Frankencows: A Complete Misunderstanding Of Science

from the way-to-go-media dept

Anyone who makes a habit of taking a cursory look at news sites is probably aware both of the Genetically Engineered Food Right To Know Act currently in front of Congress, and of a vocal animosity towards genetically modified agriculture. We’ve discussed GMOs here a few times as well and, yes, I’m perfectly aware that Monsanto is quite likely run by a corporate board that includes Satan, Hitler, and Timothy McVeigh. But that doesn’t mean that all genetic techniques for food are bad and it certainly doesn’t excuse hysteria-producing misinformation campaigns perpetrated in part by media members.

Yet that’s exactly what has been occuring in the case of the hornless dairy cows.

“Scientists are designing a health and safety cow, genetically altered to have no horns,” claimed the Sunday Times. “Hornless ‘Frankencow’: Genetic engineers aim to create super-bovine,” shouted Russia Today. Geneticists, various reports claimed, are “extracting” a strip of DNA from the genome of one cattle and “implanting” DNA it into another. A stream of stories read like pages from the anti-GMO playbook. The reports were liberally sprinkled with code words about designer animals, transgenics and Frankencows. No wonder people are in a tizzy.

The problem, of course, is that none of those claims are true. They’re a complete misunderstanding of the specific science involved in creating, or I would better say encouraging, production of hornless dairy cows. Livestock that are hornless, commonly referred to as polled livestock, occur naturally. More to the point, breeding techniques (read: the original genetic engineering) to produce more polled animals have been around for at least half a century, and likely longer. Scott Fahrenkrug of the University of Minnesota teamed up with other geneticists to form Recombinetics, a company that uses so-called molecular scissors simply to shift natural DNA around within animal genes. In other words, all of the attacks by anti-GMO folks were baseless.

Fahrenkrug’s technique does not involve transgenics, which results from moving genes from one species to another. While utterly safe, the very mention of genetic manipulation enrages anti-GMO activists. In this case, Recomibinetics is mirroring nature—taking snippets of DNA that first appeared through natural, spontaneous mutations in livestock hundreds of years ago to create hornless cows. The snippets are copied—not inserted as various reports had it. They are not moved. No “foreign” DNA is inserted. We’ve been eating these cows and drinking their milk for centuries—so we are sure there are no adverse health consequences.

The entire process could be done through selective breeding. The problem with that is that it would take far more time and would require both the beef and dairy industry to take huge production hits in the meantime as the animals were used. This method doesn’t offend Mother Nature beyond making her look less efficient. It produces animals that are genetically the same as what we’re already consuming. As the article notes, people should be cheering this technique on, as it results in less animal cruelty and a higher production of milk. Hell, PETA is reportedly on board with this, and they get pissed off over Pokemon games.

The point is that whatever your thoughts on the more invasive GMO techniques, you can’t let that mute a demand for factual information. And when we talk about legislation, there needs to be pushback on broadly-worded clauses that function as a catch-all for food technology.

[Fahrenkrug] pointed to a central clause in the “Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act,” introduced in Congress last week. The wording was clearly guided by activists rather than scientists, he told me. For example, the bill now uses a sweeping and very unscientific definition of “genetic engineering” to include “in vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant DNA and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles.” That’s stunning in its breadth, and would result in mandatory labeling of natural processes, such as those introduced by Fahrenkrug. In effect the poorly written legislation attempts to re-classify some simple techniques used in classical breeding as GMOs—and could in the process endanger the technologically enhanced classic breeding techniques that are poised to revolutionize animal welfare. However intended, that’s just one of many passages in this shabbily written bill that will retard the biotechnology revolution.

Anti-science legislation as a reaction to unsubstantiated fear? This is becoming far too par for the course for my tastes.

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Comments on “Frankencows: A Complete Misunderstanding Of Science”

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Ninja (profile) says:

That’s the problem with those eco-morons. They are so radical, so fundamentalist that they lose credit for the good things they do. Greenpeace is largely criticized by the population nowadays despite some very good campaigns they engage in because of the excesses.

These crackheads need to revert back to reality and stop fighting anything and everything. You know, distinguish giants from windmills.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I would be one of those “eco-morons” and I’m concerned about what I eat. I want to know what’s in my food and how it came to be, scientific facts or not. I would want to know the methods in gene splicing and how they’ve changed the genetics, whether they’ve put in rats or made some cuts in fatty muscle for lean muscle.

