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'[OT] Wonderful GM plants'
2006\01\03@061344 by Russell McMahon

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{Quote hidden}

Doom, doom, told you so, doom, ... :-)
Not really. Not yet. But just give it time.

Nobody who is doing this REALLY cares. Not really. Not enough. Or we'd
be doing it in an internationally sponsored deeeeeep containment
facility far below the surface of a really large desert with a 50 year
+ moratorium. ((Reminds me of a certain movie :-) ).

It's always been 103.5% certain that GM will cause transfer of genetic
materials into places we have no inkling of. We provide Nature the
unnatural enabling that 'Nature' in it's infinite 'wisdom' has long
ago sealed off its own access to and Nature will do the rest.

We have absolutely no idea of whether the end result in any given case
will be benign or will kill, literally, millions. Or maybe just cause
irrevocable non-lethal damage to millions. or 100's of millions. We
have SOME idea of the probabilities based on the very few we've
managed to kill so far and the relative rarity of the really neat
results to date, but what can happen will happen, and what can't
happen will happen as well.

That worse disasters than are available by any other man made means
stand at GM's beck and call is obvious (far worse than all out nuclear
war) - but all too many people have the doubting Thomas gene and need
to see "real evidence" to be convinced. The *fact* that there are
really really really nasty possible consequences is competently
demonstrated by eg the entirely accidental mouse / interleukin virus
discovery in Australia a few years ago now. In that case the disease
was extremely lethal but very non infectious. (Googling on mouse
interleukin virus Australia will get you going OK on this one). It's
only a matter of time before something highly infectious, highly
lethal and very hard to combat turns up. How much time is the only
question. Could be centuries. Or could be too late already. Something
with the incubation period and difficulty of prevention of HIV,
infectiousness of the common cold and efficacy when triggered of Ebola
should be about right. And such is entirely conceivable. By the time
the first cases appeared everyone on earth would have had it for a
decade or so. How many people would survive if everyone on earth had
Ebola?

There is about zero doubt that all the major germ warfare people and
many minor ones will have picked up on the Australian
mouse/interleukin discovery and will have been pressing ahead ever
since and that by now they will have it down to a fine art. If one
fine morning all the worlds eg Ch... er um Celts die, or all but the
worlds Celts, nobody should be surprised (and most would then be
unable to be). The genetic boundaries may be a bit rough but
scatter-gun genetic targeting is liable to be not at all hard and a
few hundred million either way is small beer.

Anyone:    By all means point out why you consider that any or all of
the above is rubbish :-). No disrespect intended - but if the late
Peter Crowcroft were alive he would rubbish me big-time over this
offlist (and possibly on). I never understood the basis of his
objections and he would never explain them to me. Anyone else is
really most welcome to explain why I'm wrong. I'd be happy to be :-(.




           Russell McMahon



2006\01\03@072740 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Russell McMahon wrote:

> Or we'd be doing it in an internationally sponsored deeeeeep containment
> facility far below the surface of a really large desert with a 50 year +
> moratorium.

Hehe... Didn't think you were up to jokes on this subject :)  


> We have SOME idea of the probabilities based on the very few we've
> managed to kill so far and the relative rarity of the really neat
> results to date, but what can happen will happen, and what can't happen
> will happen as well.

Those guys don't do statistics. If they did, they couldn't say "won't
happen". And they don't do risk analysis. If they did, they'd multiply the
probability with the cost and would say "too risky". What they do is
quarterly reports for the stock holders... and maybe investment risk
analysis.

Gerhard

2006\01\03@134941 by Peter

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On Tue, 3 Jan 2006, Gerhard Fiedler wrote:

> Those guys don't do statistics. If they did, they couldn't say "won't
> happen". And they don't do risk analysis. If they did, they'd multiply the
> probability with the cost and would say "too risky". What they do is
> quarterly reports for the stock holders... and maybe investment risk
> analysis.

Those guys don't do statistics because ... they can count ? You are
looking at about 600 wheat plants per m^2, multiplied by the area of
cultivation, multiplied by the number of harvests per year, multiplied
by the number of years that plant species will be used. In 1935 it was
already about 155 million ha and two harvests. That's about 10^11 plants
per harvest. How many nines in their safety factor again ? Can anyone on
this list quote one single man-made process or activity that has a
reliability of 10^-6 outside a lab ? Like a vaccine, or something like
that ? I am not scared or something but one would like to see some
numbers ?

Peter

2006\01\03@160007 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Peter wrote:

>> Those guys don't do statistics. If they did, they couldn't say "won't
>> happen". And they don't do risk analysis. If they did, they'd multiply
>> the probability with the cost and would say "too risky". What they do
>> is quarterly reports for the stock holders... and maybe investment risk
>> analysis.
>
> Those guys don't do statistics because ... they can count ? You are
> looking at about 600 wheat plants per m^2, multiplied by the area of
> cultivation, multiplied by the number of harvests per year, multiplied
> by the number of years that plant species will be used. In 1935 it was
> already about 155 million ha and two harvests. That's about 10^11 plants
> per harvest. How many nines in their safety factor again ? Can anyone on
> this list quote one single man-made process or activity that has a
> reliability of 10^-6 outside a lab ? Like a vaccine, or something like
> that ? I am not scared or something but one would like to see some
> numbers ?

I'm not sure I understand you correctly, but it seems you agree with me
that with those numbers, it is pretty certain that those uncontrolled
crossover effects will happen.

With a classic vaccine accident, where one or the other may get a bit sick,
that's then the end of this accident. It doesn't spread further. The most
that might happen is that one of the few who develop the decease as a
consequence of the vaccine may infect a few others. But that's usually only
a few, and there are usually known cures. (I'm certain that vaccination
against deceases without know cures are treated a bit differently.)

The problem here is that these "accidents", once happened, then spread by
themselves. It seems pretty certain that it's only a matter of time until
most fields are populated by weeds that have the resistance genes they put
into the current GM crop. Those weeds then of course are not only in the
fields of the GM crops, they spread all over.

This is somewhat similar to Monsanto setting free a virus (that attacks
humans), and the only "vaccine" available is a special in-vitro
fertilization process patented by Monsanto. I'm sure people wouldn't like
that... but just because it happens to crop populations doesn't make it a
whole lot different.

Gerhard

2006\01\04@004410 by Russell McMahon

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> Those guys don't do statistics because ... they can count ? You are
> looking at about 600 wheat plants per m^2, multiplied by the area of
> cultivation, multiplied by the number of harvests per year,
> multiplied
> by the number of years that plant species will be used. In 1935 it
> was
> already about 155 million ha and two harvests. That's about 10^11
> plants
> per harvest. How many nines in their safety factor again ?

Alas, that's just the sort of stats that they do do.

The argument goes something like.

"What's the worst case risk?
   "Kills everyone on earth"
"How many people on earth?"
   "About 6 billion give or take"
What's the risk of the worst case happening?"
   "To be honest, as long as nobody's taking notes, we have
absolutely no idea, but it may be as good as only 1 in 100 million per
year"
"Hmm. 1/100000000 x 6 billion per year. That's only 60 people a year
on average. That's about 0.1% of the US road toll. (Just ask James).
Utterly trivial. Lets do it."
   "Or it could be 1 in 10 million per year. We really have no way of
telling."
"Still only 1% of ther annual US road toll".
   "Or perhaps one in 1 million."
"What's that make. OK - 6,000 people a year. Look, every DAY over
200,000 people die on earth. Every HOUR more people than that die.
Look at the benefits. And the profits. and the fame. Lets do it."
"Yes Sir!"

___

GM could destroy all human life. But probably won't. But may.

Numbers of nines in a safety factor is not always the most appropriate
way to express a risk. Even if you can in fact calculate how many 9's
there really are. And with GM, in any given case, you absolutely
cannot. With GM we are playing with arcane and wonderful machinery not
of our making and, still, far far far beyond our comprehension. We can
pull the levers and push the buttons and make the machine run, but
when it does something unexpected, about the best we can do is say
"Well! Fancy that! Who would have thought?, ...". How many 9's were
there in the Interleukin mouse virus experiment. What if it had been
rabidly infectious - as it just as easily could have been. What if it
had then escaped - as such things have been known to do. (Google
smallpox janet parker).

Interestingly, Smallpox vaccine is based on Vaccinia. *Nobody* knows
where Vaccinia came from. What started out as another virus was
replaced by Vaccinia unnoticed and it took years before the new
organism that was being used worldwide was "discovered". It turns out
to be  a superior innoculation source. It could have also been doing
other far nastier things. The highly controlled smallpox vaccine
industry "converted" to a new totally unknown organism quite unbeknown
to anyone and it went unnoticed for years. How many 9's did that
bypass?

