Could someone explain Greenpeace to me?

It's not MAD science...just disappointed.

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Postby MissM on Sat Mar 31, 2001 9:38 am

So, I am reading through the Greenpeace site on Genetic Engineering with the intent of trying to comprehend the opposition's side. (For an English assignment; oh, the humanities...)<P>And I just... cannot... comprehend all of their reasoning. I understand the fear that engineered species will replace natural species, thus dominating the ecosystem.
(Of course, there is the mental addition of "Perhaps that wouldn't be so bad, if predicted and controlled...")<P>And I understand the fear that pesticide resistance, and the subsequent spraying of those crops with more pesticide can make people worried about consuming chemicals.<P>But why on earth would one protest the consumption of animals (vegetarianism aside) who were fed genetically engineered soybeans? Are the scary genes going to seep through the food chain and eat your young? I simply do not understand!<P>Heh... I thought I'd pose the question to see if anyone could better explain the logic from a nonbiased and/or scientific viewpoint. (Yeah, right, I just wanted to gripe. ;)<P>
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Postby BabyJ on Sun Apr 01, 2001 2:00 am

Extremism on EITHER side rarely helps any of us!<P>Mike "I WANT SUPERMUTANTS DAMN IT!" Leffel<P>------------------
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Postby cheetorix02 on Sun Apr 01, 2001 11:01 am

Because they say that it will end modificating our DNA and causing cancer...
To the hell whit greenpeace our planet it
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Postby MissM on Mon Apr 02, 2001 5:40 am

Mmmm, that's what I supposed; "fear of the unknown" is the only answer I am encountering. A valid concern as the field is in its infancy; more testing (and thus, experimentation) is required. <P>But... I'm still not entirely sold on the idea that minor alterations, usually to create more productive crops, are really all that likely to have such harmful side effects. (Especially twice digested.) It is possible, yes, but it just doesn't click with me as something to madly worry about; there are so many things we ingest that are not exactly healthy.<P>Of course, that's all just because I want to grow winged potatoes. :P
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Postby Rob on Mon Apr 02, 2001 10:14 am

Heh, yes. I suppose a some animal testing and trials is a good thing, just to make sure you didn't mix in a little of the ricin gene from the group next door that's making the anticancer antibodies. But what about McDonalds? Does their "food" have to get tested?<P>Presumably, GMO's should get the same testing as, say, plants grown with a new pesticide or cattle given hormones, just to be safe. But it's interesting that they don't mention the potential environmental benefits of not dumping tons of pesticides (pest-resistant crops) and fertilizer (nitrogen-fixers) around.<P>Not to mention the fact that a lot of these groups are terrorists, plain and simple. The sort of vandalism, destruction of property, violence, and other crap that goes on in Europe is amazing. Heck, a year or so ago, a Silvagen research site near UBC was trashed by some of these freaks who wanted "to put Canada on the map as inhospitable to the mad science of genetic engineering". The ironic thing was that the seedlings had been produced by selective breeding...
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Postby AndyL on Tue Apr 03, 2001 12:00 am

To be perfectly fair, the unknown is constantly trying to kill us, if that's not something to be afraid of I don't know what is.<P>But since it's only going to remain largly unknown until we actualy try it....<P>
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Postby Quasispace on Tue Apr 03, 2001 1:40 am

Interesting topic,<P>In terms of the genetically modified feeder crops, the main concern seems to be summed up from this line on their site :<P>"The random insertion of a foreign gene may disrupt the tightly controlled network of DNA in an organism. The gene could, for example, alter chemical reactions within the cell or disturb cell functions. This could lead to instability, the creation of new toxins or allergens, and changes in nutritional value (2)."<P>which means they're afraid of possible interactions. While I'm all for responsible science and testing, sometimes people get bent out of shape with little things. In terms of testing, people are screwed both ways. People scream at them for testing on animals, and they get screamed at if they "test" on humans. Bad joke, but you get my point. The testing that is done with most genetically modified crops may not seem stringent enough to some people, but they don't seem to be offering much alternatives to the current testing procedures.<P>As to Sam's reply: pretty much. There are only some sequences that can have a disastrous effect on the plant, but they usually kill it anyway. But that's why they run tests with the end result to see what happens. Protein analysis and chemical levels are most likely measured for each plant as it is developed. That way they can avoid those nasty Class Action lawsuits. And you thought Lawyers were bad...<P>Oh and a note from my Virology teacher "Even Plants have naturally occuring Cancer", just for those nuts that think Plants are perfect...<P>Plus even from a "Scientific" viewpoint, people are still biased.<P>In general using the plasmid method of amplification there isn't much interaction with the Native DNA. You generally have a plasmid with a promoter and the gene of interest. The thing gets amplified as a plasmid. Very little interaction with the "natural" DNA is you use the right promotor(doesn't interact with other Transcription factors). insert the plasmid into the plant of interest.<P>About the productive crops comment, it depends on how the crop becomes' more productive. Monsanto's soybean is more productive by not being affected by a pesticide. Which means you can spray their powerful herbicide Round Up without much fear. Generally that's the extent of the increase in productivity, adjusting responses to the environment to take advantage of certain factors. People aren't sanely trying to make that plant that grows the giant vegetables. larger due to other factors, but not simply with changes in growth factors.<P>Essentially what's being done is injecting whole gene sequences into the cell. They're not trying to integrate the new gene into the genome, they're adding it in. (confused? look up proto-oncogene activation)
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Postby Silver Adept on Tue Apr 03, 2001 6:04 am