Disclosure, at the very least is preferable.

How about let’s not attack the strawman of Greenpeace where we equate them to hippies instead of looking at how their arguments holds up to scrutiny, hmmm?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Disclosure, at the very least is preferable.

I agree with that where there’s been genetic modification but this is just using natural selection in your favor. We already eat such meat naturally. So I don’t see the need in this case. Why would you label something warning that a natural feature that was intensified with a little help (ie: inseminating the right egg with the right spermatozoon to produce the desired genetic combination)

How about let’s not attack the strawman of Greenpeace where we equate them to hippies instead of looking at how their arguments holds up to scrutiny, hmmm?

That’s why I said they have very good stuff there. As PETA has despite their misguided shots at Pokemon for instance. However, some nutty campaigns or actions end up ruining the efficacy of other good ones. You see I love Pirate Parties in general for instance. But I also criticize some moves or ideas that demerit the whole thing sometimes. I’m not attacking Greenpeace out of something I built in my mind nor I’m saying they shouldn’t exist. On the contrary they are much welcome but we need reasonable actions and goals.

ECA (profile) says:


Lets see..
In the last 20 years..
Dairies have moved out of S. California..They stink.
Dairies have reduced the number of cattle..And STILL produce more then enough.(over 20%)
Dairies have to much milk and cant sell it..Enough to make MORE MONEY..
Dairies use Drug/chemicals/hormones, (what ever) to force cattle to make EXTRA milk..(seems backwards, as they have TO MUCH)
Average life of a Dairy cow, is 5-7 years..THEN it ends up on your plate..Funny for a creature that can live for 40+ years.
After being a dairy cow, you are Burned out..cant have babies anymore and you cant produce enough milk for market, as well as WHAT THOSE chemicals/drugs/whatever does to the cow.

Those old enough to REMEMBER milk..has it changed flavor? is it abit THINNER?

Dont ask, dont not always a good idea.

Ninja (profile) says:


Hahahaha I see what you did there! A friend of mine told me recently to go for eggs from chicken created freely (as opposed to confined) and it even looks different (somewhat pulling towards the red) and the taste is different. I”m not about to stop eating the regular eggs because of this. But it’s worth a shot every once in a while. I do think they use too much hormones and other growth inducing stuff but I also acknowledge that it’s a challenge to produce such things large scale. We need to find a balance.

Anonymous Coward says:


If you really think the color of the eggs is related to the chicken being “freely” raised you need to look into it more.

Also you need to understand exactly what a “free range” chicken is and what qualifies as “free range”.

Reading these comments has been downright painful.

Ninja (profile) says:


No, obviously just because it’s free it won’t change a thing. It’s probably a mix of what the animal will feed on, maybe the usage of less hormones (or no hormone at all), the fact they’ll ‘exercise’ more… I think you people should stop reading literally only and start accepting that there are associated stuff. I thought it was implicit that a chicken that is not raised in confinement will have different nutrition and other characteristics. And when I mean free chicken it’s free chicken. We call those “provincial” chicken (in a very free translation from portuguese). They are not kept indoors at all.

Better? Can we stop with the animosity?

Anonymous Coward says:


It’s not.

There is no qualification on labelling a chicken as free range or organic.

All they have to do is keep them in the exact same space, exact same area, but without cages, the chicken may be in squalor and unable to move around much, but it can still be called a “free range chicken”.

So no, the animosity will persist. I dislike when people read a label and think they’re doing something better despite not actually knowing how it works.

Ninja (profile) says:


All they have to do is keep them in the exact same space, exact same area, but without cages, the chicken may be in squalor and unable to move around much, but it can still be called a “free range chicken”.

Maybe in your country and then I cannot argue with you. I’ve been to farms where they are created freely in the full sense of the word.

I dislike when people read a label and think they’re doing something better despite not actually knowing how it works.

I’ll not dispute the label part but I’ll leave to you, the master specialist, to explain the difference in color and taste. As for the rest of your sentence, you are doing exactly that. So chill.

Anonymous Coward says:


Whether the chicken is free range does not determine the color of the egg.

Egg color and taste can be determined by things like, say, region, diet and plain old genetics.

Also yes, some farms do it properly, but it’s not required for them to do so, so ASSUMING that it’s being done that way because the label says so is incorrect.