In case you think Smallpox is gone, In March 2003 smallpox scabs were
found tucked inside an envelope in a book on Civil War medicine in
Santa Fe, New Mexico. The envelope was labeled as containing the scabs
and listed the names of the patients that were vaccinated with them.
Alive? I don't know. Theoreticaly could have been. Someone does know
but I'm sure they're not telling. How many 9's?






       Russell McMahon







2006\01\04@125554 by Sergey Dryga

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Russell McMahon <apptech <at> paradise.net.nz> writes:

> Interestingly, Smallpox vaccine is based on Vaccinia. *Nobody* knows
> where Vaccinia came from. What started out as another virus was
> replaced by Vaccinia unnoticed and it took years before the new
> organism that was being used worldwide was "discovered". It turns out
> to be  a superior innoculation source. It could have also been doing
> other far nastier things. The highly controlled smallpox vaccine
> industry "converted" to a new totally unknown organism quite unbeknown
> to anyone and it went unnoticed for years. How many 9's did that
> bypass?
>
> In case you think Smallpox is gone, In March 2003 smallpox scabs were
> found tucked inside an envelope in a book on Civil War medicine in
> Santa Fe, New Mexico. The envelope was labeled as containing the scabs
> and listed the names of the patients that were vaccinated with them.
> Alive? I don't know. Theoreticaly could have been. Someone does know
> but I'm sure they're not telling. How many 9's?
>
>         Russell McMahon
>
Russel,

I have to chime in in protection of vaccine industry.  Maybe it is because I am
part of it having spent last 15 years working on new vaccines.  

You are right, vaccinia is a "new" virus.  Most probably it was derived from
cowpox through a series of cell-culture passages.  This is a typical method for
making vaccine,- take a virulent virus strain, pass it couple hundred times in
cells (or non-permissive animals) and you get an attenuated strain suitable for
vaccine.  It works for great number of viruses, but not all.  This method was
used earlier, I do not know of any modern vaccine made this way.  Vaccinia does
cause significant side effects and it is the primary reason why it cannot be
used today for new vaccine development.  The rate of accidental death or
serious complications is about 1 in million.  Is it bad? It depends.  By modern
standards it is unacceptable.   But 50 - 100 years ago it was perfectly fine
because everybody remembered outbreaks when up to 30% people have died!  I
believe one of the last big outbreaks in western world was in London, UK in
early 20th century.  

Same story with polio vaccine, today oral polio vaccine is not used in western
world, but 50 years ago when it was developed it was a miracle cure.  Because
everybody have seen people crippled by polio and the rate of infection was high.

So, with vaccines it is a risk-benefit consideration: do we worry about
potential side effects in 0.0001% vaccinees, or risk 20-30% population dead?  
For other diseases, the numbers are different and therefore safety level
required for approval is different.  Today vaccines, as wel as other drugs,
undergo much more testing and safety studies than even 10-20 years ago.  But
sometimes we can only see side effects on very large populations, after the
vaccine went to market.  BTW, there is also post-marketing tracking of side
effects.


I am not advocating to let pharma companies free run with vaccines.  They have
to follow good manufacturing practices etc, but there will be side effects.  
People are different, they respond to infection differently.  But it is not a
reason to kill all vaccines.

Cheers,

Sergey Dryga
PS. I was vaccinated with vaccinia, OPV etc.  My children got polio, rubella,
mumps, measles and other childhood vaccines too.

2006\01\04@192536 by Peter

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On Tue, 3 Jan 2006, Gerhard Fiedler wrote:

> I'm not sure I understand you correctly, but it seems you agree with me
> that with those numbers, it is pretty certain that those uncontrolled
> crossover effects will happen.

Most GM and other 'supplied' seed plants are incapable of reproduction
in the 2nd generation (the one that ends up on the fields). This is also
true for most non-GM plant seeds supplied to farmers. The producers
would not want the farmers to set up their own seed factory after buying
once ...

So the problem is reduced to cross polination. Wheat is said to cross
polinate up to 5%. Whith what ? With wild wheat for example, or another
sufficiently related species (which is very likely to try to live where
the GM wheat lives). Wild wheat would not be incapable of reproduction,
so you may end up with some particularly hardy wild wheat (that nobody
wants). This is just an example, and maybe not a good one.

Peter

2006\01\04@205108 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Sergey Dryga wrote:

> So, with vaccines it is a risk-benefit consideration: do we worry about
> potential side effects in 0.0001% vaccinees, or risk 20-30% population
> dead?  

I think Russell's point is not about the potential side effects of
traditional vaccines. It is about the potential side effects of genetic
manipulation as it is (probably) being done today... potentially creating
diseases where no vaccine could help anymore.

Gerhard

2006\01\04@210039 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Peter wrote:

>> I'm not sure I understand you correctly, but it seems you agree with me
>> that with those numbers, it is pretty certain that those uncontrolled
>> crossover effects will happen.
>
> Most GM and other 'supplied' seed plants are incapable of reproduction
> in the 2nd generation (the one that ends up on the fields). This is also
> true for most non-GM plant seeds supplied to farmers. The producers
> would not want the farmers to set up their own seed factory after buying
> once ...

You noticed how often you used "most", right? :)

> So the problem is reduced to cross polination. Wheat is said to cross
> polinate up to 5%. Whith what ? With wild wheat for example, or another
> sufficiently related species (which is very likely to try to live where
> the GM wheat lives). Wild wheat would not be incapable of reproduction,
> so you may end up with some particularly hardy wild wheat (that nobody
> wants). This is just an example, and maybe not a good one.

Or something else. The thing is the chances that something really bad
happens are really low, but multiplied with the exposure, it is virtually
certain to happen. And believe me, the only thing certain is Murphy -- and
it's not restricted to electronics or programming :)

Gerhard

2006\01\04@211754 by David VanHorn

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>
>
> Or something else. The thing is the chances that something really bad
> happens are really low, but multiplied with the exposure, it is virtually
> certain to happen. And believe me, the only thing certain is Murphy -- and
> it's not restricted to electronics or programming :)


A one in a billion outcome is almost certanity when you look at say an
indiana full of corn plants.

It would be really fun to get a mutation that was say strongly dominant, and
made the corn indigestable by spinning some sugar or protein the other
direction.   Great for making diet food, but you might want some REAL food.

Of course you wouldn't notice this right away, if it didn't affect yields
significantly, but people would start to starve for no apparent reason.
(hmm.. I could do a novel based on that.)

2006\01\04@220648 by D. Jay Newman

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> > Or something else. The thing is the chances that something really bad
> > happens are really low, but multiplied with the exposure, it is virtually
> > certain to happen. And believe me, the only thing certain is Murphy -- and
> > it's not restricted to electronics or programming :)

> A one in a billion outcome is almost certanity when you look at say an
> indiana full of corn plants.

Hmmm. Frankly I think the danger of nuclear/biological weapons in the
hands of politicians seem much more dangerous to me.

Yes, there is a chance that GM could cause some major problems. However,
nature has been doing GM for, well, ever since there was nature.

After looking at the numbers it seems that the chance of reward (and I'm
not thinking of finances here) is much greater than the chance of disaster.

Imagine produce that doesn't go bad as fast. People die in the US of
bad produce.

Of course, we could do the same thing easier with irradiating the food
products, but Americans seem to have a strong irrational tabu against
anything nuclear.

> It would be really fun to get a mutation that was say strongly dominant, and
> made the corn indigestable by spinning some sugar or protein the other
> direction.   Great for making diet food, but you might want some REAL food.

The chance of this happening is almost ridiculous. If something like this
could happen the chances are that it would be rather poisonous.
--
D. Jay Newman           ! _Linux Robotics: Building Smarter Robots_
spam_OUTjayTakeThisOuTspamsprucegrove.com     ! To be released soon to unsuspecting bookstores
http://enerd.ws/robots/ ! everywhere.

2006\01\04@222918 by Russell McMahon

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{Quote hidden}

I have no great problems with vaccinia or with many aspects of
vaccination, or of much of (what i know about :-) ) the vaccine
industry.

My point was - in such a highly regulated, your-mission critical,
hopefully-careful and worldwide life and death affecting industry a
new virus 'just happened', totally took over from what it was thought
to be, and went unnoticed for a decade or two. In that time it *could*
have been wreaking havoc somewhat akin to HIV worldwide unnoticed and
with a carefully organised international delivery system to many
people worldwide. As it happened, while not without it's faults,  it
works about as expected. BUT it flew through the N 9's of safety that
such an industry is assumed to have, completely unnoticed.

By comparison we are scatter-gunning GM products across the fields of
earth which is *certain* to ultimately produce utter catastrophe. The
only question is "how long" (or already but as yet unknown?) Coming to
a field, supermarket, school, home or hurriedly dug one-of-millions
mass grave somewhere near you some year /decade / century soon.


