Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Clover It

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  • Russell Brown,

    There are just as many early historical examples of potatoes being cultivated for food in Europe and the American colonies as there are about the misguided caution about their toxicity.

    Which would seem to make it a reasonable match for GM, wouldn't it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Tractors are not self-replicating - and nor do they pose a risk of blending with other farm implements to form new machines

    But they do bugger the soil and contribute to greenhouse emissions.

    But seriously Sacha, it's not as if novel varieties created "in the lab" are new in agriculture. Dwarf wheat created by mutagenic techniques has been in use since the 1960s. It feeds a lot of people. Would you really set the bar so high that no modified plants could be introduced, ever?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Tractors are not self-replicating - and nor do they pose a risk of blending with other farm implements to form new machines.

    Meanwhile, in Russia:

    those Ruskies have beat us to a gap
    in the market - Transfarmers!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Transfarmers!

    Hold that thought.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Which would seem to make it a reasonable match for GM, wouldn't it?

    Depends on how the risks are perceived. In the piece you linked to, these were to do with consuming potatoes. While there are always risks when introducing a plant species to a new environment, there's no evidence that 18th century Europeans saw the potato as a threat to existing agriculture, in the sense that it might become an invasive weed, or cross-breed with existing crops. These are very real concerns with artificially created varieties, and it's perfectly reasonable to expect them to be addressed.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Transfarmers!
    Hold that thought.

    My ribs are hurting :)

    Y'picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
    Four hundred children and a crop in the field . . .

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Depends on how the risks are perceived.

    I think this sentence sums up the gap in the debate. Perception of science and corporate science, and how far that is or isn't from a future reality.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW,

    Tractors are not self-replicating - and nor do they pose a risk of blending with other farm implements to form new machines

    Obviously tractors do blend with other farm implements to form new machines capable of new forms of damage or benefits.

    GE is self-replicating? Don't think so. Its products may be. So if self-replication is a potential risk factor, then it applies to the individual product of GE, not to GE as a whole.

    So consider each GMO carefully before release. Bearing in mind that the world is full of self-replicating organisms busy killing each other directly and indirectly already, and blending with unrelated organisms. 17 years may be enough time to test one thoroughly enough, not sure, but if it has the potential to reduce agricultural methane emissions by say 15% (while increasing sunlight-to-food efficiency) while not in itself being substantially damaging - well that would be a worthwhile goal in my view.

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Would you really set the bar so high that no modified plants could be introduced, ever?

    No, I just want the conversation about risk and benefit to be honest about the motivations involved - and not assuming that benign white coat wearers are the ones in charge.

    Chris, you're missing the point - tractors do not independently transform themselves into new forms of machine.

    Perhaps someone could update us on where the proposals years ago for "terminator genes" ended up?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Ben, I'd be interested on your take on the WoW 'corrupted blood' virus.

    A self-replicating virus that managed to escape the lab and spread in a way that it's creators never intended it to...

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    nukes

    ..is an interesting analogy. In the 1950's the long-term effects of exposure to even small doses of radiation were not well understood, and nuclear power was lauded as The Technology That Would Save Mankind.

    All sorts of uses were proposed, or even put into practice, from using atom bombs to terraform the Great Barrier Reef, to using x-rays in shoe shops so that you coud see how the shoes fitted your feet (this one was an actuality).

    Now we are a little older and wiser, we try to keep the does of hard radiaiton we receive to a minium for all sorts of good reasons. But we didn't really have a good understanding of the potential risks at the time. And in quite a few cases, we're still dealing with the consequences and, if you'll excuse the intended pun, the fall-out.

    So you'll excuse me if I'm a bit dubious about GE. Yet to be convinced, shall we say.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    the long-term effects of exposure to even small doses of radiation were not well understood

    The long term effect of exposure to small doses of radiation are STILL not understood.

    We actually really don't know if long term exposure to low dose radiation does harm. There are some data for workers in the nuclear industry but those doses are better called medium dose. Certainly extrapolation from high dose does not work. It seems that low dose radiation is much less harmful than it was expected to be, which is just a bit weird. Lots of possible explanations but little data.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I just want the conversation about risk and benefit to be honest about the motivations involved - and not assuming that benign white coat wearers are the ones in charge.

    There is an awful lot in this statement. One thing is that vested interests are present on both sides of the debate. Both in terms of money and in terms of ideology.

    Is benign a compliment?

    It used to be that in government research institutes that scientists were pretty much in charge. It was scientists who engineered E. coli to make it safe to use in the lab long before the public understood that they could do that. After 40 years of research with E. coli which can replicate every 20 minutes there has never been a single disaster involving E. coli.

    That hasn't really changed now that we have men (yes mostly men) in suits in charge. Yes I believe corruption is possible but I know most of the folks doing this work in New Zealand and none of them are corrupt. Real people not theoretical ones. Real scientists doing their best to make real changes that will benefit the world.

    You can be a skeptical as you like that's fine I know nothing I can say will change that for some of you. You can wait to be convinced.