You can be belligerent about it if you like, but that’s how it works.

Ninja (profile) says:


Now that’s a better answer. And I agree with it. There are trouts that have rosy meat like salmon due to the diet they are subjected by the companies they are created in captivity so you do have a point. I also don’t believe that merely creating them free is the reason because while I did taste the meat of those created in that manner I’ve never seen the eggs themselves. The meat tastes different.

I’m not assuming they were created free just because the label says so. I am assuming they are created in a different manner and I know from first hand experience that those freely created chicken are more expensive so I did make the link. Again, why the animosity?

Anonymous Coward says:


Mainly reading all the comments in this thread and people making wholesale assumptions regarding genetically modified foods.

General dislike of people who claim “all organic” is the way to go as most people who make those claims don’t understand the wider implications of why we grow food the way we do.

And general dislike of people who claim things are healthier cause they look at a label and it says something that sounds kinda good. So they assume that’s what they’re getting when they really aren’t, and then they SAY it like it’s fact.

So the animosity was not directed at YOU per se, but at the thread in general and people who don’t understand agriculture or livestock at all or breeding techniques at all.

People saying we can’t use science to advance our capability to produce food is like saying we should wash ourselves in rivers because metal pipes pollute the water.

It’s asking progress to halt because science is bad and “long term effects!”, which to me is equivilent to “think of the children!”

ECA (profile) says:


Think about something..ok.
It used to be that Many towns had their OWN slaughter houses..and meats an such were VERY LOCAL..If you had good Beef in the area, you had good beef on the table.
NOW, your animals are TRUCKED 3 states over..Then slaughtered, then SENT someplace else. And sometimes BACK to your area.

Chickens are the same. But you wont find that many Egg farms.. They have been consolidated.. from being outlawed in some areas, to JUST cant afford it, to Regulated to DEATH.

When animals have enough ROOM, and do what they DO.. Even if you use them for milking. They are healthier, they need LESS CARE, SHOTS, DRUGS, CHEMICALS..

It used to be, eating FISH wasnt a problem. I suggest you look at suggestions about them NOW. Lead, mercury, and other poisons have built up in the environment tot he point, you can Poison yourself, just by eating. It dont matter if it was Aquaculture raised or NOT..

If you like strange facts, I will let you count the number of animals species displaced and no longer in Good supply, Around the world. Consider that Humans have decimated the animal population by over 60% in the last 400 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Regardless of whether the animal has horns or not, the consumer has a right to know what it is they are eating. Seems that in the misguided pursuit of profit at any cost, many corporations fight the effort to provide proper disclosure of ingredients. That’s simply business we are told, but then making matters worse, they sue competitors who have the gall to make claims such as no hormones, free range, etc. Do these other businesses not have a right to market in a manner they see as advantageous? Apparently non disclosure is advantageous, or so they think.

In a related topic, the dangers of a mono culture should not be waved aside lightly with flippant comments about the hippies who oppose GMO. There are real concerns, voiced by those who would know. But I’m sure it is much easier to regurgitate biased opinion heard on faux news.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Show me the multi-generational human test data (all data, not just that which makes you look good) that each and every modification is absolutely safe and will create no unintentional outcomes. Then I will have some interest in consuming GMO food’s.

Oh, and make sure that any patents do not create the situation where each and every morsel of food I eat creates a payment to someone who is not part of the actual production chain.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You would be correct for breeding methods, but not for gene splicing or other methods. I want the data on those methods, not the natural selection or crossbreeding. These methods haven’t been around for multi-generations, therefore the data cannot exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Excuse, it amounts to the same thing, getting the best aspects we can into one crop, through a slightly different method.

It’s not like were inserting rat DNA into crops or into cows because GENETICS. As for animals, we don’t gene splice for food stuff, the concern is for the things we use to get the animals to grow up faster afterwords, not for trying to promote cows who have the genes we want to become predominant at a faster rate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not here to spoon feed you. If you are interested, which I doubt, then (hopefully) you are capable of doing your own research. There is plenty of evidence, studies and extrapolations, from different sources for your review and many of their conclusions are in agreement – have at it. I suggest you start with why a mono culture is bad and pay close attention to prior historical evidence of the devastating results.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Mono culture isn’t how genetically modified crops work.

And there’s hundreds of years at least of “evidence” that shows genetically modified crops aren’t killing off the human race.