           Russell McMahon.

*certain* = 'will happen' - take away 9's until (un)desired results
occur.





2006\01\04@223740 by David VanHorn

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>
>
> Yes, there is a chance that GM could cause some major problems. However,
> nature has been doing GM for, well, ever since there was nature.


True, but we are taking sequences from phyla that would never interact in
nature, and splicing them.. Few corn plants ever cross-polinate with a
squid. :)


After looking at the numbers it seems that the chance of reward (and I'm
> not thinking of finances here) is much greater than the chance of
> disaster.


True, but russell has a point the downside is potentially HUGE.


Imagine produce that doesn't go bad as fast. People die in the US of
> bad produce.
>
> Of course, we could do the same thing easier with irradiating the food
> products, but Americans seem to have a strong irrational tabu against
> anything nuclear.


Not this one, but I agree in general.. I wonder how many people are aware of
mail irradiation. Cheap insurance against anthrax or similar nastiness.

The chance of this happening is almost ridiculous.


Famous last words :)  I agree in principle though.

If something like this could happen the chances are that it would be rather
> poisonous.


Yeah, or just die, but those wouldn't be all that interesting.

2006\01\04@224433 by Russell McMahon

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> Most GM and other 'supplied' seed plants are incapable of
> reproduction
> in the 2nd generation (the one that ends up on the fields). This is
> also
> true for most non-GM plant seeds supplied to farmers. The producers
> would not want the farmers to set up their own seed factory after
> buying
> once ...

This is the so called "Terminator gene" effect.
In fact it is NOT a feature of products on the market - or at least,
the sellers say that they think that none of their products have any
of these genes. Either or both of these claims may be untrue :-).

The terminator gene was trialled and proposed for market use and,
fortunately, so far, the outcry caused it to be withdrawn from
commercial use.

Consider, quite apart from the ethical and commercial aspects, imagine
if such an effect could 'accidentally" spread, even though impossible,
into unrelated products. At least it fails the Darwin test nicely.
That last comment MAY sound like an argument for its safety, but
nature and Murphy have the fine ability to perpetuate the harmful even
when the effect of the harmful is to destroy itself. eg given Ebola's
immense virulence and vvv high 'success' rate and necessarily complete
eradication very soon after every outbreak, isn't it surprising that
it keeps coming back? We are not in this case surprised because we
posit some so far unfound reservoir creature which acts as a carrier.
Similarly (or totally differently) mechanisms could be conceived (My
messrs Murphy and nature if not initially by us) to deliver terminator
gene 'infections' from an unaffected source. [[Yes I know that
mechanisms may not appear to allow this to occur.]]



       RM

2006\01\04@225934 by Russell McMahon

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> A one in a billion outcome is almost certanity when you look at say
> an
> indiana full of corn plants.

Indeed.

{Quote hidden}

It happened very recently and the victim as laid quietly to rest with
(un)surprisingly little fanfare.
I posted this to list recently. 26 Nov 05 New Scientist says -

       http://www.newscientist.com/channel/life/gm-food/mg18825273.400

In this case a ten year trial (AFAIR) [[10 years !!!!]] was abandoned
after it was found that the milled, processed proteins in peas with a
bean gene [ :-) ] inserted caused allergic reactions in mice which
were totally unknown from either of the source crops.

This is *EXACTLY* the sort of thing that has been feared and which
'experts' of appropriate bias have ridiculed long and hard and
dirtily. Note that NO "genetic material" remains - just the output
protein alone causes the damage. This is, of course, by received
wisdom, essentially impossible. Hookey Walker :-). (Google knows).

Laugh (while you can) at the really silly comments in defence.


       Russell McMahon

Some key words & phrases from below:

SURPRISING / was a surprise / does not cause allergic reactions /
Stranger still / the amino acids within the proteins were identical /
Yet / subtly different / making them appear different to the immune
system / That would be silly / every crop must be judged individually
/

Doom, doom .... :-)

______________
SURPRISING results from Australia have resurrected questions about the
safety of genetically modified crops - in this case a variety of GM
peas.

Researchers found that the peas triggered allergic reactions in mice.
This was a surprise because the only extra gene in the peas was that
for a protein found in beans, in which it does not cause allergic
reactions. Stranger still, the amino acids within the proteins were
identical in both legumes. Yet when the researchers looked closer, the
two proteins had subtly different arrays of sugars attached to them,
making them appear different to the immune system (see "Skewed
research").

Opponents of GM foods may try to use this finding to damn all
transgenic crops. That would be silly. As this magazine has argued
before, every crop must be judged individually.

The important question is whether national regulatory authorities
would have spotted the allergy. In Australia, ...



2006\01\04@231338 by Russell McMahon

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Assume olllllllllllllld earth / traditional science perspective to
make arguments meaningful to most :-). [Arguments work in most
frameworks].

> Hmmm. Frankly I think the danger of nuclear/biological weapons in
> the
> hands of politicians seem much more dangerous to me.

All nukes used at once in worst case manner would kill most people on
earth - but vvvvv likely not all and vvvv likely would leave 100's of
millions alive. A worst case event would require all nuclear powers
cooperation and the cost to develop this capability has been and
continues to be "large".

GM ***could*** kill all humans on earth and the cost to do this could
be utterlytrivial on a 'cost benefit' basis. Mons[a/t/c/g]n[a/t/c/g]o
may yet do it for us for free :-). My daughter could possibly do it
for you if you could persuade her to (you couldn't).

> Yes, there is a chance that GM could cause some major problems.
> However,
> nature has been doing GM for, well, ever since there was nature.

No.
No no no.
No no no no no.
This, alas, is the lie that 'they' tell over and over and we have all
largely accepted it gullibly.

Nature has been doing *safe* GM since forever. safe GM consists of
burying or destroying the problems and blockading the genetic 'mine
tunnel' the problems live in. Darwin award class events are carefully
stubbed out and buried in unused backwaters. BIG ring fences are
erected around things that need them. if they break out the fences are
made bigger for next time. Many really bad 'experiments' lie buried
deep withing the wonderful machine.

GM comes along and leaps over the ring fences, and/or drags mareial
from its enclosures and stuffs it willy nilly into othe rplaces where
it looks like it may do something useful. Sometimes it does. We have
NO idea about the majority of what is going on in there. Most of the
time nature has done enough GM already that it handles it all pretty
well. Sometimes we get the pea/bean/baaaaad allergy result. Nature
says - why goodness me, who could have put that in there - I'm sure I
TRIPLE ring fenced that one off about 200,000 years ago after the last
disaster. So, I'll have to ... . In the mice/pea/bean case the
researchers noticed and shut things down and no harm may have been
caused, and the worst case harm may not have been bad.

But imagine eg a really really nasty one that not only causes immune
system responses in people but also in many other animals at all
levels and then some. Now imagine that the proteins are produced in
the crop byproduct and are plowed back into the soil. Inagine it
occurs in eg Alfalfa (world's largest crop) or maize or wheat or ... .
Imagine the protein lies happily in the soil and interacts with
organisms at various levels and animals and insects and ... . And
people who eat it.

What sort of nonsense is this. How bad can a bit of bad protein be
after all. How importang could this possibly be. Google anaphylactic
shock / and peanut allergy / and ... . Sure smells nice out there
today Mable, I think I'll .... Splat. // This new cultivar gives more
yield than ... / We can now make bread that ... / Dead? What do you
mean dead? All of them? Are you mad?!, I ... /

Of course, Murphy and nature don't make things simple. It may take a
certyain mix of rainfall and temperature profile plus a bit more
acidityin the  rain than usual before the ancient doors creak open and
the protein monster sallies forth to battle in the cereal packets and
bread products of you nation.

Probable? No. Possible? Of course. When? - ask the mice.

> After looking at the numbers it seems that the chance of reward (and
> I'm
> not thinking of finances here) is much greater than the chance of
> disaster.

That's certainly what the numbers 'they' publish say.
GM is balancing someone's prfits against life on earth, or millions
crippled, or 100's of millions damaged, or just a few kids (probably
not in your family) dead.

> Imagine produce that doesn't go bad as fast. People die in the US of
> bad produce.

True risk / benefit is
- not attempted
- not possible so
- not attempted

> Of course, we could do the same thing easier with irradiating the
> food
> products,

A whole other issue.
Irradiation doesn't offer a small fraction of the potential benefits
of GM.
Itdoes have its own risks. and advantages.
Some products are almost unusable without it (eg certain bug-prone
spices which have re probably been illicitly irradiated if you see
them for sale )

>but Americans seem to have a strong irrational tabu against
> anything nuclear.

Indeed.
And some strong rational ones as well :-)



{Quote hidden}

The mice agree :-)
But with GM anything is possible.

