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GMO Safety

GMO Precautionary Principle Risks

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#1 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 06:01 AM

Since George brought this up and it doesn't belong where it started, here's for the risks (or not) of Genetically Modified Organisms
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#2 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 07:00 AM

I'm taking these points separately to avoid megaposts.

View PostGeorge Rowell, on 15 July 2019 - 08:23 PM, said:

Implanting genes from one species to another or one type of bacteria to another is not natural.

Bacteria are a very poor choice. Horizontal gene transfer between bacteria is normal -- they even have evolved mechanisms to do it better. I'll let BactPhD explain if you need any more on the subject because -- seriously!

Quote

I see the advantages of bacteria producing insulin, maybe spider silk and so on but are the rules rigorous enough to stop a tragedy?

Of course there are, not least because paranoia is a survival trait in bacteriology and guess who would be at Ground Zero if something ugly got out. For the record, even I (Electrical engineer, physicist, and mathematician) have conducted experiments with genetic modification bacteria in a freshman cell biology lab class. What's more, we did it with penicillin resistance genes. No worry about those getting into the wild because they're already there.

Quote

Usually rules are tightened after tragedies happen but with 7 billion people as possible victims I do not think the safeguards are any where near strong enough.

Since we started altering bacteria intentionally [1] there have been how many novel traits turning up in pathogenic microbes? I mean, besides resistance to more or less every antibiotic we've come up with, shortly after introduction? Bact might have a guess there, but I'm not aware of any. The so-called "flesh eating" varieties are just headline versions of traits that were around long, long ago (to pick an example.)

However, we didn't have to introduce the resistance traits and we didn't have to transfer them. They happened on their own because (now pay attention here) Nature is conducting experimental genetic modifications on bacteria and viruses every second in numbers that humble astronomers. Hundreds of billions [2] of bacteria in your body alone are reproducing imperfectly and swapping genes promiscuously every minute. Not just you, not just billions of humans, not just every animal on Earth, not just all of the eukaryotes (animals and plants), not even them plus fungi. Also every gram of soil, every millilitre of water (fresh and salt). They've been at it for quite a bit more than a billion years.

Sometimes those novel traits are dead ends, either lethal to the organism or just not worth anything in its present environment and therefore not preserved. Sometimes, though, again in its environment [3], the novel trait increases its ability to propagate and is conserved and spread. To date, there is nothing that we've come up with to challenge bacteria that Nature hasn't come up with first. Big shock -- Nature has been at it vastly longer and with enormously greater resources than we can even imagine, so we find most of our antibiotics like we did penicillin: from other natural organisms that have been conducting biological warfare since before the first animals. And when one organism produces penicillin, another has an advantage if it becomes resistant.

Most of the bacteria that you have in your gut are either commensal (live there, you can take them or leave them) or beneficial to some degree by aiding digestion (several lactobacilli for instance) or producing biochemicals that you need (like strains of E. coli that produce vitamin K). But, hey, they're promiscuous and sometimes one learns to produce toxins that may kill you -- like the headline E. coli. That may be just a side effect or, in the right circumstances, quite beneficial. I mean, if you die of E. coli toxicity something is going to have to consume your remains. So the world selects for toxic species -- sometimes.

There's a famous microbiology experiment where the investigator cultured a pure strain of bacteria in the usual sugar-based culture medium. Then he started to cut the sugar content and replaced it with citrate, which the original strain couldn't process -- but over time more and more could get by on citrate. It's been decades now and the citrate consumers have taken over the cultures. Change the environment and those sloppy gene replication mechanisms will turn up something in, as such things go, no time at all.

Now, and here's the question for you: what's in it for a strain that produces insulin if it gets into the wild? Insulin isn't free, there's a metabolic cost to making it, so over time there would have to be some advantage for the organism [4] or the ones without would out-replicate the ones with. Should we worry about that?

[1] That word is highlighted for a very good reason.
[2] Understated so far as to be ridiculous
[3] Like for instance one that contains penicillin
[4] bacterial or fungal, whichever.
The way a lot of catastrophes happen is that X doesn't occur because there are safeguards in place, therefore people assume X isn't a worry and they remove the safeguards. Then X happens.
— Nate Silver
"Robots aren't the problem. Capitalism is." -- Last words of Stephen Hawking.
These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." -- Heather Heyer
"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're gonna make it count." -- Her mother
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events." -- some RINO

#3 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 07:08 AM

View PostGeorge Rowell, on 15 July 2019 - 08:23 PM, said:

GM foods are shown to have different actions on the body. Again 40 years down the line we may start to find problems.