The conclusions are not in agreement, at all. And alot of the evidence is faulty in alot of the studies.

And and and, I could go on for a long time, but don’t pretend that it’s a cut and dry issue.

DS says:

Re: Re:

Yes, because “faux news” is the ONLY source of misinformation and slanted journalism.

You do realize that when you say things like this (“But I’m sure it is much easier to regurgitate biased opinion heard on faux news.”) you sound just as dumb as the people that you consider dumb.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Faux News has become a common phrase used in reference to any source of massively biased publication, similar to Mcjob meaning any low-paying, unskilled, crap job.

It was not intended to imply dumb, perhaps you took it wrong.
In the future I will try to be more pleasant toward your Fox and Friends – not.

out_of_the_blue says:

So Timmy, what point would you stop corporations at?

Bearing in mind that you don’t have any actual knowledge of the process nor its dangers, are only accepting the assurance of amoral corporate suits and and the mad scientists that they own.

It’s absolutely certain that they’ll go too far, and we won’t know that in advance. The mono-culture in grains that Monsanto wants, for instance, leaves the entire world vulnerable to the probably inevitable natural genetic variation of some plant disease that’s perfectly tuned to it, just as disease blighted Irish potates mid-19th C.

But besides that, the MAIN increase of farm production has been from petroleum and machinery, NOT genetics. There’s NO real advance, it’s just corporatizing farming. We’ve let corporations tinker enough with complex interactions that can’t be predicted, besides that their only real purpose is CONTROL of the food supply.

Greevar (profile) says:

Insert subject here.

There’s a lot to be upset about with GMO’s. Although, I don’t think this is one of them. It sounds like artificial selection finding ways to express different parts of existing code.

I do not condone GMO’s of other kinds (e.g. genetic transfer). Most of GMO technologies isn’t for the benefit of the people that eat the food, it’s modified to be more profitable (insert genes and the crops start sprouting cash lol). They’re modifying organisms to produce more monoculture which would diminish resilience to catastrophic events. One super crop, hit with calamity they didn’t plan for and whole crops are lost. We lose entire food supplies. But they don’t care as long as it drives up profit.

JWW (profile) says:

The Anti-GMO crowd

It is my firm belief that the Anti-GMO crowd will not truly believe that their work is done until they have hampered the agricultural industry so much that famine once again becomes a MAJOR problem for the world.

Advances in crop yields through science helped avoid cataclysmic problems in the 60s-70s. The anti-GMO crowd wants to stop those kind of advances cold and relegate the globe to famine again.

JWW (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Anti-GMO crowd

What could possibly go wrong.

What could go wrong is that high yield crops will be actively discouraged banned, and those lower yields will cause starvation.

Or crops designed to have better nutrition will be actively shunned and lead to mal-nutiriton.

See: golden rice. The anti-GMO crowd is already harming people in the 3rd world with that one.

Anonymous Coward says:

I was raised on a farm where we would use some of the crop to supply seed for the next year. I admit it was a very small farm and we did not actually sell very much of the food we produced, much more of a self sufficient thing. I read now where Monsanto sues farmers who do this forcing them to “fall in line” and buy their seed instead. If even some of your crop (seed flies off a truck on the way to market and lands in your fields) this is enough to be sued for “stealing” their precious altered plants. Its ridiculous. As for milk these days? Our neighbors has a small dairy farm when I was a kid. I not only remember milk tasting better and being richer, I remember when you had to shake the bottle before you poured it so as to mix the cream back in. While some changes seem to be for the better, most just make our food tasteless and less nutritious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Apparently human-initiated “selective breeding” as has been done for several thousand years and established as a scientific discipline since at least as early as the 1800’s by Gregor Mendel is not viewed with any degree of skepticism by those opposed to human-initiated “genetic modification”. Then, of course, we have nature-initiated “selective breeding”, a random variant of that which is human-initiated.

All three, nature-initiated (random), and human-initiated “old school” techniques are fine, but take it to the next level and Satan et. al enter the picture.

I am a bit surprised the GMO critics are not also calling for labeling of anything that has undergone genetic modification of any type. If he was alive, I would not at all be surprised to find George Washington Carver on their hit-list.

giafly says:

The way this science is described is a lie

Re: “Scott Fahrenkrug of the University of Minnesota teamed up with other geneticists to form Recombinetics, a company that uses so-called molecular scissors simply to shift natural DNA around within animal genes. In other words, all of the attacks by anti-GMO folks were baseless.”