Doom doom ... :-)



           Russell McMahon.

2006\01\04@232026 by D. Jay Newman

flavicon
face
> > Yes, there is a chance that GM could cause some major problems. However,
> > nature has been doing GM for, well, ever since there was nature.
>
> True, but we are taking sequences from phyla that would never interact in
> nature, and splicing them.. Few corn plants ever cross-polinate with a
> squid. :)

That example is extreme, but it has been hypothesised that viruses may
be one mechanism of cross-species genetic transfer. This could occur
beteen highly dissimilar species.

> After looking at the numbers it seems that the chance of reward (and I'm
> > not thinking of finances here) is much greater than the chance of
> > disaster.

> True, but russell has a point the downside is potentially HUGE.

So is the effect of an asteroid striking the earth and most people
think it is only the subject for movies. Of course, most people don't
look at the long term probabilites.

And GM has a high probability of improving life as we know it.

> > Imagine produce that doesn't go bad as fast. People die in the US of
> > bad produce.
> >
> > Of course, we could do the same thing easier with irradiating the food
> > products, but Americans seem to have a strong irrational tabu against
> > anything nuclear.

> Not this one, but I agree in general.. I wonder how many people are aware of
> mail irradiation. Cheap insurance against anthrax or similar nastiness.

I have never understood the irrational fear, even from educated people,
about anything to do with nuclear radiation.

Of course, many educated people smoke.

> > The chance of this happening is almost ridiculous.
>
> Famous last words :)  I agree in principle though.

Sometimes we take chances. I drive in a college town and that is highly
dangerous. :)

I write notes on the internet that may not be popular using my own
name.
--
D. Jay Newman           ! _Linux Robotics: Building Smarter Robots_
.....jayKILLspamspam@spam@sprucegrove.com     ! To be released soon to unsuspecting bookstores
http://enerd.ws/robots/ ! everywhere.

2006\01\04@233426 by David VanHorn

picon face
>
>
> Of course, many educated people smoke.


Like doctors.. There's an understated darwin award candidate for you.


I write notes on the internet that may not be popular using my own
> name.


I know that feeling, but I think it's actually zero probability that we will
accidentally poison half a planet doing this.

2006\01\05@000357 by D. Jay Newman

flavicon
face
> > Of course, many educated people smoke.
>
> Like doctors.. There's an understated darwin award candidate for you.

It takes too long.

> I write notes on the internet that may not be popular using my own
> > name.
>
> I know that feeling, but I think it's actually zero probability that we will
> accidentally poison half a planet doing this.

True, but it could have gotten me fired from my job or worse (the political
climate in the US is moving away from our constitution).
--
D. Jay Newman           ! _Linux Robotics: Building Smarter Robots_
jayspamKILLspamsprucegrove.com     ! To be released soon to unsuspecting bookstores
http://enerd.ws/robots/ ! everywhere.

2006\01\05@003546 by D. Jay Newman

flavicon
face
> > Hmmm. Frankly I think the danger of nuclear/biological weapons in
> > the
> > hands of politicians seem much more dangerous to me.
>
> All nukes used at once in worst case manner would kill most people on
> earth - but vvvvv likely not all and vvvv likely would leave 100's of
> millions alive. A worst case event would require all nuclear powers
> cooperation and the cost to develop this capability has been and
> continues to be "large".

I've heard different figures. A nuclear winter could be caused by
a relatively small number of nukes. Yes, it would take a lunatic at
the button to do this. And our current president seems to be too loose
around the edges for me.

BTW: What does "vvvvv" and "vvvv" mean?

> GM ***could*** kill all humans on earth and the cost to do this could
> be utterlytrivial on a 'cost benefit' basis. Mons[a/t/c/g]n[a/t/c/g]o
> may yet do it for us for free :-). My daughter could possibly do it
> for you if you could persuade her to (you couldn't).

Heck. I'm pretty sure that anybody with a good education in genetics
and microbiology could do this now.

> > Yes, there is a chance that GM could cause some major problems.
> > However,
> > nature has been doing GM for, well, ever since there was nature.

> No.
> No no no.
> No no no no no.
> This, alas, is the lie that 'they' tell over and over and we have all
> largely accepted it gullibly.

Where is the lie? And repeating "No" several times doesn't help anything.

> Nature has been doing *safe* GM since forever. safe GM consists of
> burying or destroying the problems and blockading the genetic 'mine
> tunnel' the problems live in. Darwin award class events are carefully
> stubbed out and buried in unused backwaters. BIG ring fences are
> erected around things that need them. if they break out the fences are
> made bigger for next time. Many really bad 'experiments' lie buried
> deep withing the wonderful machine.

Any how has nature been doing this? When mankind dwelt in little villages
this may have been the case, but it hasn't been that way for a couple
thousand years.

Nowadays scientists are worrying (and rightly so from what I've read)
about a new flu epidemic. This would be a perfectly naturally produced
virus that could potentially devistate most major nations. For example,
if 20% of the US were dying at once it would overload the medical system.

Most of our major institutions require manpower that we wouldn't have
in this case.

Of course, I'm postulating a near-worst-case scenario here.

And don't forget that nature brought us bubonic plague, ebola, HIV,
and George Bush.

> GM comes along and leaps over the ring fences, and/or drags mareial
> from its enclosures and stuffs it willy nilly into othe rplaces where
> it looks like it may do something useful. Sometimes it does. We have
> NO idea about the majority of what is going on in there. Most of the

Right now we don't have the information. GM is one way of actually
getting that information.

> time nature has done enough GM already that it handles it all pretty
> well. Sometimes we get the pea/bean/baaaaad allergy result. Nature
> says - why goodness me, who could have put that in there - I'm sure I
> TRIPLE ring fenced that one off about 200,000 years ago after the last

Hmmm. You're assuming that nature *thinks*?

> disaster. So, I'll have to ... . In the mice/pea/bean case the
> researchers noticed and shut things down and no harm may have been
> caused, and the worst case harm may not have been bad.

That is because most corporations and scientists are not as bad as
you characterize them as.

> But imagine eg a really really nasty one that not only causes immune
> system responses in people but also in many other animals at all
> levels and then some. Now imagine that the proteins are produced in
> the crop byproduct and are plowed back into the soil. Inagine it

And now imagine that *nobody* has done any testing on it...

> What sort of nonsense is this. How bad can a bit of bad protein be
> after all. How importang could this possibly be. Google anaphylactic
> shock / and peanut allergy / and ... . Sure smells nice out there

I do know about these things. Yes, something like you suggest *could*
happen. However, chances are it would happen in a small area first which
would allow us to deal with it before it became something that threatens
the world.

> today Mable, I think I'll .... Splat. // This new cultivar gives more
> yield than ... / We can now make bread that ... / Dead? What do you
> mean dead? All of them? Are you mad?!, I ... /

Isn't that being more than a bit alarmist? I think that we have a better
chance of being hit with an asteroid than your scenario.

> Of course, Murphy and nature don't make things simple. It may take a
> certyain mix of rainfall and temperature profile plus a bit more
> acidityin the  rain than usual before the ancient doors creak open and
> the protein monster sallies forth to battle in the cereal packets and
> bread products of you nation.

Yes. It could happen. And somebody would eat the stuff first and it would
get pulled from the shelves. Yes, many people probably would die before it
was over. But the certain mix would cause the problem in a small area.

> Probable? No. Possible? Of course. When? - ask the mice.

To be honest, we have more than enough mice. That's why we test these sort
of things on them.

Not to mention the fact that mice breed extremely fast so genetic damage
spreads through their population faster than human population.

> > After looking at the numbers it seems that the chance of reward (and
> > I'm
> > not thinking of finances here) is much greater than the chance of
> > disaster.
>
> That's certainly what the numbers 'they' publish say.
> GM is balancing someone's prfits against life on earth, or millions
> crippled, or 100's of millions damaged, or just a few kids (probably
> not in your family) dead.

It's also balancing many lives saved against many lives lost.

And if there is any genetic damage to kids in my family (and there seems
to be) it ends with my generation. Not that I'm a kid, but my wife and
I aren't into breeding, and my sister isn't either.

> > Imagine produce that doesn't go bad as fast. People die in the US of
> > bad produce.
>
> True risk / benefit is
> - not attempted
> - not possible so
> - not attempted

So you're assuming that the benefits are impossible so it should never
be attempted? Otherwise I'm not understanding.

> > Of course, we could do the same thing easier with irradiating the
> > food
> > products,
>
> A whole other issue.
> Irradiation doesn't offer a small fraction of the potential benefits
> of GM.

Actually food irradiation offers a *lot* of benefits with few problems.

{Quote hidden}

Very few rational ones.

