsletter)

misi Tue 28-Oct-08 00:19:28

there is a big difference but also breeding F1's is also called genetic modification by natural selection. my statement is totally correct about wheat as the genetic modification by natural selection has diversified one type of plant into many modern varietities of high yeilding crops. many seeds that become our staples have been produced by this natural genetic modification and are now controlled in labs. very few crops have not undergone this natural selective GM'ing.

genetic modification is a catch all title but has been hijacked to signify one type of breeding in recent years. there are books dating back to the early 20th century that refer to genetic modification of plants and seeds, long before gene splicing or even the knowledge of genes was known!!

Takver Tue 28-Oct-08 18:04:43

I still think it is worth being aware that what most people think of as GMOs are qualitatively different from old style conventional breeding. (I work in the seed trade and DH is a geneticist by training, so we have some knowledge of the area)

misi Tue 28-Oct-08 19:52:29

as you both have some knowledge then, I do not understand your post on Sun 26-Oct-08 17:04:53 takver when you said my statement was not true at all. I spent 6 months on this subject at uni and was involved in large scale trials, maybe not as much experience as you two together but I was taught by both natural selection people and by geneticists. things must have changed in the last few years then perhaps?

Takver Tue 28-Oct-08 20:18:38

I think partially it is a matter of semantics - I think that what most people would refer to these days as GMOs are plants (or other organisms) that have had DNA from other 'foreign' organisms inserted into their DNA.

A lot of the risks as far as I understand it stem from the particular techniques used - so for example, inserting resistance to a common antibiotic as a 'marker' to identify which plants have successfully taken on the desired gene (by flooding the whole lot with the antibiotic, so that all those that haven't been successful are killed), hence the risk of spreading antibiotic resistance.

Similarly, the risks of causing unexpected allergic reactions - because no-one expects to find a fish gene in a carrot

In contrast, F1 hybrids (with all their problems) are basically a particular take on conventional breeding, yes, there are eg male sterile lines involved, but they are achieved through taking advantage of naturally occurring mutations within the species concerned, not by artificially taking DNA from one species, and inserting it in another.

So, I'm not sure why someone would describe an F1 hybrid achieved by conventional breeding techniques as a GMO?

jessia Wed 29-Oct-08 14:16:27

I want to buy my (non-native-English-speaking) rather sceptical husband a book about this as have been successful on converting him to various "causes" at various times in the past so hold out hope here. He is your slightly-above-average intelligent general reader (not a thick artsy type like me but an engineer grin) but doesn't like to be "ranted" at - would you recommend "Seeds of Deception" or is there anything else you think good on this subject?
Thank you for all your interesting and convincing comments, btw

jessia Wed 29-Oct-08 14:18:27

Oh and btw what does this "F1" mean referring to hybrids?

misi Wed 29-Oct-08 18:11:12

F1 stands for Filial 1, the first filial generation seeds/plants or animal offspring resulting from a cross mating of distinctly different parental types

taken from; MO %20in%20 &rp=

misi Wed 29-Oct-08 18:12:23

sorry, wrong heading copied, forget the last link and replace with this one;

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