Totally wrong – this description is a lie. Many genes have multiple functions, and genes may overlap, so there’s no such thing as using “molecular scissors” to snip out just one gene and move it around. There are always possible undesirable side-effects.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:


When they get through changing the entire food chain, they will start on us. When we all have the same DNA (for our own good) how will they catch criminals? There might be a tendency to make all markers (fingerprints, Iris patterns, etc.) the same if we all have the same DNA.

As a different thought, to those who might actually know, how much impact does ones consumption have on DNA? In other words, hypothetically of course) take a pair of identical twins with identical DNA, feed one naturally, without GMO’s and the other with only things that have modifications. Would their DNA diverge over time with these two differing inputs? (I guess we would have to say that all other conditions were similar).

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: DNA

Well, I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but let’s take the case of High Fructose Corn Syrup. While this may not go directly to the point of GMO, it does directly point to increase of consumption leads to increase in diabetes. So call me paranoid if you will, but I care about what I put inside of me and what the outcome might be, and I trust Mother Nature more than some profit oriented company.

You are what you eat!

Another example, corn fed beef. Great marketing. They fail to point out that cows were never designed (by you know who or anyone else) to eat corn. They have to add chemicals to get them to digest it. Yet, the American public thinks ‘corn fed beef’ is a good thing. What else are they lying about, even if it is lye by omission?

See The Omnivore’s Dilemma for more information. Trust someone to tell us their gene tampering is OK without multi-generational tests? Take a hike.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: DNA

That’s not how it works for cattle.

Corn is a portion of diet to help fatten them up yes.

No chemicals are required for them to eat the corn, and a 100% corn fed cow isn’t going to happen, it’s usually mixed in with other feed to give them proper nutrition.

If you feed a cow too much corn it gets a condition called acidosis, which can be recovered from, much like an upset stomach.

The lesson in this is, don’t eat an entire container of candy or you too might feel like a cow that ate too much corn.

Mumfi. says:


Even if everyone HAD the same DNA they would not have the same fingerprints, iris patterns, etc.
That?s not how it works! Those patterns are the result of randomness during the construction process.

And your DNA will not change regardless of what you eat. Except if you get cancer, of course. Your genetic expression may change. How that DNA is interpreted. And possibly you may have epigenetic changes. Although other environmental factors change that as well.

Regardless. Any diet ?natural? or otherwise will affect depending on the specific composition. If we have identical diets one GMO and one not then any effects due to GMOs will be dependent on the specific changes introduced.

If for example the GMO is developed to be resistant to insects and viruses, the net result will be that you get less toxins from damaged infected plants.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: DNA

If for example the GMO is developed to be resistant to insects and viruses, the net result will be that you get less toxins from damaged infected plants.

Some of the GMO plants were developed to be resistant to herbicides, so the farmers could use the herbicides around them. But now weeds are developing a resistance to the herbicide so the farmers and agri-business are back to square one.

Similarly, GMO plants that have been engineered to include their own pesticide are resulting in pests who are resistant to that pesticide.

And there are now genes that are becoming antibiotic-resistant because of GMO use.

Here’s one such article about what is happening.

Trouble on the horizon for genetically modified crops?: “Pests are adapting to genetically modified crops in unexpected ways, researchers have discovered. The findings underscore the importance of closely monitoring and countering pest resistance to biotech crops.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Most people, including many in the comments here, complain about genetically modified food because they don’t understand a god damn thing about feeding the world population.

People use hysteria, attacks with no evidence, false analogies of future events and other reasons to justify hating it. Of course these are usually the people who HAVE the capability to complain about these things cause their food is abundant.

Most “genetically modified” food is pretty much crossbreeding different crops, they aren’t going into the DNA structure of the plant and poking at cells and inserting random things to make them better. Now the real risks come from what we give them AFTER they’re born, growth hormones and other junk in order to get them big faster, but that’s different from this, and that has side effects, bit essentially breeding cows or crops in a certain fashion? No, not really.

It sickens me.

AB says:

So why are so many people here against transparency in labeling? At the very least, shouldn’t the relevant patent numbers be included on the package?

I quite agree that people can get stupid about technology, but regardless of what the groups trying to get this bill passed _think_ they are doing, they are really just promoting better ingredient labeling. Anyone who panics over this has only themselves to blame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“this has been genetically modified.”