Most of the problems caused by nuclear power in this country is caused
by this irrational tabu. Things like having to guarentee that the waste
would be safe for 100,000 years. Things like having to store the waste
in the open because it was against the rules to store it in a mine because
they could only guarentee saftely for 10,000 years.

> But with GM anything is possible.

And why is *anything* possible?

> Doom doom ... :-)

And when the Balrogs come out to get us you can have the pleasure of
telling me "I told you so".
--
D. Jay Newman           ! _Linux Robotics: Building Smarter Robots_
.....jayKILLspamspam.....sprucegrove.com     ! To be released soon to unsuspecting bookstores
http://enerd.ws/robots/ ! everywhere.

2006\01\05@004953 by Russell McMahon

face
flavicon
face
>> True, but russell has a point the downside is potentially HUGE.

> So is the effect of an asteroid striking the earth and most people
> think it is only the subject for movies. Of course, most people
> don't
> look at the long term probabilites.

Asteroid strike probabilities are as well known as we can reasonably
get them, are not of our making, not huge in probability x magnitude
product, not of our making, we are working towards knowing more, are
not of our making, are liable to be able to do something about the
'problem' usefully withing the next century,  are not of our making,
nothing we are doing is making the problem worse or attempting to
dangerously exploit an almost wholly unknown ultra dangerous set of
arcane machinery and  are not of our making.

Also, they are not of our making.

GM fails all these tests.

And the corn/wheat/petunias we are creating could have the magnitude
for the human specias of the postulated 'Dinosaur Killer'.

> Sometimes we take chances.

Indeed.
But few of us have the opportunity, let alone the effrontery, as our
good friends at eg M'... do, to make decisions for profit or fickle
fortune, or just because it's Monday morning, which carry the risk of
destroying the whole human race. Or worse :-).

Doom, doom ... :-)



           Russell McMahon



2006\01\05@031200 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Most GM and other 'supplied' seed plants are incapable of
> reproduction in the 2nd generation (the one that ends up on the
fields).

That probably means only 1 in 10^X will reproduce, but for which value
of X?

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu


2006\01\05@064638 by Peter Todd

picon face
On Wed, Jan 04, 2006 at 10:37:40PM -0500, David VanHorn wrote:
> >
> >
> > Yes, there is a chance that GM could cause some major problems. However,
> > nature has been doing GM for, well, ever since there was nature.
>
>
> True, but we are taking sequences from phyla that would never interact in
> nature, and splicing them.. Few corn plants ever cross-polinate with a
> squid. :)

You know, we used to think that's true, turns out it's not. Bacteria do
massive amounts of gene splicing all by themselves. It's one of the
reasons testing if food has been genetically modified is so difficult,
if you look for "genes out of place" you get false positives from when
bacteria cut and paste genes from one organism to another. It's not like
it happens all the time, but in a huge field of corn... One in a billion
chances add up real quick.

It's part of the reason standard breeding techniques have produced such
an incredible variety of plants.

--
EraseMEpetespam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTpetertodd.ca http://www.petertodd.ca

2006\01\05@065611 by Peter Todd

picon face
On Thu, Jan 05, 2006 at 04:50:12PM +1300, Russell McMahon wrote:
> It happened very recently and the victim as laid quietly to rest with
> (un)surprisingly little fanfare.
> I posted this to list recently. 26 Nov 05 New Scientist says -
>
>         www.newscientist.com/channel/life/gm-food/mg18825273.400
>
> In this case a ten year trial (AFAIR) [[10 years !!!!]] was abandoned
> after it was found that the milled, processed proteins in peas with a
> bean gene [ :-) ] inserted caused allergic reactions in mice which
> were totally unknown from either of the source crops.
>
> This is *EXACTLY* the sort of thing that has been feared and which
> 'experts' of appropriate bias have ridiculed long and hard and
> dirtily. Note that NO "genetic material" remains - just the output
> protein alone causes the damage. This is, of course, by received
> wisdom, essentially impossible. Hookey Walker :-). (Google knows).

Well the thing that gets me with examples like that is it happens
without any GM technology at all. Standard cross-breeding techniques
occasionally produce strange allergic reactions and other weird effects,
it's rare, and more rare then effects with the GM stuff, but it happens.
Technology or not, it's all gene splicing, especially when you look at
the effect of naturally occuring bacteria and viruses.

GM food isn't all that magical. Nature is more than weird enough on it's
own!

--
petespamspam_OUTpetertodd.ca http://www.petertodd.ca

2006\01\05@075154 by olin piclist

face picon face
Russell McMahon wrote:
> My point was - in such a highly regulated, your-mission critical,
> hopefully-careful and worldwide life and death affecting industry a
> new virus 'just happened', totally took over from what it was thought
> to be, and went unnoticed for a decade or two.

Nature reshuffles the cards a little every time a chromosone is replicated.
These little reshufflings are individually miniscule, but over time and
great numbers and tossing out the broken results is what made us distinct
from orangutangs, mosquitos, and potatoes.  It should be no surprise at all
that a mutation occurred in a virus just because we were helping it
reproduce.  Far greater mutations happen more often in the wild.

> In that time it *could*
> have been wreaking havoc somewhat akin to HIV worldwide unnoticed and
> with a carefully organised international delivery system to many
> people worldwide.

No, it couldn't.  Large effects would have been noticed, and of course much
much less likely to have occurred in the first place.  It is also much much
less likely that a mutation causing a major change would have allowed the
virus to survive and continue to reproduce.

> As it happened, while not without it's faults,  it
> works about as expected.

Precisely because the mutation was minor.

> BUT it flew through the N 9's of safety that
> such an industry is assumed to have, completely unnoticed.

Minor mutations occur all the time and are nothing new in laboratory bread
organisms either.  That is one reason there are so many "strains" of various
organisms, including human pathogens.

> By comparison we are scatter-gunning GM products across the fields of
> earth which is *certain* to ultimately produce utter catastrophe.

This kind of emotional and unfounded assertion only serves to undermine the
credibility of real science.

You have no way of knowing the risk of an "utter catastrophe", however that
is defined.  Certainly there is a risk in humans deliberately altering the
genetics of certain organisms.  There are also benfits.  The benefits are
real and much easier to measure.  I think the risks are largely overstated.
Nature already performs random genetic alterations on all organisms all the
time.  While these are random, their sheer numbers guarantees that many many
genetic experiments we haven't even dreamed of are being tried all the time.
The vast vast majority are either too minor to care about or to major to
survive and we therefore never hear about them.  Every once in a few zillion
rolls of the dice we get a new flu virus, AIDS, SARS, Brazillian Buporic
Fever, or whatever.  There are checks and ballances in nature that pretty
much guarantee a pathogen can't be both highly virulent and easily spread at
the same time.  Every once in a while one gets its genes reshuffled and is a
little better tradeoff than before.  A few million people die, but some
always survive too.  Think of the nasty diseases of the past before there
were antibiotics and vaccines.  We took a beating but are still here, all of
us descendents of the survivors.  It's hard to imagine anything we create
accidentally in the lab having anywhere near as big an impact as the things
nature is cooking up all the time and has and will again throw at us.

In the mean time we do know and can measure how many people die of
starvation every year.  It's a cost/benefit tradeoff, and you can't ignore
the benefit side to get a good picture.  In the end human overpopulation of
the planet seems like a bigger threat to me, and is partly to blame for the
starvation toll.  If you really want your kids to inherit a better world,
have fewer of them.


******************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, (978) 742-9014.  #1 PIC
consultant in 2004 program year.  http://www.embedinc.com/products

2006\01\05@080052 by olin piclist

face picon face
Russell McMahon wrote:
> given Ebola's
> immense virulence and vvv high 'success' rate and necessarily complete
> eradication very soon after every outbreak, isn't it surprising that
> it keeps coming back?

No, because it has a reservoir someplace else as you mentioned.  Note
however that Ebola is not a major threat to mankind.  Here is your worst
case poster child, but note how it's not spread to large areas and killed a
large fraction of the human population.  The very traits that make it so
dangerous when an outbreak does occur also make it difficult to spread
itself over large areas.

Here in Massachusett I'm far more likely to get killed in an automobile
accident than to contract a case of Ebola.


******************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, (978) 742-9014.  #1 PIC
consultant in 2004 program year.  http://www.embedinc.com/products

2006\01\05@081112 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
D. Jay Newman wrote:

>>> Yes, there is a chance that GM could cause some major problems.
>>> However, nature has been doing GM for, well, ever since there was
>>> nature.

Well, maybe. (I won't say "no" like Russell and for the sake of the
argument say "maybe" -- but it doesn't really matter.)

But it has been doing it /much/ slower, with /much/ more time to let die
the ones that are not mutually beneficial. And it didn't multiply untested
crops by the billions and distribute them worldwide before they didn't
succeed in a local test. And that local test lasted for millennia.

