While one of the goals of the GMO orange is a decreased use of pesticides, which you mention, Monsanto’s “Round Up Ready” seeds are immune to herbicides. Orange trees being what they are, they can probably stand up to weeds (or string trimmers) better than soybean plants and other seasonal plantings.
I keep asking myself what we really mean by genetically modified foods. Certtainly I understand the modern 'common" meaning of the term, but about the history of our foog over generations, such as how we altered corn and wheat over centuries? not to mention so many other crops and animals? I wonder if anyone has done any research on those topics? After all, cross breding and hybridization result in genetic modifications, or am I way off?
Time for a Google search…
Thanks for the read. Always glad to read non-hyperbolic discussions on this topic.
You’re not way off. And Amy Harmon’s story actually has a lot of information on this.
Oh hell, some how I missed the link! Blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other… I blame it on Monday.
Bananas have a similar story if you dig around a bit. Apparently what we know as a banana today is not what people 60 years ago considered a banana… the fruit gets reinvented every time a new disease shows up to wipe out the established crop.
However, traditionally it’s been fixed with selective breeding until a resistant plant is discovered. I’m sure “GMO” as in “modifying plants in a lab” is getting involved these days but I haven’t encountered anything that documents it.
What strikes me as curious is the difference from banana crops, which are propagated asexually from a few individuals. When genetic diversity is so minimal you can expect disease subsceptibilty to be a major problem. There are a lot of varieties of oranges, though, which came from hybrids between several different species, and yet the article states there is no immunity to be found among cultivated citrus as a whole. How often to diseases threaten a whole genus?
Oranges do not exist in nature. As Amy Harmon’s article pointed out, they are a hybrid between pomelo and mandarin, and since these citrus species can interbreed, it is clear how they can all be vulnerable to the same bacteria. Citrus species are not biochemically all that drastically different from one another, and it’s at the level of biochemistry that pathogens interact with their host. Furthermore, the result of this ancient hybridization event to form today’s orange is low levels of genetic diversity, and therefore a similar scenario to what we see in bananas. There aren’t nearly as many varieties of oranges as apples, for example, and much of this perceived variety is due to spontaneous mutation affecting fruit, and not admixture of widely dissimilar parent species.
Are they unusually low in this, though? Because biochemistry usually doesn’t vary drastically within single species, but it’s from that level of variability that subsceptible and resistant strains normally evolve. And while I can see oranges might have lower diversity, I don’t see why that would be the case among all of cultivated citrus. The chemistry is different enough to taste in the fruit, so it’s not obvious to me why the phytoalexins would all be more similar than in other plants.
Um, i’m a bit confused. “Genetically modified food has nothing to do with Monsanto.” And yet Monsanto is deeply committed to and involved in the production of genetically modified food. How does the title justify itself?
And does anyone in this discussion recognize the enormous difference between selective breeding and laboratory gene splicing. In the ‘hundreds of years that we’ve been doing this’ has any selective breeder successfully bred a salmon with a tomato, for instance? Just sayin’.
Ah, sorry. “THAT” has nothing do do with Monsanto. Why I flunked proofreading. Though my second question stands.
Nice try, but this piece is nothing but a feel-good end argument in favor of the plague known genetically modified organisms. Just because the writer removed the name Monsanto doesn’t make it any less poisonous or detrimental to every living organism on the planet as well as the planet itself. GMOs are bad regardless of which multi-billion dollar planet-poisoning chemical company’s name is on it or how wonderful/amazing its manufacturer claims it is.
Where’s the peer-reviewed study that proves GMO is bad? I’d love to read it.
In computer programming, we all know that every time you write code, you introduce new bugs. As a non-biologist, my mental image of genetic modification (of the newfangled variety, not the old style where cross-breeding and selective breeding were involved) is that it has the potential to add new bugs into the code that we won’t understand until we “run” the code – ie have it in a living organism inside the context of the biosphere – and that the problem with that is that if we create a bug in the code that has detrimental aspects in so far as our interests are concerned along with useful aspects so far as the survival of the new piece of code is concerned, we can end up with some serious problems down the line.
When we write software, we test it inside of a sandbox before we push it up closer to the real-world scenario it was meant for. In some cases there are many levels of bug testing between the developer’s sandbox and the end user’s machine, and yet still, we get bugs in live code. If that live code then went around breeding, spreading those bugs before the developer had a chance to fix the error, that would be a serious problem. Unintentional malware, so to speak.
The Cheshire cats of Windup Girl by Paolo Baccigalupi are a great fictional example of what I mean. Cute idea, but the Cheshires were better adapted than ordinary housecats, and they out compete ordinary housecats into extinction in the fictional world of the novel. That sort of thing happens in real life when we bring a plant or animal species from one geographic area into another area that was previously protected from that species. In some cases the “invasive species” takes over and the “native species” dies out very rapidly.
That is what makes me nervous about GMO anything.
How do you feel about the genetic crapshoot that is sexual reproduction?
You are missing the core point of what I said. Every time you introduce a new genetically modified organism into an environment, you are introducing a new potential “invasive species” into that environment.
And, uh, yup! That happens with sexual reproduction as well. I actually alluded to that fact in my mention of invasive species, did you not notice? And yet, we have learned something from the errors of our past ways in terms of moving species from one place to another. We now have laws about importation of plants and animals from one region to another. We also have public programs devoted to preserving and protecting certain fragile species that have come under risk because of the past migration of competitors or predators at the hands of humans.
So, why would we not consider those same issues when discussing the introduction of new laboratory-developed genetically modified organisms today?
Yes. Selective breeding is an artificial version of evolution: waiting for genes to mutate, shuffling them between related individuals, and repeating. Gene splicing is picking a single gene you like and transferring it to an unrelated individual, nothing like crossing salmon and tomato, but rather an artifical version of horizontal transfer.
Both processes are able to create bugs as lishevita puts it. I think there could be particular concerns about GM introducing new opportunities for traits to spread where we don’t want them, though, like allergens where people don’t know to watch for them or hard-to-evolve herbivore resistance in plants that some herbivores depend on.
…or cheap fast-growing plants with untested traits created for sale in markets too poor or disenfranchised to sue or protest… I always imagine the medical and nutritional dangers as inseparably entwined with the economic ones.
The salmon-tomato reference was fun, but not random: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_tomato
And glad that someone IS recognising the difference! If I hear "we’ve been doing it for thousands of years’ one more time…
I think the burden of proof is on the other side in this “debate”. I know that in the US we throw whatever technology we produce out into the world and just hope it won’t screw things up, but that is not really a sound way care for the environment. If a company or whoever wants to introduce a new chemical or genetically modified organism into the environment, it it their responsibility to prove its safety. Our government and corporate “leaders” are so profit-mad they refuse to admit this obvious reality.