Obviously golden rice has a different effect on the body from the other traditionally mutated strains -- people eating the golden rice don't suffer from vitamin A deficiency, including having lower case mortality rates from quite a few diseases (including measles.)

That aside, there's been a lot of noise but I'm not aware of any other research with the results you mention so sources would be appreciated.
The way a lot of catastrophes happen is that X doesn't occur because there are safeguards in place, therefore people assume X isn't a worry and they remove the safeguards. Then X happens.
— Nate Silver
"Robots aren't the problem. Capitalism is." -- Last words of Stephen Hawking.
These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." -- Heather Heyer
"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're gonna make it count." -- Her mother
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events." -- some RINO

#4 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 07:14 AM

View PostGeorge Rowell, on 15 July 2019 - 08:23 PM, said:

GM seeds are in my mind another grave issue. If they reduce the biodiversity of ancient grains then we could be stuck with a few types of grain that one day may succumb to disease. Then what? Where is the research to determine that this is 99.9999999% safe? Who is it done by?

Monocultures are, no question, risky. This is a known thing [1], but is independent of GM seeds. One might even argue that due to the relative ease that GM techniques bring to fitting a crop to its environment you might see an increase in crop diversity compared to today where quite a few crop species are clones of each other.

[1] I asked before: do you like bananas?
The way a lot of catastrophes happen is that X doesn't occur because there are safeguards in place, therefore people assume X isn't a worry and they remove the safeguards. Then X happens.
— Nate Silver
"Robots aren't the problem. Capitalism is." -- Last words of Stephen Hawking.
These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." -- Heather Heyer
"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're gonna make it count." -- Her mother
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events." -- some RINO

#5 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 07:26 AM

View PostGeorge Rowell, on 15 July 2019 - 08:23 PM, said:

History has shown that it is no good getting people with vested interests to make decisions about the safety of these things.

That cuts both ways. Should activists in Europe (with no skin in the game) be telling peasants in the Third World that they and their children should be accepting chronic famine and malnutrition rather than grow crops that will have higher yields and enriched nutrients?

How about insisting that others give up on their traditional fruit crops because of a spreading plant pathogen that the ancestors of that fruit plant resisted but was selected out by traditional methods because the selected strain has higher yield (and better taste)? Why shouldn't the two genetic strains be combined to produce the best of all: high yield, taste, and pathogen resistance? After all, it could be done given:
  • a long enough, large enough, well-funded traditional breeding program, or
  • the same result with a shorter but still large and long breeding program that sequenced each seed looking for the desired traits, or
  • the same result with a trip to the lab and insertion of just the desired resistance gene
In my own opinion, anyone proposing (1) or (2) instead of (3) should be prepared to pay the costs both of the program and the years of crop failures. But then I have no skin in the game either way.
The way a lot of catastrophes happen is that X doesn't occur because there are safeguards in place, therefore people assume X isn't a worry and they remove the safeguards. Then X happens.
— Nate Silver
"Robots aren't the problem. Capitalism is." -- Last words of Stephen Hawking.
These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." -- Heather Heyer
"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're gonna make it count." -- Her mother
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events." -- some RINO

#6 Traveler

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 09:49 AM

Excellent fisking DC! Don't know why George is so off the wall on this when he is so grounded on other topics.

But this is a good topic for discussion. J-CA can discourse at length on GMO effects on weed and insect communities, and the benefits of IPM. Which frankly is a real issue, and well worth discussion.

This then extends to the recent RoundUp litigation decisions. According to many, Monsanto was apparently nearly as bad as the tobacco industry in terms of hiding contradictory evidence and foisting spurious findings. I think that is quite overstated. What little I have read of peer reviewed publications does suggest the NHL link, but only for very high exposures. Far beyond what most get.

So I pose a question to the group. Are RoundUp's nefarious effects worth the extra yield?
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Posted 16 July 2019 - 09:53 AM

DC, you can go to moderation tools and close the topic on the other threads. Is that what you did to lock them? One is still unlocked BTW. And did you really draft this at 5:00 in the morning? :)
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#8 Rue Bella

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 11:27 AM

Quote

Usually rules are tightened after tragedies happen but with 7 billion people as possible victims ...

My politically incorrect answer. The earth would be better off with half this number of humans inhabiting it. The scourge of rampant human over-population has done far more harm than just about anything thus far.