The thing is that we don't necessarily want to have Darwin's rules applied
to us as a species. All along we have been working to invalidate natural
selection. We are now, on average, with almost certainty weaker genetically
than we were thousand years ago. People with severe chronic problems are
able to have children and lead almost normal lives. A good thing, from an
individual point of view, but not something that is likely to make us more
resistant as species.

Who is to tell whether that GM stuff is not an aberration with the effect
to eradicate a species that shows to have been straying from the path of
coexistence?

/Something/ will always continue. But the comfortable ranges of environment
indicators for human survival are pretty small. That's the problem with
saying "nature has been doing it all along": it may have, and it may just
continue to do that. But we don't want it to do that without humans, I
suppose...

Gerhard

2006\01\05@085513 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
Peter Todd wrote:

> Well the thing that gets me with examples like that is it happens without
> any GM technology at all. Standard cross-breeding techniques
> occasionally produce strange allergic reactions and other weird effects,
> it's rare, and more rare then effects with the GM stuff, but it happens.
> Technology or not, it's all gene splicing, especially when you look at
> the effect of naturally occuring bacteria and viruses.

The difference is that it's much faster, goes farther and there's much more
money involved (which gets many more unscrupulous people on board and
convinces otherwise scrupulous people to follow their lead). It's not for
nothing that a high number of related incidents happened in the last ten
years that were unknown just a few decades ago. With all the breeding that
they did for ages. Just look at it from a historic perspective; there is a
difference in quality.

Gerhard

2006\01\05@091422 by Russell McMahon

face
flavicon
face
No time to reply to all the various comments on my comments on GM.
Suffice it to say that I disagree with most of the intended rebuttals.

Many are setting up straw men to attack which I have not created, or
simplifying or misconstruing my points (no doubt because I failed to
explain them well enough :-).

A few comments from the one I chose to reply to, but I could equally
comment on many others.


> ... It should be no surprise at all that a mutation occurred in a
> virus just because we were helping it
> reproduce.  Far greater mutations happen more often in the wild.

It is not suggested that vaccinia is a mutation of the original
smallpox vaccine. It just, as far as cab be established, "appeared"
and took over. Sourec unknown. Date unknown.

>> In that time it *could*
>> have been wreaking havoc somewhat akin to HIV worldwide unnoticed
>> and
>> with a carefully organised international delivery system to many
>> people worldwide.

> No, it couldn't.  Large effects would have been noticed,

Several straw men or just wrong meaning taken.
"Large effects would have been noticed" and "akin to HIV" are, of
course, incorrect. HIVs effects are large by any measure but took
literally decades to notice. If vaccinnia had a capability even
essentially identical to HIV as well as its intended one it may also
have not been noticed due to its effects for decades.

> and of course much
> much less likely to have occurred in the first place.

On what basis do you establish "likelihood".
How "likely" is/was HIV to occur?
How do you measure this probability?
Why would something that entered the vaccine system be unlikely to be
HIV like?


>> BUT it flew through the N 9's of safety that
>> such an industry is assumed to have, completely unnoticed.
>
> Minor mutations occur all the time ...

But whole new unrelated organisms are a little rarer :-).

>> By comparison we are scatter-gunning GM products across the fields
>> of
>> earth which is *certain* to ultimately produce utter catastrophe.
>
> This kind of emotional and unfounded assertion only serves to
> undermine the
> credibility of real science.

That sort of emotive and unfounded and unscientific response to a
wholly factual and scientific statement serves to undermine
credibility. While "scattergunning" is clearly meant to be a
metaphorical allusion, it in fact closely matches actual practice
(more recently less favoured)(Google on "gene gun" if you aren't aware
of this method). I defined "certain* in a footnote. Google on "craig
venter don't know shit" to see what one of the worlds top GM experts
thinks about how much we understand about what we are doing. (Father
of the private portion of the human genome project and THE reason it
completed many years early). I happily stand by my emotive statement
and all its implications.

> You have no way of knowing the risk of an "utter catastrophe",
> however that
> is defined.

Absolutely !!!!
My point throughout.
We have no way of knowing how dangerous almost any of what we are
doinfg might be.
We have some statistical guidelines based on what we haven't managed
to do to ourselves so far.
But we also have clear warnings that unconscionably severe outcome are
possible and that they are wholly unpredicable. The interleukin mouse
virus and the bean/pea gene transfer bad protein result are just two
examples.

As in California, it is only a matter of time until the big one. But
we don't know how big and how long.

> Certainly there is a risk in humans deliberately altering the
> genetics of certain organisms.  There are also benfits.  The
> benefits are
> real and much easier to measure.

The truth is that the benefits of GM are far fewer and less real than
the sale people would like us to think. I'll say again as I said a few
days ago, I am not a Luddite. I approve of technology in its place.
But GM is over sold, under produces and often enough costs people in
ways which are not initially obvious. When you tamper with vastly
complex machinery which you don't understand even 1% of the functions
of (cf Venter's comments) then you have no certainty that what you
wnat will be what you get. And that's what we see. GM had one very big
very visible win very earky on and since then there has been nothing
to match it. The win was, of course, synthetic insulin (not without
its problems) but its a rare jewel so far. All the rest tends to make
money for the developers and less for the users. Glyphosate resistant
crops anyone?

> I think the risks are largely overstated.

I'm sure you do. And I'm completely certain that you are wrong. The
only uncertainty is the degree of uncertainty. That GM could be as
fatal ti eg human life as anyone could possibly conceive is not in
question. That people as intyelligent as you are consider that this is
an overstatement show how poorly the dangers are generally understood.

> Nature already performs random genetic alterations on all organisms
> all the
> time.  While these are random, their sheer numbers guarantees that
> many many
> genetic experiments we haven't even dreamed of are being tried all
> the time.
> The vast vast majority are either too minor to care about or to
> major to
> survive and we therefore never hear about them.

I agree with all the above. But it's irrelevant to my point. See my
commenst elsewhere about nature ring-fencing its very bad disasters
and leaving the remains there for us to dig up and "exploit".

> Every once in a few zillion
> rolls of the dice we get a new flu virus, AIDS, SARS, Brazillian
> Buporic
> Fever, or whatever.  There are checks and ballances in nature that
> pretty
> much guarantee a pathogen can't be both highly virulent and easily
> spread at
> the same time.

Absolutely.
And we have bypassed the limit switches, taken off the guards,
disabled the governors and are playing with the supercharger. Aeons of
checks and balances are being vaulted over with no idea whatsoever
about what may happen.

And there is nothing in nature that guarantes that you can't make a
hybrid with most of the 'advantages' of each of its contributors.
You elsewhere mentioned my "worst case" sceario as Ebola. It wasn't.
My worst case, and only an example one, was a HIV/common cold/Ebola
like virus. As infecyious as the CC - spread by aerosol transfer.
Incubates like HIV over literally decades with no symptoms. Comes on
like a freight train and destroys its target WHEN it suddenly does go
live. Something like this would be contracted by essentially everyone
on earth over say a decade. Then when it was riggered by whatever it
would overburden all health services involved. Ebola kills 50-70% of
victims in high care situations and kills a %age of its expert carers
as well if they make the slightest of mistakes. If 10% of your
population came down with it over a year and if the ensd state
infection was infectious in its own right, as Ebola is, then you'd ALL
be gone.  FWIW.

> Every once in a while one gets its genes reshuffled and is a
> little better tradeoff than before.  A few million people die, but
> some
> always survive too.

Indeed. The machine is well balanced. But i assure you that we can get
it up to billions dead with little effort.

> Think of the nasty diseases of the past before there
> were antibiotics and vaccines.  We took a beating but are still
> here, all of
> us descendents of the survivors.  It's hard to imagine anything we
> create
> accidentally in the lab having anywhere near as big an impact as the
> things
> nature is cooking up all the time and has and will again throw at
> us.

failure of imagination is one of the great problems here. And thinking
that WE are the ones who cook them up in alab is another. The problems
are thjose which nature has locked in its storehouse. We are simply
raiding the store and distributing bits and pieces far and wide with
no knowledge of the results.

> In the mean time we do know and can measure how many people die of
> starvation every year.  It's a cost/benefit tradeoff, and you can't
> ignore
> the benefit side to get a good picture.

GM has the potential to do well there.
BUT so far it has done poorly overall and non GM techniques would
allow us to do far better than we do now shoukd we wish. Wishing to is
a problem.

> In the end human overpopulation of
> the planet seems like a bigger threat to me, and is partly to blame
> for the
> starvation toll.

Most things can be blamed for something :-). But starvation is as much
'caused' by human nature not being willing to do what is required to
alter things. Whether there is a moral or whatever imperative to do so
is another issue (forestalling comment from Mr J ... ;-) ).