If you want specifics, what are you gonna do, post a novel o nthe back of every food item in existance?

And of course if EVERYTHING says “genetically modified.” then it’s the same as NOTHING saying it. Just look back at the article about warning signs.

Everything has been modified, but hey if you want to return to 80% agricultural society in order to grow those natural crops we need to survive in order to avoid genetically modified foods, feel free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Huh?? Why would labeling food ingredients mean changing our eating habits?? This may come as a shock to you but here in Canada our food already comes with full labels, yet people still eat! Amazing, isn’t it? The reality is this is no different then so called organic produce wherein labeling simply allows each individual to choose for him/herself. I remember people making the same predictions that such labeling would cause the entire industry to collapse. Guess what? It didn’t. Neither did labeling tuna as ‘dolphin safe’ cause people to stop eating tuna without the label.

And your comment about writing a novel is even more stupid. Lets examine the ingredients on this box of children’s tylenol I happen to have next to me: (non-medicinal) citric acid, copovidone, corn starch(GMO), croscopovidone, ethylcllulose(GMO?), flavour, lactose, magnesium stearate, mannitol(GMO), silicone dioxide, tsorbitol(GMO), sucralose(GMO). The only thing I changed was to add (GMO) to ALL plant matter listed above based on your assumption that ALL of it HAD to come from modified produce (ethylcllulose is debatable since it is more plastic then organic). If you think that’s a novel then perhaps you should sue your grade school teachers. And adding patent numbers is also not a hardship – my phone lists more then 20 of them.

And where did you get the idiotic idea that “EVERYTHING” is genetically modified? While it is certainly true that a great number of products – especially things such as wheat, corn, and beef – are USUALLY from modified sources, claiming that “EVERYTHING” is modified is just stupid.

Now I will admit it might make more sense to reverse the process and simply allow companies to specifically label products that DO NOT contain GMOs, and allow people to assume what they want about the remainder, but that’s another matter. At this point we are discussing whether such labels are a good, bad, or indifferent idea. Personally, I support anything that educates people, and oppose anything that hides information.

I also think that once people start realizing just how much of what they consume comes from GMs they may stop reacting so stupidly. I really hate it when I get flooded by people getting all excited because they just discovered a farmer somewhere has bred his cows to be bigger. I want to smack them and scream “They’ve been doing that for thousands of years you uneducated dolt!” 🙂

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If you don’t understand why they’re upset, maybe you should find out? Ignorance is not a license to tell others they are wrong. Know the fact before you shoot off your mouth. It sickens me when people that can’t be bothered to research what the other side’s point of view is just dismisses arguments out of hand. You’re not a geneticist, so don’t act like you know more than the people you’re bitching about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Labels contain ingredients specific to the product.

Claiming something is or isn’t genetically modified is much different.

I won’t even get into the misleading aspect of labelling things as “organic.”.

I never said the industry would collapse, my statement was what would labelling something as containing geneticaly modified products DO for the consumer? EVERYTHING uses genetically modified products, maybe not all products used gene splicing, but everything we eat now is not at all how it was in the wilds a hundred, two hundred, or even more years ago.

Sticking GMO next to something doesn’t inform the consumer of anything, what was modified, how much, etc, you’re just leading to a situation where people will make not only uninformed decisions, but irrational ones too.

Yeah, people know what sucralose is, or can look it up themselves if they don’t, will telling people it’s genetically modified do anything? I think only writing “has genetically modified products” in it is enough, but I question the impact it will have. Like labelling cigarettes as cancer causing and putting disgusting images on it, the collective agreement towards that approach has been a gigantic “meh”.

I also find people on the “organic” or “free range” bandwagons annoying, just as much as people who bash foodstuffs for various reasons because they just don’t understand anything about where it comes from or how it works or how it’s necessary.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You’d be surprised to know that the people that are upset are so because they know where the food comes from and the way it used to be done.

Cows used to eat grass for feed. Now they eat corn, GMO corn. Do you know what that does? Their manure ends up with high concentrations of e. coli and with crowded feedlot conditions, the meat is often tainted. What do they do? Anti-biotics, hormones, washing the meat in ammonia and chloride to prevent infection when all they had to do is give the cows more space and feed them grass. It’s the grass that allows their digestive system to keep e. coli down in the first place.