I also like cheese.
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#9 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 11:43 AM

View PostTraveler, on 16 July 2019 - 09:53 AM, said:

DC, you can go to moderation tools and close the topic on the other threads. Is that what you did to lock them? One is still unlocked BTW. And did you really draft this at 5:00 in the morning? :)

I thought I'd locked the unintended ones. Hmmm.

And, yeah, sure -- I slept in or it would have been earlier.
The way a lot of catastrophes happen is that X doesn't occur because there are safeguards in place, therefore people assume X isn't a worry and they remove the safeguards. Then X happens.
— Nate Silver
"Robots aren't the problem. Capitalism is." -- Last words of Stephen Hawking.
These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." -- Heather Heyer
"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're gonna make it count." -- Her mother
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events." -- some RINO

#10 golden_valley

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 01:09 PM

View PostRue Bella, on 16 July 2019 - 11:27 AM, said:

My politically incorrect answer. The earth would be better off with half this number of humans inhabiting it. The scourge of rampant human over-population has done far more harm than just about anything thus far.

I also like cheese.

I'll go you one better. The earth would be better off with no humans. As soon as humans started burning the land to clear the way for agriculture humans set the stage for what we see today.

#11 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 03:23 PM

View PostRue Bella, on 16 July 2019 - 11:27 AM, said:

My politically incorrect answer. The earth would be better off with half this number of humans inhabiting it.

I take it you watched Infinity War again before posting?
The way a lot of catastrophes happen is that X doesn't occur because there are safeguards in place, therefore people assume X isn't a worry and they remove the safeguards. Then X happens.
— Nate Silver
"Robots aren't the problem. Capitalism is." -- Last words of Stephen Hawking.
These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." -- Heather Heyer
"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're gonna make it count." -- Her mother
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events." -- some RINO

#12 Bact PhD

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 05:28 PM

DC, thanks for starting the thread. When I read over the drift last night, I started looking stuff up, thought better about contributing to further thread drift, and called it a night.

I'll take this a point at a time; I doubt I'll get to all of it in one session. Here goes...

Quote

Bacteria are a very poor choice. Horizontal gene transfer between bacteria is normal -- they even have evolved mechanisms to do it better. I'll let BactPhD explain if you need any more on the subject because -- seriously!

Yup, more than one mechanism even! There's Conjugal Transfer (done pretty much like it sounds -- one organism transfers a segment of its genetic material to another directly through the cell membranes, via specialized appendages called "sex pili"), Transformation ("competent" bacterial cells can take up naked DNA from the environment directly), and Transduction (genes from a host bacterial cell are incorporated into the genome of a bacterial virus (bacteriophage) and then carried to another host cell when the bacteriophage initiates another cycle of infection.). Scientists have been harnessing these processes for decades, long before "GMO" was in the popular lexicon.

Quote

Since we started altering bacteria intentionally [1] there have been how many novel traits turning up in pathogenic microbes? I mean, besides resistance to more or less every antibiotic we've come up with, shortly after introduction? Bact might have a guess there, but I'm not aware of any. ...However, we didn't have to introduce the resistance traits and we didn't have to transfer them. They happened on their own because (now pay attention here) Nature is conducting experimental genetic modifications on bacteria and viruses every second in numbers that humble astronomers.
Beyond antibiotic resistance, none that I've heard about. Moreover, when you consider the rate at which bacteria multiply. it doesn't take long for a superior trait to dominate the population.

I have nothing to add to the rest of that particular commentary.
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#13 Bact PhD

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 05:48 PM

From George:

Quote

GM foods are shown to have different actions on the body. Again 40 years down the line we may start to find problems.

View PostD. C. Sessions, on 16 July 2019 - 07:08 AM, said:

Obviously golden rice has a different effect on the body from the other traditionally mutated strains -- people eating the golden rice don't suffer from vitamin A deficiency, including having lower case mortality rates from quite a few diseases (including measles.)

That aside, there's been a lot of noise but I'm not aware of any other research with the results you mention so sources would be appreciated.

