Sunday, March 25, 2007

The dangers of GE

I've tended to avoid the GM debate here because ultimately I'm not that concerned about the technology. I'm concerned about its uses (which seem to be primarily about supporting - indeed, forcing - the use of stupid and unsustainable farming practice in the name of higher corporate profits), I'm concerned about consumer rights and product labelling, and I'm concerned about government secrecy and corporate lies. I am not concerned about "spiritual pollution", "playing god", or "interfering in the natural order".

I am however concerned about this: a study suggesting the use of GE crops (and particularly Bt corn) is a possible cause of a massive decline in bee numbers in North America. We depend on bees - they pollinate plants, and by doing so support a third of our food chain. If this decline continues, then we could see crop failures and significant hardship as a result. If our current GE plants are causing it, then it would seem to be a strong argument for ditching them and using much better testing in future.

(Hat tip: Qarl)


Important to remember two things

A) Bees are not nearly as valuable as many people assume because all sorts of things pollinate plants (including many flies for example).

B) bee populations are heavily effected by parasites and non-GE farming behaviours which are already devastating Bee populations.

I think if you thought it was worth a ban I would suggest banning Pesticide based GE (ie GE designed to kill pests) as opposed to just general GE. Science might even benefit from that - taking the lazy GE out of the equasion.


Posted by Anonymous : 3/25/2007 05:31:00 PM

Actually, if you read the article, you see that the cause is varroa mites. This is seen in New Zealand: where there is varroa mite, the hives are devestated. There is no Bt corn in New Zealand, ergo Bt corn is no the cause. There have been numerous studies on the effects of Bt on bees (a summary can be seen in Table 3, all showing no effect. The study mentioned in the article at Jena feeds the bees ten times the amount of Bt, and further the bees are kept in small cages for six weeks, an artificial situation which means the results should be distrusted. The Bt toxin used is one which is used by organic farmers: if it is not safe why do they use it.

Studies of bee colonies in New Zealand suggest that in all colonies the various bee viruses and fungi mentioned in the article are present, but not causing any problems. It is just that when the colony is infected by varroa mite, the colony is in some way weakened, and the viruses are able to increase, leading to the hive destruction.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/26/2007 07:19:00 AM

There's been varroa in the US since 1987. This "Colony Collapse Disorder" is something else. The bees (from the article, other insects too) just go off and die. I heard a bit on the radio - the beekeepers considered it unprecidented. And didn't have an explanation.

There's enough talk about 'other factors' in the article to make me wonder how strong the GE thing is, and not to detract from any other points Bob makes - Iwouldn't know.

Posted by Lyndon : 3/26/2007 10:46:00 AM

GE thusfar.

"Can't be killed by herbicides." Got into the weeds. Let's all hear it for unkillable superweeds.

"Kills insects." Killed insects. Fucked up the soil bacteria. Made soils infertile. Oops. People take ages to die of low-grade insecticide poisoning, but it's only a matter of time.

"Dies." Didn't die. Life's funny like that.

Does anyone bother reading how GE actually works? It's done with a virus, an ordinary common one that picks up genes from random plants and animals and exchanges them with its own. They put it in a common everyday bacteria and infect the plant thereby. It leaves the fun new GE DNA in a place where the wild versions of the same bacteria and virus pick it up and spread it around.

It's insane. Everything they put in like this will spread throughout the same kindom. Want a cow that produces tons of insulin? Great, so might your next child! Good luck with that, shame you can't possibly keep the risk to yourself.

Posted by tussock : 3/27/2007 02:46:00 AM

still - you are quite likely to have gene moving virus already and not even the ones made in a lab.

make sure you only get close to people who you want to share genes with!

Posted by Anonymous : 3/27/2007 07:31:00 AM