> If you really want your kids to inherit a better world,
> have fewer of them.

No. :-)
If you really want your kids to inherit a better world, work towards
other people having fewer of them. :-)

The Balrog is coming (nice that someone actually recognised what I was
quoting :-) ).
Doom, doom ... :-)




       Russell McMahon
       Applied Technology Ltd. :-) fwiw.

2006\01\05@132700 by Peter

picon face

I think that looking at the GM plant business from the point of view of
'doom' or 'end of the world' is wrong. Probabilities are best for
something along the lines of red algae, kudzu, or that other dog problem
in Australia occuring again in a different way. Having really stubborn
weeds that infest cultivable land would be close enough.

Peter

2006\01\05@134729 by Peter

picon face


On Thu, 5 Jan 2006, Russell McMahon wrote:

{Quote hidden}

Afaik the 'terminal' nature of crop seeds is achieved using just
hybridization with a generation that is selected for low reproduction
yield. It is not as sinister as you imply and it does not use GM, just
plain old Mendel's laws. Here is some good reading on this:

http://ecoport.org/ep?SearchType=earticleView&earticleId=162&page=2060

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selection_methods_in_plant_breeding_based_on_mode_of_reproduction

(look under 'back crossing' and 'hybridization' in the Wikipedia
article). I know very little about these things however. This article
deals with reproduction in general in various species (and with
parthogenesis):

http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/A/AsexualReproduction.html

Peter

2006\01\05@150147 by Peter

picon face


On Thu, 5 Jan 2006, Wouter van Ooijen wrote:

>> Most GM and other 'supplied' seed plants are incapable of
>> reproduction in the 2nd generation (the one that ends up on the
> fields).
>
> That probably means only 1 in 10^X will reproduce, but for which value
> of X?

I think that you do not realize the magnitude of the problem. Most
plants are capable of cross-polination with even farther removed
relatives. The USDA has regulations for how far a GM soybean field must
be from other soybean fields to avoid natural c.p. With other plants
this is not so simple. The problem is not the plants on the field where
everyone is looking, but in a truck's tyres and air filter as it leaves
the field and goes elsewhere. The case noted in the article with which I
started the thread did not mention any danger from the GM crop itself.
It was the *weeds* on the edge of the GM field that started showing
surprizing vigor.

Peter

2006\01\05@150921 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
Olin Lathrop wrote:

>> By comparison we are scatter-gunning GM products across the fields of
>> earth which is *certain* to ultimately produce utter catastrophe.
>
> This kind of emotional and unfounded assertion only serves to undermine
> the credibility of real science.

What is "real science" for you? Popper's model with experiments and
falsification certainly does not apply to ecology. We (and that includes
Monsanto) don't have the means to experiment with ecosystems in the way we
experiment with semiconductors. So how reliable are all the estimates they
pull out of their hats? I know how far off estimates and predictions about
relatively simple systems like electronic circuits and semiconductors can
be. And that despite /many/ experiments in /very/ controlled environments.
Now take away the experiments and controlled environments and multiply the
complexity by several degrees -- what's left in terms of certainty? I doubt
any 9 in that number will survive a close look.


> The benefits are real and much easier to measure.  

I think that's the point. The benefits are here, now, easy to see. The
disadvantages are there, in the uncertain future, difficult to imagine. So
where's the problem? We go with the benefits, of course.

Any clue why the USA, being one of the richest nations on earth, supposedly
having one of the highest living standards, has one the highest indices of
allergies? That's quite possibly one of the difficult to imagine effects
that only appear in the distant future and usually are not easily linked to
a single cause.


> I think the risks are largely overstated.

I believe that (that you think this). But you only /think/ this... hard
numbers nobody has, because all the numbers are mostly based on beliefs. I
OTOH think such high risks should only be undertaken if necessary or at
least well known. Not based on the hunches of a few.


> There are checks and ballances in nature that pretty much guarantee a
> pathogen can't be both highly virulent and easily spread at the same
> time.  

That may be, but now we're about to work our ways around the checks and
balances. A pathogen that killed everything around it couldn't have spread
very far, in nature's scheme; it would have killed everything (in a local
environment) and then died. Now we can create it and spread it around
before we realize that it does this. Nature works with long "local tests",
we don't.


> In the mean time we do know and can measure how many people die of
> starvation every year.  It's a cost/benefit tradeoff, and you can't
> ignore the benefit side to get a good picture.  

I really don't know many cases where starvation could be eased by GM crops.
In all scenarios I heard about, this was always a rosy picture of some
company selling GM seeds (that can't be used to saw the crop of next year,
that need special fertilizers and herbicides, that need special technical
knowledge to be used successfully) to 3rd world governments, they give that
to their rural population (that mostly can't read, and if it can, doesn't
read English (and of course all the documentation is in English), that
doesn't understand that it won't be able to use the crop for seeds next
year, that doesn't have access to the technical infrastructure necessary to
use these crops, that doesn't have money to buy the right fertilizers and
her and that doesn't have the specialized knowledge needed to use these
crops successfully), and all of a sudden everybody swims in corn or wheat.

I don't really buy that... the real problems usually are elsewhere, and
without solving them, no wonder crop will work.


> In the end human overpopulation of the planet seems like a bigger threat
> to me, and is partly to blame for the starvation toll.  If you really
> want your kids to inherit a better world, have fewer of them.

I can agree to that, in a way, but then... what's the point in GM crops?
Their only selling argument is to make more food so that more people can be
here. And we don't really have a shortage of food on this planet, we have a
lousy distribution of food (and most everything else) and vastly
inefficient social processes. The "care potential" is so much higher than
the "GM potential" -- and without risks. Of course there's less money in
it, and that's the catch (and the only reason for GM crops so far).

Gerhard

2006\01\05@165706 by D. Jay Newman

flavicon
face
> Any clue why the USA, being one of the richest nations on earth, supposedly
> having one of the highest living standards, has one the highest indices of
> allergies? That's quite possibly one of the difficult to imagine effects
> that only appear in the distant future and usually are not easily linked to
> a single cause.

My allergist is told me it is because we are *too* healthy. Since there
are very few parasitical infections here the antibodies that fight
parasites have nothing to do. So the immune system starts attacking
the next most dangerous things, like pollen and dust mite crap.

> That may be, but now we're about to work our ways around the checks and
> balances. A pathogen that killed everything around it couldn't have spread
> very far, in nature's scheme; it would have killed everything (in a local
> environment) and then died. Now we can create it and spread it around
> before we realize that it does this. Nature works with long "local tests",
> we don't.

It used to do this. Unfortuantely with modern transportation things can
move around quite easily. And unlike GM products there are no testing
requirements.
--
D. Jay Newman           ! _Linux Robotics: Building Smarter Robots_
@spam@jayKILLspamspamsprucegrove.com     ! To be released soon to unsuspecting bookstores
http://enerd.ws/robots/ ! everywhere.

2006\01\05@180358 by David VanHorn

picon face
>
>
> My allergist is told me it is because we are *too* healthy. Since there
> are very few parasitical infections here the antibodies that fight
> parasites have nothing to do. So the immune system starts attacking
> the next most dangerous things, like pollen and dust mite crap.


Or too bored, and not enought "real" problems.. :)

2006\01\05@181123 by olin piclist

face picon face
Gerhard Fiedler wrote:
> I know how far off
> estimates and predictions about relatively simple systems like
> electronic circuits and semiconductors can be. And that despite
> /many/ experiments in /very/ controlled environments. Now take away
> the experiments and controlled environments and multiply the
> complexity by several degrees -- what's left in terms of certainty? I
> doubt any 9 in that number will survive a close look.

That's why I objected to Russell saying that "utter catastrophe" was
"*certain*" (he put the emphasis on certain, not me).


******************************************************************
Embed Inc, Littleton Massachusetts, (978) 742-9014.  #1 PIC
consultant in 2004 program year.  http://www.embedinc.com/products

2006\01\05@201604 by Russell McMahon

face
flavicon
face
> I think that looking at the GM plant business from the point of view
> of
> 'doom' or 'end of the world' is wrong.


Note my Doom, doom ... :-)

always has a :-) at the end.
It's the call of the great drum as Durrins' bane comes to do battle
with Gandalf.
FWIW Jackson's Balrog was visually pathetic - far below the rest of
his LOTR interpretations which were mostly rather good (as always IMHO
of course).

BUT - you are wrong.
The whole of GM *MUST* be looked at from that pount of view.
Failure to do so simply innures people to what we are dealing with.
GM has it's place, but it's in the "Resident Evil" (movie) type
research facility for 50 odd years with the whole world putting in the
100 trillion $ or so needed to really make it work well and understand
it. It's job is to break out and we are currently its willing
handmaidens :-)


> Probabilities are best for
> something along the lines of red algae, kudzu, or that other dog
> problem
> in Australia occuring again in a different way. Having really
> stubborn
> weeds that infest cultivable land would be close enough.