After my looking around, I would have to concur with the "Citation Needed"...from peer-reviewed articles. There were a couple of pieces that acknowledged the political aspect of employing the technology. However, I did find this review from earlier this decade. The major concerns from a safety in human consumption standpoint? The possibility that the introduced protein might induce an allergic reaction:

Quote

It is known that the main concerns about adverse effects of GM foods on health are the transfer of antibiotic resistance, toxicity and allergenicity. There are two issues from an allergic standpoint. These are the transfer of a known allergen that may occur from a crop into a non-allergenic target crop and the creation of a neo-allergen where de novo sensitisation occurs in the population. Patients allergic to Brazil nuts and not to soy bean then showed an IgE mediated response towards GM soy bean. Lack (2002) argued that it is possible to prevent such occurrences by doing IgE-binding studies and taking into account physico-chemical characteristics of proteins and referring to known allergen databases. The second possible scenario of de novo sensitisation does not easily lend itself to risk assessment. He reports that evidence that the technology used for the production of GM foods poses an allergic threat per se is lacking very much compared to other methodologies widely accepted in the food industry.
Also,

Quote

However, since the products of the transgenic are usually previously identified, the amount and effects of the product can be assessed before public consumption. Also, any potential risk, immunological, allergenic, toxic or genetically hazardous, could be recognized and evaluated if health concerns arise.

J-CA could speak better to the concerns articulated later in the same article:

Quote

Many problems, viz. the risks of “tampering with Mother Nature”, the health concerns that consumers should be aware of and the benefits of recombinant technology, also arise with pest-resistant and herbicide-resistant plants. The evolution of resistant pests and weeds termed superbugs and super weeds is another problem. Resistance can evolve whenever selective pressure is strong enough. If these cultivars are planted on a commercial scale, there will be strong selective pressure in that habitat, which could cause the evolution of resistant insects in a few years and nullify the effects of the transgenic. Likewise, if spraying of herbicides becomes more regular due to new cultivars, surrounding weeds could develop a resistance to the herbicide tolerant by the crop. This would cause an increase in herbicide dose or change in herbicide, as well as an increase in the amount and types of herbicides on crop plants. Ironically, chemical companies that sell weed killers are a driving force behind this research (Steinbrecher 1996).
Another issue is the uncertainty in whether the pest-resistant characteristic of these crops can escape to their weedy relatives causing resistant and increased weeds (Louda 1999). It is also possible that if insect-resistant plants cause increased death in one particular pest, it may decrease competition and invite minor pests to become a major problem. In addition, it could cause the pest population to shift to another plant population that was once unthreatened. These effects can branch out much further. A study of Bt crops showed that “beneficial insects, so named because they prey on crop pests, were also exposed to harmful quantities of Bt.” It was stated that it is possible for the effects to reach further up the food web to effect plants and animals consumed by humans (Brian 1999). Also, from a toxicological standpoint, further investigation is required to determine if residues from herbicide or pest resistant plants could harm key groups of organisms found in surrounding soil, such as bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and other microorganisms (Allison and Palma 1997).

Politics these days is show business. Elections are Dancing with the Stars with consequences. ~Rue Bella

(About fame) Living for likes, shares and follows is a form of validation. The question is whether it is also the source of our self esteem. If it is, we’re screwed. And, culturally, it seems as if it’s become more and more our shared value. ... Meringue is no longer a sweet and pretty topping but the body itself. ~Charles Perez

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384, via LFC, 12/1/2016

Competent people go in one of a few directions. But incompetence is infinite. ~David Brooks, NY Times

#14 Bact PhD

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 05:53 PM

View PostTraveler, on 16 July 2019 - 09:49 AM, said:

Excellent fisking DC! Don't know why George is so off the wall on this when he is so grounded on other topics....

This then extends to the recent RoundUp litigation decisions. According to many, Monsanto was apparently nearly as bad as the tobacco industry in terms of hiding contradictory evidence and foisting spurious findings. I think that is quite overstated. What little I have read of peer reviewed publications does suggest the NHL link, but only for very high exposures. Far beyond what most get.

So I pose a question to the group. Are RoundUp's nefarious effects worth the extra yield?
Good question; I don't have a ready answer.

However, I was going to put this link to an article concerning risk evaluation at the end of my other post, but on further reflection it's better placed here:

https://www.ncbi.nlm...les/PMC5033226/

Risk, regulation and biotechnology: The case of GM crops

Stuart J Smyth1,* and Peter WB Phillips2
Politics these days is show business. Elections are Dancing with the Stars with consequences. ~Rue Bella

(About fame) Living for likes, shares and follows is a form of validation. The question is whether it is also the source of our self esteem. If it is, we’re screwed. And, culturally, it seems as if it’s become more and more our shared value. ... Meringue is no longer a sweet and pretty topping but the body itself. ~Charles Perez

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384, via LFC, 12/1/2016

Competent people go in one of a few directions. But incompetence is infinite. ~David Brooks, NY Times

#15 JackD

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 08:25 PM

The political issues referred to in the article are important. In some cases (Mexico for example), the owners of the GMO products seek to monopolize the seed supplies at grest cost to the farmer-producers. Safety is important but so is economics.

