Category Archives: Ecosystems

GMCs—Part 2—Are They “Frankenfoods”?


The benefits are numerous but even so, there is considerable opposition to Genetically Modified Crops (GMC).  Is this opposition science based or is based upon intuition/emotion?  My previous posting “Genetically Modified Crops–Part 1—Are They Beneficial?  enumerates the substantial economic and environmental benefits and the scientific studies that have concluded that GMCs are as safe as unmodified crops.

Corn grows near a barn . MADATORY CREDIT Ken Kashian

Corn grows near a barn . MADATORY CREDIT Ken Kashian

The Scientific American posting by Stefaan Blancke titled “Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe” gives us some answers .    

The author says:

Psychological essentialism, for instance, makes us think of DNA as an organism’s “essence” – an unobservable and immutable core that causes the organism’s behaviour and development and determines its identity. As such, when a gene is transferred between two distantly related species, people are likely to believe that this process will cause characteristics typical of the source organism to emerge in the recipient. For example, in an opinion survey in the United States, more than half of respondents said that a tomato modified with fish DNA would taste like fish (of course, it would not).

Essentialism clearly plays a role in public attitudes towards GMOs. People are typically more opposed to GM applications that involve the transfer of DNA between two different species (“transgenic”) than within the same species (“cisgenic”). Anti-GMO organizations, such as NGOs, exploit these intuitions by publishing images of tomatoes with fish tails or by telling the public that companies modify corn with scorpion DNA to make crispier cereals.”

The author says that intuitions about purposes and intentions also have an impact on people’s thinking about GMO.  

“In the context of opposition to GMOs, genetic modification is deemed “unnatural” and biotechnologists are accused of “playing God”. The popular term “Frankenfood” captures what is at stake: by going against the will of nature in an act of hubris, we are bound to bring enormous disaster upon ourselves.”

“GMOs probably trigger disgust because people view genetic modification as a contamination. The effect is enforced when the introduced DNA comes from a species that is generally deemed disgusting, such as rats or cockroaches. However, DNA is DNA, whatever its source. The impact of disgust explains why people feel more averse towards GM food than other GM applications, such as GM medicine. Once disgust is elicited, the argument that GMOs cause cancer or sterility, or that they will contaminate the environment, becomes very convincing and is often used. Disgust also affects moral judgments, leading people to condemn everyone who is involved with the development and commercialization of GM products. Because people have no conscious access to the emotional source of their judgments, they consequently look for arguments to rationalize them.”


The author concludes his thoughts on intuitions and emotions with this:

“The impact of intuitions and emotions on people’s understanding of, and attitudes towards, GMOs has important implications for science education and communication. Because the mind is prone to distorting or rejecting scientific information in favour of more intuitive beliefs, simply transmitting the facts will not necessarily persuade people of the safety, or benefits, of GMOs, especially if people have been subjected to emotive, anti-GMO propaganda”.

In researching this topic, I find that the anti-GMC folks have an issue with Glyphosate.  Glyphosate is a herbicide.  Many of us have used Monsanto’s ROUNDUP to control weeds in our lawns and gardens.  Its big application is in controlling weeds in crop farming.  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup.  Roundup is a very popular herbicide and is used on crops of all kinds to kill weeds.  It must be applied on the foliage and is not useable as a pre-emergence herbicide.  This limited the use of glyphosate until companies developed  genetically engineered crops that were tolerant to glyphosate.  It can now be sprayed on the crop plant and the chemical acts as a pre-emergence herbicide as well.  Major food safety bodies have concluded that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.



Genetically Modified Crops–Part 1—Are They Beneficial?

Genetically modified crops (GMC also known as GMO) are plants that have their DNA modified by the addition of other sourced DNA. This is done to impart additional characteristics to the plant so as to reduce their vulnurability to attacks by certain viruses, insects, and molds, for example. This ability has made GMCs in demand world-wide .

According to Wikipedia:

Between 1996 and 2015, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops increased by a factor of 100, from 17,000 km2 (4.2 million acres) to 1,797,000 km2 (444 million acres).[2] 10% of the world’s arable land was planted with GM crops in 2010.[3] In the US, by 2014, 94% of the planted area of soybeans, 96% of cotton and 93% of corn were genetically modified varieties.[4] Use of GM crops expanded rapidly in developing countries, with about 18 million farmers growing 54% of worldwide GM crops by 2013.[1] A 2014 meta-analysis concluded that GM technology adoption had reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%.[5] This reduction in pesticide use has been ecologically beneficial, but benefits may be reduced by overuse.[6] Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries


Is the use of GMCs safe? From  Wikipedias we learn that:

There is a scientific consensus[7][8][9][10] that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food,[11][12][13][14][15] but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction.


Lets go back for some history related to hybrid crops. Past, modifications to crops:

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The “Kinda” New Warmer Narrative–Ocean Acidification

Because global temperatures were not responding to increasing atmospheric CO2, the warmers began looking for new narratives to use to frighten the public into giving them more money. The oceans were thought to be a good target. To explain why global temperatures were only inching up, they jumped on the sea shellsimagestheory that the heat was being trapped in the ocean. Just like that, the “heat” decided to go into the ocean and not warm the atmosphere. The logic of that proposition was viewed as somewhat problematic, to say the least.

Another narrative was to say that the ocean was being made acidic and that would have a devastating effect on sea life. This narrative, acidification of the ocean, had been around for a number of years. But it needed some spicing up. Former head of NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, referred to ocean “acidification” as global warming’s “equally evil twin.”


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NIPCC Reference: Biological Impacts

A number of you have written telling me that you liked the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change—Science. So I will add the NIPCC’s second reference book: Biological Impacts. Click here to link.


“Recycling In Recent Years Has Become A Money-Sucking Enterprise.”

The Washington Post (WP) posted “American recycling is stalling, and the big dcrecycling61434652573blue bin is one reason why.” The posting was made June 20 and has been sitting in my “things to write about” box for a while. Yesterday’s report on Fox News about Seattle fining residents that put food, recyclable or yard waste in their garbage reminded me of that article.

So what is the reason for the recycling stalling? According to the article, recycling is no longer profitable.   The District of Columbia (DC) Council made a $1.2milion payment to Waste Management last year apparently to keep them recycling DC wastes. In 2011 DC made a profit of $389,000, but the situation has changed.

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Study Shows Global Tree Count 7.6X Larger Than Previously Thought.

Nature .com posted a study titled “Mapping tree density at a global scale”. This appalachiansimagesstudy dramatically changes our understanding of the number of trees on the globe. The study’s count is 3.04 trillion trees (3.04X10^12), which replaces the previous estimate of global trees of 400billion (400X10^9). As a point of reference, the study also expresses the change as trees per humans. Considering the currently estimated total global population of 7.2 billion (7.2X10^9), the study now shows the old count of 61 trees per person has grown to 422 trees per person.

New Count Old Count


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Pursuit Of The Dream Of “Carbon-free Energy” Is Creating An Ecological Catastrophe

Christopher Booker writes for the UK’s Sunday Telegraph.  On 4 July 2015, he posted “Why are greens so keen to destroy the world’s wildlife?” From this posting he said:

”All in all, wherever we look, this pursuit of the dream of “carbon-free energy” is creating an ecological catastrophe. Like so many of the great crimes of history, this one is being perpetrated by people who imagine they are doing something praiseworthy. In this case, possessed by their delusion that they are battling for nature and the future of the planet, they are in fact doing as much as anyone to destroy the very things they kid themselves they are trying to save.”

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