All more probably whan WCD.But WCD must be what we look at.

WCD = Worst.Case.Disaster

Doom, doom ... !!! :-)

       RM



2006\01\05@201604 by Russell McMahon

face
flavicon
face
>> This is the so called "Terminator gene" effect.

> Afaik the 'terminal' nature of crop seeds is achieved using just
> hybridization with a generation that is selected for low
> reproduction
> yield.

No.

> It is not as sinister as you imply

'Tis too :-)

> and it does not use GM,

Does.

> just plain old Mendel's laws.

No.

> Here is some good reading on this:

If it disagrees with what I say then it's good reading on something
else :-)
Still no doubt interesting, but not what I'm talking about.



       Russell McMahon

2006\01\05@201609 by Russell McMahon

face
flavicon
face
> That's why I objected to Russell saying that "utter catastrophe" was
> "*certain*" (he put the emphasis on certain, not me).

I explicitly defined the meaning of *certain* in the same email.

And it's certain by any measure that would make sense to Joe average
consumer.
The only unknown is how big and when. If and sometime are unavoidable.
ie we have already had several existence proofs which show it can and
does happen - we have (probably) contained the ones we know about. In
each case the events were unexpected and unpredictable AND used
systems and techniques essentially indistinguishable to those which we
are setting loose in the wild to do their own "experiments".

I didn't define "utter catastrophe". I'll accept any normal meaning of
that. eg Hurricane xxx caused an utter catastrophe ... .


       Russell McMahon.

2006\01\05@220906 by Russell McMahon

face
flavicon
face
>> That may be, but now we're about to work our ways around the checks
>> and
>> balances. A pathogen that killed everything around it couldn't have
>> spread
>> very far, in nature's scheme; it would have killed everything (in a
>> local
>> environment) and then died.

Sort of.
If you have a host that you don't kill then you can target other
things "as desired" (anthropomorphising).
A biological "gunship".
Ebola is a reasonable example.
Avian flu another.
SARS another.
(Each example imperfect but all OK).

But if you want to kill everything and still move around without using
a gunship/bomber you need to separate the infectiousness from the
payload delivery, have a long incubation period, make your infectious
stage absolutely inobvious and have your delivery system reinvent
itself regularly. All of which is what HIV does. It's only
'weaknesses' are a low degree of infectiousness and a reasonably rapid
payload to help stamp out response once it starts delivering.

We are, both incidentally, and almost certainly purposefully as well
in any number of laboratories, helping nature produce such a 'weapon'.
Stay tuned :-).

>>... Nature works with long "local tests", we don't.
>
> It used to do this. Unfortuantely with modern transportation things
> can
> move around quite easily.

New infections typically cross the planet between major centres at
just below the speed of sound (since Concorde went out of service).

> And unlike GM products there are no testing
> requirements.

There are no GM testing requirements that nature can't fit a barn door
through (to badly mix metaphors). An utterly vital component in any
protection/testing system is a belief by those involved that the
protection system that they are part of is important and necessary.
Few believe this. So the system is dead in the water. (Must be a year
for bad metaphors). GM containment procedures in any number of high
risk facilites are to varying extents constructively disregarded by
staff. You may not ask me how I know, alas. Any sort of containment
measures in field level activites simply cannot work - even if they
are believed in by those involved, which they are not.


Doom, doom ... !!! :-)
Was the Balrog a GM product?



           RM


2006\01\06@071159 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
D. Jay Newman wrote:

>> Any clue why the USA, being one of the richest nations on earth,
>> supposedly having one of the highest living standards, has one the
>> highest indices of allergies? That's quite possibly one of the
>> difficult to imagine effects that only appear in the distant future and
>> usually are not easily linked to a single cause.
>
> My allergist is told me it is because we are *too* healthy. Since there
> are very few parasitical infections here the antibodies that fight
> parasites have nothing to do. So the immune system starts attacking the
> next most dangerous things, like pollen and dust mite crap.

I don't really buy that. I can't find any of the texts I read about the
differences between USA and other similarly developed countries, but
independently of that, most of the allergies show a significant increase
over the last decade. For all I know, the infectious diseases did not
decline so substantially over that period -- their decline happened
earlier.

Besides that, the common cold and the flu and similar infectious diseases
seem to be out there, just the same. The market for stuff like Tylenol
doesn't seem to be small, or doesn't seem to have decreased significantly.


Fact is that medicine is not a science in the more restricted sense we
generally use this word. Not even its objective is clearly defined: what is
a disease? what is health? what constitutes a cure? Pretty much everybody
has a different view of the matter. For some, something like Tylenol is the
model for the perfect cure, for others it's something that makes matters
worse.

We know very little about the more complex interactions in our body, in
part due to the high complexity and long timeframes (compared to a
lifetime), in part due to the restrictions on actual experimenting. For
example, do the (or some, or some combinations of) vaccines cause an
increase in allergies? Or does the increased exposure to increased numbers
of substances that are increasingly different from anything our immune
system has seen through the past millennia cause an increase in allergies?
We don't know, and we have no way of telling; we very rarely can prove or
disprove anything medical with any scientific (in the more restricted
sense) certainty.


Which then comes back to the GM question. There are so little hard facts
about interactions of different influences in our body, and anybody who
believes otherwise doesn't really think science has any grounds. If we
think the type of experimenting we do with semiconductors to gather
information about how they behave makes sense and really tells us
something, we have to admit that most of the type of knowledge we know
about semiconductors we don't know about our body -- (at least) because of
the lack of proper experimenting. (Just think of what experiments you would
create if you could experiment with humans like you can with
semiconductors, in order to answer some of the questions. Then take those
experiments away... and all that's left are some mostly subjective
observations and arbitrary statistical correlations.) Which then makes the
pseudo-scientific nature of the marketing speak of the ones who claim to
know pretty obvious.

Medicine and the concept of health is not a scientific subject. Science is
one of the languages of medicine, in a way similar to mathematics being one
of the languages of science -- but neither is science mathematics, nor is
medicine science. To treat either as if it were is misinterpreting the
results. And the question about GM is about health, too.

Gerhard

2006\01\06@073543 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
> Any clue why the USA, being one of the richest nations on earth,
> supposedly having one of the highest living standards, has one the
> highest indices of allergies?

Perhaps we just diagnose a lower level of suffering as "allergies",
and prescribe treatment...

I have what I would describe as mild hayfever-like allergies.
I sniffle a bit more than I'd like, and when certain plants
bloom I can have watery eyes and occasional sneezing fits.  My
old doctor had prescribed some drugs that seemed to work pretty
well, but then she moved to Hawaii and the prescription eventually
expired.  The replacement Dr said "any other complaints?"  I said
"hayfever" and was issued a new prescription for allegra, at a cost
of about $100/month (before insurance), without additional diagnosis.
I decided that my allergies weren't worth that much to fix...

BillW

2006\01\06@101601 by Howard Winter
face
flavicon
picon face
> D. Jay Newman wrote:
>
> > Any clue why the USA, being one of the richest nations on earth,
> > supposedly having one of the highest living standards, has one the
> > highest indices of allergies? That's quite possibly one of the
> > difficult to imagine effects that only appear in the distant future and
> > usually are not easily linked to a single cause.
> >
> My allergist is told me it is because we are *too* healthy. Since there
> are very few parasitical infections here the antibodies that fight
> parasites have nothing to do. So the immune system starts attacking the
> next most dangerous things, like pollen and dust mite crap.

You have an *allergist*???  Good grief, the American medical profession has gone mad!  :-)

Anyway, my personal one-episode evidence is the reverse.  I've never had any allergies, except that an
overload of pollen makes me sniffle a bit, but I think that's just a dust-like overload.  A couple of years
ago I went into hospital for 17 days suffering from Cellulitis, a nasty Staphallococus infection of the deeper
regions of the skin in my lower left leg.  I was on IV antibiotics for most of that time, and after about a
week I developed a rash all over, which was a reaction the antibiotics I was on.  They changed to another type
and all was well until I was released.  I then went to stay with my brother and his wife while I convalesced,
and the next morning I was itching all over, apparently a reaction to the washing powder used on the bedlinen
- re-washing it all with hypoallergenic powder solved that, and I haven't had any allergic-type reactions ever
since.

So it looks like my immune system was hyped-up by the infection, trying to fight it off, and in that state
reacted to things that it wouldn't have done otherwise.  So rather than a system that had nothing to do
attacking things it shouldn't, it was that it was overenthusiastic when it had a lot to do!

Cheers,



Howard Winter
St.Albans, England


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