They use viruses to inject genetic code into plant cells. I’m sure that’s not asking for trouble. What if they mutate? What if the genes have unforeseen consequences further down the food chain? What if the gene mods cause a crop to make a pest super resistant to any sort of pesticides and they devastate entire yields of crops? Hurray for monoculture! We put all our eggs in one basket and now that crop has an unbeatable pest that wipes out our food supply overnight.

There has already been studies that show hormone usage in live stock has an effect on the people that eat them, just like BPA and phthalates act like estrogen on the body when you keep your foods in BPA containers. Yeah, the GMO opponents don’t have any reason to be upset. Consuming hormone and anti-biotic meat does affect your body.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Anti-biotics, hormones, washing the meat in ammonia and chloride to prevent infection when all they had to do is give the cows more space and feed them grass. It’s the grass that allows their digestive system to keep e. coli down in the first place.

The industrialization of agriculture has created its own set of problems, most evident in the rise of antibiotic-resistant illnesses linking to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture.

There are real reasons why a significant number of people are wary of the “solutions” agri-business provides.

artp (profile) says:

It's difficult to discuss this rationally - for everyone

I would suggest that there are some factual errors in the claims presented. It pays not to believe everything you read.

The biggest problem is that horned cattle are not as big an issue as the GMO companies would want us to believe. The other problem is that there is a dichotomy in their facts. Sometimes they want us to believe that GMO tech is no different than what has been happening for millenia, other times they want it to be different enough that they can patent it. You can’t have it both ways.

Let’s look at the state of cattle in the US first. How many horned breed are used in major production? There are polled breeds and there are horned breeds. But it is hard to determine how many horned cattle there are because the polled gene is dominant.

If I went out in my pasture and counted how many of my renter’s cattle had horns, I might find half a dozen, including those shorthorn cows with one short, flattened horn against the skull. Cattlemen have selected against horns for a long time. Cattlemen have also bred for temperament, too, which is a more important characteristic for safety. But unless you are a cattleman, you don’t know which physical characteristics to look at to determine temperament.

Here’s a list of cattle and which are horned and polled, based on pictures and my observations of who actually keeps breeding stock with horns. Source for breeds and pictures is here:

The major breeds

Angus – polled
Hereford – horned
Simmental – polled
Charolais – polled
Chianina – polled
Shorthorn – horned, but many polled
Polled hereford – polled
Limousin – polled

Holstein – polled
Jersey – polled
Brown Swiss – polled
Guernsey – polled
Ayrshire – horned

Less numerous breeds

Beefalo – polled
Belgian Blue – polled
Belted Galloway – polled
Brahman – horned – like pitbulls, used mainly in rodeos
Devon – horned
Dexter – horned
Dutch Belted – horned
Gutch Freisian – polled
Galloway – polled
Gelbvieh – polled
Milking Devon – horned
Milking Shorthorn – polled
Piedmontese – polled
Red Angus – polled
South Devon – polled

So how dangerous are horns? Have any of you had a friend killed by a cow or bull? I have. It wasn’t a horned cow, either. Cattle are dangerous with or without horns. Breeding out horns really avoids more property damage, more damage to other cattle, and getting horns caught in chutes and trucks racks. I’ve never been stepped on by a cow, although a sow stepped on my sneakered foot, and I’m not volunteering for the cow.

Bottom line is that traditional breeding techniques seem to have been working very well, and have already substantially solved the problem that the GMO companies want to re-solve. It’s not like every cow has a rack like an Ankole-Watusi or a Madagascar Zebu.

If the GMO companies re-solve the problem, they then get control of the food supply. Is that what you really want? Privatized food supplies, just like the Pharaohs?

Question – Is GMO the same as traditional breeding techniques? The GMO companies would have you believe so. And I am not including ?in vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant DNA and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles.? in my definition of traditional breeding techniques. Those have not been used for centuries.

When GMO companies patented their genetic modifications, they claimed that they were different than existing techniques. That got them the patent.

When GMO companies applied for FDA approval of said GMO products, they claimed that they were “substantially equivalent” to existing products.

My question is “Which answer is true?” I am not a moron because I ask this question. I didn’t set this situation up. I just want an answer. And while we’re at it, I would like copies of any studies done to prove that GMO food is safe. Studies were provided to the FDA in the approval process, but are kept secret because they are trade secrets, despite being patented. The two studies which were doneo n GMOs showed health problems in humans. These studies were attacked (obviosuly) by the GMO companies, but they never offered any of their own studies in evidence. They just said “trust us!”. I don’t trust them, and the law says that I don’t have to trust them. Upton Sinclair helped make sure that our food supply COULD be trusted by NOT trusting the food companies.