    But please, just please when there is something genuinely good happening like the switch to no till agriculture in US maize and cotton fields stand back and give the credit to those who actually did something good.

    That's a real benefit. Many people perceived a huge risk associated with that benefit and that risk has proven to be false after 15 years. Many people demanded those fields be destroyed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    But please, just please when there is something genuinely good happening... stand back and give the credit to those who actually did something good.

    Dwarf wheat! Dwarf wheat! Norman Borlaug! Dwarf wheat!

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Real people not theoretical ones. Real scientists doing their best to make real changes that will benefit the world.

    Well I've never Godwined a thread before, but hell why not: As far as anyone can ascertain, Josef Mengele was a brilliant medical scientist who believed that what he did was for the greater good. Not corrupt, just absorbed in his work to the exclusion of any wider moral considerations, thanks to a lack of pesky public oversight. His victims could be said to have received a higher standard of medical treatment than they'd have experienced in the wider hospital system.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    If we're going there, I understand Einstein and Oppenheimer were both top blokes and were in no way pawns of government or commercial interests.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Ben, I'd be interested on your take on the WoW 'corrupted blood' virus.

    A self-replicating virus that managed to escape the lab and spread in a way that it's creators never intended it to...

    Heh, it was a fascinating event. It's a pity I missed it. Shows a lot about people that griefing became an instant hit, the idea of spreading the virus as fast as they could just to annoy and frustrate other people, and how the natural reaction to that is to abandon population centers. It's also interesting that most of the people who were playing at the time thought it was a pretty damned cool thing that it happened. The most popular bug of all time.

    In terms of what it says about GE/GM? Well, considering it was designed to be a self replicating virus that caused characters damage by the Blizzard programmers, that would put it in the biological weaponry category, something that I think should definitely not be allowed in reality. Real people obviously have to put up with a little bit more than a 5 minute run from the graveyard if they die.

    But, OTOH, viral outbreaks happen in nature all the time. I spent all of last week dealing with one, as it happens, up to my elbows in vomit and shit. If GE/GM had any solutions, I'd be bloody glad to hear them. If developing antiviral techniques can be sped up hugely by GE, it would save millions upon millions of humans and animals from unnecessary suffering and death. The chances of them somehow accidentally developing a virus are possibly there, I guess, but there's no particular reason to think it would be any more serious than what I had spewed into my face by my 9 month old last Friday, courtesy of Mother Nature.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Well I've never Godwined a thread before, but hell why not:

    Because that was silly. No doubt Bart and other scientists won't be offended at all at the comparison.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Well I've never Godwined a thread before, but hell why not:

    It's probably a Godwin corollary that if you write enough on internet forums, the chances of eventually Godwining a thread approach 100%.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    . . . I understand Einstein and Oppenheimer were both top blokes and were in no way pawns of government or commercial interests.

    While Edward Teller, by most accounts, was a right prick. And Marie Curie, to add a little gender balance, was a living saint. While I don't believe that it's in anyone's interests for scientists to labour under a pettifogging bureaucracy, the kind of special pleading that they're a sainted caste by virtue of their calling is nonsense. As Bart says, they're not inherently corrupt, just human, with the same inherent virtues and fallibilities as the rest of us.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    practical genetics pictured (h/t Patrick Pilcher)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    No doubt Bart and other scientists won't be offended at all at the comparison.

    Well the intent was clearly to offend so it isn't unreasonable to be offended. But that is after all the nature of the internet and I'll live.

    I do however, try to take people's comments as seriously intended and try and respond with as good as answer as I can but I think Joe just defined a line for me. If you want to engage me in discussion then comparing me with a war criminal is not going to do the trick.

    the WoW 'corrupted blood' virus

    They also went a little overboard some of their other world events. The problem they face is they have an active community of folks really trying hard to figure out ways to cause havoc/fun. Seriously how could they expect someone would figure out how to kite a world boss into the major cities.

    As far as it's relevance to modern biology ... hard to really judge. Computer viruses can undergo more generations than any life form on the planet has had. There really aren't thousands of 13 year boys with the ability to engineer plants and you know I'm probably happy with that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Oh FFS Bart, nobody's comparing you to a war criminal just because you happen to be a scientist. Nor was I deliberately setting out to offend you. While I'm happy to admit that my example was somewhat extreme, I still believe that it's a perfectly valid illustration of what can and does happen when 'pure' research is conducted without ethical oversight.

    Anyway, what the hell, they were only cows. No big deal. How very PC of me.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    I hadn't even started playing WoW at the time of the Corrupted Blood incident, but there was some interesting psychological analysis on the whole affair. In particular, the incident exposed a number of digital Typhoid Marys.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Seriously how could they expect someone would figure out how to kite a world boss into the major cities.

    Yup, another legendary event.

    The standard computer viruses are probably better examples of the dangers of viral technology. They're also mostly solved as an issue, to anyone that bothers to take any care at all.

    Spam, OTOH...perfect example of how any low tech twit who's prepared to keep throwing endless ways of rewriting pocket puss can get around the best efforts of an entire industry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

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