Cosmic Queries: GMOs with Bill Nye (Part 1)

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About This Episode

Guest host Bill Nye says he’s changed his mind about GMOs. Find out why when he and co-host Chuck Nice answer your questions about the controversial subject of Genetically Modified Organisms. Bill tackles them in his own, inimitable style, from “Is Monsanto paying you?” to “Can we breed drought-tolerant crops?” Along the way, you’ll learn about new technology for assaying genes that’s 10 million times faster than 20 years ago, the truth about glyphosate and Roundup Ready seeds, the drawbacks to organic farming, and how GMOs could actually help reduce the stress on our crop-pollinating bee populations. Explore the differences between genetic modification and selective breeding, and find out how the sweet potato changed our understanding of what nature is capable of on its own. You’ll also hear about female scientists at Monsanto, and how Monsanto and other companies like Dupont, Con Agra and Dow have morphed from chemical manufacturers of products like Agent Orange into biotech firms helping to feed the world. And that’s just in Part 1.

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  • Vernon Honie

    Where is the episode? I have been waiting all day, lol, and I don’t see anything up there. There’s an empty box where the episode should be. What’s going on?

  • tom griffin

    lincoln nebraska.sides of the corn feilds,not green,not yellow,not orange,BUT bright red triangle signs,,WARNING BIOHAZARD,NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION,,
    this is what our grain belt is covered with,

    • hyperzombie

      WARNING BIOHAZARD,NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION,

      LOL, funny.

      • mem_somerville

        I think Tom is confusing YouTube with Nebraska.

        • hyperzombie

          Too many zombie movies I am guessing. I always wonder if people that make these comments ever get out of the city, to see an actual farm.

    • Warren Lauzon

      Used to be a watermelon farm field nearby, he used to put up similar signs to keep people from stealing them 😛

      • tom griffin

        did i mention the big ethanol plant that employs everybody in town,,

    • Jason

      Tom, I’ve been through Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin & lived in Indiana all my life. As a crop consultant, I’ve seen more corn fields than I care to think about. And I’ve NEVER seen a sign like you describe. It’s total nonsense.

      • tom griffin

        been thru,,i worked in the ethanol plant in lincoln nebraska,signs are on the crops all around plant,,,you cant see them doing the speed limit ,u have to walk up close,MY CREDENTIALS ,,NUKE CODED WELDER MILITARY OIL VEGAS,

        • Jason

          Well, when you drive through those states often, you see A LOT of cornfields. And yet…no scary sight signs. But, I see… They make the signs small enough that you can’t see them. Sounds legit.

          So, is the corn grown for ethanol in Nebraska different than the corn grown for ethanol in Indiana?

          • tom griffin

            i see where your going,i dont know,if your a crop consultant,i would think you better informed,i know what i saw.on a scale large enough to be concerning.

      • tom griffin

        I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE PIC IT ,

      • tom griffin

        I KNOW A FKIN SIGN WHEN I SEE ONE

        • Jason

          Do you? Or…maybe you made this up?

      • tom griffin

        I KNOW A FKIN SIGN WHEN I SEE ONE

      • tom griffin

        go to the farms with the shinniest tractors,

        • hyperzombie

          farms with the shinniest tractors,

          Wouldn’t it be the farms with the black helicopters, and chain link fence?

    • JoeFarmer

      Nonsense.

      Occasionally, you’ll see a sign(s) at the edge of a field that advertise a company’s seed. No warning signs.

      Quit making stuff up, it just makes you look dumb.

    • JoeFarmer

      What is a “coded welder”?

      I think you probably know as much about welding as you do about farming.

      Do you have AWS certification for a GTAW root pass? How about SMAW? What electrode?

  • Paul TheWay

    Love you bill, grew up on your show. Can we say that humans have consumed gmos long enough to accurately assess the long term dangers? I’d also like to highlight the lack of synthetic fertilizers in organic farming, which causes eutrification of rivers and streams and the fish kills wwhicwhich we’ve all heard of.

    • hyperzombie

      All nitrogen sources leach, whether it is synthetic fertilizer, manure or even legumes fixing nitrogen. If you do some more research on fertilizer use on Organic farms, you would see that they have problems as well, unlike with synthetics, it is very difficult to balance nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium using manures.

  • mem_somerville

    You should look at the GMO chestnut project, Bill. Those might be awesome collections of carbon, that also generates shade, food, and there’s even chestnut beer! Seek out William Powell and I’ll bet he’d give you a tour of them. https://twitter.com/ChestnutPowell

    I’d also like to second the comment from your Patreon commenter about how impressed I am that you took a second look at this issue. And that you publicly changed your mind. It’s an excellent example of using new and better information once you learn of it.

    • Vernon Honie

      I second that. Thanks for changing your mind, Bill. We’ve been genetically engineering ‘everything’ for ‘ever’. This new way may be much faster, in terms of the genes changed… however… it’s nothing new.