Hmm. Am thinkink that people are afraid that people will begin modifyink more than just food if the science progresses enough. Perhaps they are beink afraid of havink their lives completely and genetically controlled... heh, they are fearink the "Gattaca" future. <P>Of which I can be understandink. However, am thinkink that genetical engineering is still a long way off. <P>------------------
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Postby Wafath on Tue Apr 03, 2001 8:03 am

Let me take a crack at it. Assume all of the usual disclaimers, etc, etc.<P>Greenpeace is home to a lot of nervous people. I would say paranoid, but paranoia assumes that the fear is unjustified.<P>Condisder their position. "They" (they=scientists, the government, big corporations, etc.) tell you that geneticly modified foods are safe. But you have heard this line before with DDT, agent oarnge, nuclear power, red food coloring, and a few hundered other things. So naturally you assume that it isn't safe.<P>You do a little investigation, and find out that the scientists admit that they arn't entirely sure what they are dealing with here. It could be perfectly safe, and yet it could cause a serious ecological disaster. By tampering with genes you are going to have unknown effects. One of those possible effects (unlikely, but still possible) is that the new genes could create some new, unstudied protein.<P>This new protein could appear to be harmless, or it could appear to be harmfull. It doesn't matter. But if the cow eats it, and then we eat the cow, it could get into us.<P>Or, worse yet, the cow may metabolize it into something that isn't harmful to the cow, but is harmful to us.<P>So we may end up accidently poisoning ourselves.<P>Essentially they are concerned about the ends of the bell curve. It is an unlikely path, but it is a possible path. It is also a path that may not be investigated properly until someone notices a 1% spike in birth defects.<P>Essentially greenpeace is argueing that by using the geneticly modified crops we are playing russian roulete. Think of it as a chemical spill that keeps on spilling.<P>W
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Postby gwalla on Fri Apr 13, 2001 12:37 am

A lot of the opposition to transgenic foods comes from an erroneous belief many people hold, that:<P>natural = healthy
unnatural = unhealthy<P>It's the same reasoning that causes people to avoid mainstream medications in favor of untested herbal, homeopathic, and naturopathic treatments. However, it's pretty easy to disprove the belief: belladonna is 100% naturally occurring, and extremely toxic. So is curare, so is arsenic.<P>------------------
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Postby LCARS on Fri Apr 13, 2001 12:51 am

I just saw a really cool video.<P>Green peace takes on a russian logging freighter. They try to board the ship with little runabouts and ladders, but the russians would just knock them off the sides with fire hoses.<P> Finally, Green Peace intercepts the freighter with thier big sail/moter ship and they take control of the helm.<P>The captain of the russian freighter is later fined and sent to prison for illegal logging practices.
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Postby Kyberneticist on Fri Apr 13, 2001 1:40 am

While that sounds very noble and all, tell me. If the Russian captain was engaged in an illegal act (besides assaulting Greenpeace), why not simply notify the relevant authorities? Coast Guard? Parks services?
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Postby LCARS on Fri Apr 13, 2001 3:40 am

It was in international waters before green peace took the helm.
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Postby Kyberneticist on Fri Apr 13, 2001 9:09 am

Could someone please tell me what all the fuss is about?
Right now, we manufacture transgenic crops quite frequently by using a retrovirus as carrier. (Disclaimer, I am a computer scientist, not a bioengineer)<P>The thing is, is that the only difference between this and the random shuffling of genes between different species that retroviruses do *anyway* is that at least we are observing and testing the process and know a little about what to expect.<P>Concerns about resistances being conferred...
In many cases, the resistance to a pesticide conferred to a weed isn't a big deal. The only reason the weed hasn't evolved the resistance yet is probably/usually that any such immunity requires an energy expenditure.
In the absence of us spraying most of the continent, the weed simply can't compete against its non-altered siblings.<P>In the mean time, gene engineering can offer tremendous benefits, like rice (the major crop for a large portion of the world) that uses a more efficient photosynthetic process, resulting in much greater food production on less space.<P>Given the amount of land that is lost to rice farming, this could save far more species then it endangers.<P>What pisses me off about Greenpeace and makes me want to let loose robotic ants on them is their highly categorized view of the world into "good naturalists" and "evil greedy mother earth destroying corporates"<P>Personally, if I was going to protest gene engineering, it would be on the basis of bogus patents of pre-existing genes.<P>I don't think any biotech patents should hold up until they are actually on genes designed and written by the company themselves. Right now, going into the Amazon Basin, finding a plant that fights cancer, and patenting the key genes is as ridiculous as patenting the plant itself. Despite my libertarian leanings and personal defense of the idea of personal property rights, I think this is absolute B.S., and such patents should be fought in court, and if that fails, ignored.
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