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 08:59 PM

View PostJackD, on 16 July 2019 - 08:25 PM, said:

The political issues referred to in the article are important. In some cases (Mexico for example), the owners of the GMO products seek to monopolize the seed supplies at grest cost to the farmer-producers. Safety is important but so is economics.

I believe Monsanto was producing crops that would bear sterile seed to prevent farmers from saving a portion of their harvest for seed. They may have also been doing so with plain hybrids.
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#17 Traveler

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 08:43 AM

View PostBact PhD, on 16 July 2019 - 05:53 PM, said:

Good question; I don't have a ready answer.

However, I was going to put this link to an article concerning risk evaluation at the end of my other post, but on further reflection it's better placed here:

https://www.ncbi.nlm...les/PMC5033226/

Risk, regulation and biotechnology: The case of GM crops

Good article. Very interesting quantification of actual risk vs. political risk (outrage factor).

Quote

RISK political = OUTRAGE × UNSUBSTANTIATED INFORMATION × eNGO PRESSURE
Great formulation of what is going on. What was unexpected for me is that the article cites the ESFA as one of the major culprits of politicizing risks. When in fact, they actually cleared roundup in their study. It was IARC that disregarded its findings in saying roundup causes cancer, saying EFSA used cherrypicked data.

Quote

These experts determinedin March 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”5 after having found “limited evidence” of cancer in people and “sufficient evidence” in experimental animals. The complete Monograph was published by the IARC in July 2015.
As in all of these articles, pay attention to source. That one was from one of the myriad anti-roundup sites, but has a pretty thorough discussion. One of the main issues was that the EFSA report was based on confidential data, so others could not independently review. The EU recently ruled that the data has to be revealed.

I take the tack that the safety issue is secondary. Far more important is that

Quote

Glyphosate has been a commercial blockbuster since its entry on the market. This is because it combines formidable efficacy with toxicity levels that are, as far as known, comparatively lower than those of other broad spectrum herbicides. However, the monoculture agronomic model facilitated by glyphosate is disastrous for the preservation of biodiversity and soils. Also entrenched in this industrialized, large-scale model is the destruction of rural communities.26

This is the issue. And one that is worth digging into.
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#18 D. C. Sessions

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 09:50 AM

According to farmers who use it, there are a couple of key uses of glyphosate.
  • In no-till agriculture, they plant the crop seeds and then kill off the volunteer weeds while the crops are germinating. Glyphosate resistant crops not required, and not much glyphosate needed when the weeds are growing rapidly.
  • Once the crops are up, very little weeding is required if the crops have a head start and (if you'll pardon me) put the weeds in the shade.
  • For short crops, there are "smart" farm machines now that can identify weeds in a field and give them -- and only them -- a squirt of glyphosate. Or in some cases, high temperatures using either flame or lasers. Again, no glyphosate resistance required.
I confess that that last one really triggers my not-so-dormant inner nerd.

Traveler, you might have something to say about no-till and the possible tradeoffs thereof.
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#19 Traveler

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 11:56 AM

Thanks DC,

Here in the east, pre-emergent applications are common. But in open rows, you can get some pretty robust weeds taking hold if the pre-emergent wasn't effective enough. So you apply again over the crop. That of course is the reason for roundup ready crops.

Those smart appliers sound really cool. Soon it will all done by drone. And I am old enough to have manually removed jimson weed in cornfields by hoe. Not exactly pleasant task.
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#20 J-CA

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 12:18 PM

View PostD. C. Sessions, on 16 July 2019 - 07:14 AM, said:

Monocultures are, no question, risky. This is a known thing [1], but is independent of GM seeds. One might even argue that due to the relative ease that GM techniques bring to fitting a crop to its environment you might see an increase in crop diversity compared to today where quite a few crop species are clones of each other.

[1] I asked before: do you like bananas?
This confusion always annoys me, GMOs are not related to monocultures and people confuse that all the time. In fact, lab-transferrable genes should instead (and we are seeing this start now in the Canola seed market) make more genetic diversity possible because rather than having to always work from the strains that have the must-have trait and working forward from there the research options can draw from a much wider range of genetic material.
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