Patents are supposed to disclose the method for the advancement of science and the good of the public. Just show me the beef, so to speak, and I’ll be happy.

There are a lot of other mis-statements in the article, but they all flow from these two errors, so I won’t waste more electrons debating them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's difficult to discuss this rationally - for everyone

You can patent the method, which is quicker than just waiting for breeding to take its course, even if the end result is not substantially different than what you obtain by breeding.

Nobody here I think is argueing that cattle can’t be dangerous just because they don’t have horns either, anyone who has been around cattle knows this.

The issues regarding GMO patenting and then claiming it against everything under the sun is a problem with patent law, as well as their ability to keep it all secret.

That’s not up for debate, but alot of peoples arguments seem to argue against all forms of modification in general because they don’t understand how genetics or our food supply works.

artp (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's difficult to discuss this rationally - for everyone

“because they don’t understand how genetics or our food supply works”

Well, that’s the problem in a nutshell, isn’t it? NOBODY understands how genetics works – YET! If we understood genetics, then we wouldn’t be using terms like “junk DNA”, which just describes parts of the gene that we can’t attribute any function to – YET!

We have made great strides in understanding protein folding, but how those different discrete protein folds work together? Not so much.

And to keep harping on the universally ignored problem – Where is the documentation that GMOs are safe, as is required by the FDA and federal law? Next commment, please address this part of the problem.

The whole reason for GMOs is that it allows large corporations to do a land-grab of the public domain and sequester our common heritage and support of life itself. All for profit. Profit vs. Life. There is no other reason for it. Or perhaps you would like to quantify just exactly how large this cattle safety problem is that GMOs will solve so that we can do a risk analysis and a cost-benefits analysis to see what it is costing us to throw away the public domain?

But corporations don’t want to wait for the proper scientific investigation to happen with appropriate isolation until the coast is clear. They want to make money off it immediately.

I am also a Farm Bureau member, and FB is very raucous about the harm caused by “those radicals” who don’t want GMOs. So who is spreading the chaos here? Just address the facts, and I’ll be happy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's difficult to discuss this rationally - for everyone

. . .

Well, I’ll agree they shouldn’t get patents, but here’s why your argument is about as bull as the creatures you speak of.

Similarity of patents is a comparison of methods.
Similarity of foodstuffs is comparison of product.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: It's difficult to discuss this rationally - for everyone

If the GMO companies re-solve the problem, they then get control of the food supply. Is that what you really want? Privatized food supplies, just like the Pharaohs?

That’s one of the very big problems with GMOs these days. It’s about control of the food supply by a few companies. That’s one reason people are wary of it.

Even if you got rid of patents, if GMOs end up invading non-GMO plants/animals and wiping them out, that’s a negative for the environment. We want more diversity, not a few super-species.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's difficult to discuss this rationally - for everyone

We also need to have serious discussions about the value of industrialization of food supply/production versus localization of the food supply.

Citizens in the US have more than enough calories (hence the obesity problem), but in many poor areas, there’s not enough affordable or available quality food. So industry hasn’t been addressing the right problems.

And in some countries it isn’t the amount of food being produced (which is adequate), but the ability of the system to get it to people who need it. Producing more crops with GMOs doesn’t solve starvation problems if there is no way to get that food to starving people.

Being able to produce mass amounts of food at low cost isn’t all that much of value if the produced food isn’t very good and if it doesn’t get to the places where it is most needed.

Do we really need a system, for example, that produces corn to make more corn syrup to go into soft drinks? Maybe we’d be much better off have lots of local gardens so people can have cheap, fresh, healthful food.

In other words, some of the innovation that the argi-business has given is to solve problems we didn’t really have.

toyotabedzrock (profile) says:

I worked on a dairy farm

Dairy cows do not have horns because they are female.

Typically the males are used for studding or slaughtered. But they have their horns removed. It is not like a major undertaking. And the farms already do a massive amount of natural selection breeding. The lineage of every cow is tracked along with how much milk it produces and what the climate was like. They produce less when it is too hot.

They also track food and illness.

So this seems like a waste of time and money.

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