  • We’re not sure why you’re not seeing the image of the SoundCloud player, Vernon. Sometimes refreshing your screen may reload the player. If, for some reason, you can’t use the Soundcloud player, I suggest you click on the icons above for iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn.

    • Vernon Honie

      I have tried. There are no links, at all. All I am seeing is a large empty white box below ‘listen now’, with the SoundCloud logo in it, and it’s above the photograph for the episode. I’m almost positive that it’s something wrong on my end, but I’m not sure what. I have gone to the iTunes list of episodes, however it is not uploaded yet. I’ll keep on trying, but I can’t help but tell you that my Sunday has been ruined! J/K. It’s not your fault though 🙂 Keep up the good work. I’ll keep on searching until I find the episode.

      • Thanks.

        • Vernon Honie

          No problem. I’ve got it, now. I had to find it in the Podcasts section of iTunes. The player is still not showing up for me. No biggie, though. I’m listening now! Thanks.

  • Kevin Folta

    A good job with a complex topic, but here are a few little errors.

    Not really sure if “more nutritious”… not a good blanket statement. Maybe in some cases, other cases not. These were intended to have the same nutrition with less input.

    Glyphosate resistance– not always a modification of EPSPS enzyme, 9 mechanisms including vacuolarization, turnover, no penetration, etc.

    Monocultures– Corn etc are not nearly as genetically monolithic as grapes, bananas, apples, cherries, strawberry, citrus, potato, many others. If we’re worried about monoculture, let’s start with cloned crops.

    Maybe not 25 years- commercialized 18, maybe 30 of testing.

    Galls are of bacterial origin, not viral.

    ConAgra is a food manufacturer, not a seed company.

    More to come… Again, well done, just helping with some details.

    • Jason

      Excellent points.

    • Jason

      Excellent points.

    • JKM

      There were other things that were incorrect as well.

      -Soybeans are self pollinated. They don’t need bees.
      -You see Drone bees around all year, but mostly when they are kicked out of the nest in the fall.
      -Drone bees die after they copulate.
      -Pollen is placed on the Stigma and not the eggs. Plants have ovaries.

      There are several more things that are incorrect, but I don’t have time. I’m really disappointed with the “science” guy when he makes generalizations and gives out incorrect information.

      Also, I request that the “science” guy read more about the Southern Corn Leaf Blight that swept across the south in the 1970s.

    • Michael Fons

      Kevin Follta, are’t you the guy who got busted for being paid Monsanto cheerleader? Using Monsanto’s draft answers as your own, and promising them a solid return on their $25,000 grant? How did that work out for you?

  • Vernon Honie

    Science, have mercy!! I can’t hear / see my StarTalkRadio.net weekly episode!

  • sickvision

    GMO im still old school,

  • First Officer

    My dream GMO? Bacon tasting Kale, and not that turkey stuff either !

    • hyperzombie

      Mmmm, and the worst GMO idea “Bacon that tastes like Kale”.

      • Michael McCarthy

        I think you’ve been secretly working to create GMO’s. I think this video speaks for itself. ENJOY!

        http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/b3e57df4eb/pizza-farm-with-nick-offerman?_cc=__d___&_ccid=eltt3u.nq7dg3

        • hyperzombie

          Ahhh, the GMO holy grail, Pizza trees…….Mmmmm.

          • Michael McCarthy

            Pizzas, fish sticks and taquitos. That’s 3 of the 4 basic food groups, if I am not mistaken.

          • hyperzombie

            Yep and bacon is the 4th. That is one Awesome food pyramid.

          • I didn’t remember seeing a ketchup spring in the video. Serious oversight.

          • hyperzombie

            Good call, fish sticks are useless without ketchup. They may as well be compost without the Red Sauce of the Gods.

          • I guess if you’re a Time Lord you can substitute custard, but that’s really an exception that proves the rule.

          • JoeFarmer

            Yuck. You need cocktail sauce at least. Horseradish from a jar, some lemon juice and some ketchup.

            I guess you Canucks are even less cultured than us Iowans!

          • hyperzombie

            Well, ain’t youse Iowans fancy. Do you breakout the fancy silverware, get the kin to come over for the fishstick feast? LOL…
            Try getting a 6 year old to eat horseradish or cocktail sauce.

          • JoeFarmer

            Ahhh, feeding kids, that’s always good times.

            Weird how young kids love ketchup, but hardly any of them will eat a fresh tomato…

          • Michael McCarthy

            ” hardly any of them will eat a fresh tomato”
            make a tomato that tastes like a booger and they’ll eat it up

          • Michael McCarthy

            But they did water the crops with cola!

          • JoeFarmer

            Brawndo!

          • JoeFarmer

            4 out of 5 cardiologists agree!

            Just like the dentists that approve of Trident gum!

          • Michael McCarthy

            “4 out of 5 cardiologists agree!”
            And the 5th only dissented because Domino’s wasn’t in his stock portfolio.

    • Michael McCarthy

      “Bacon tasting Kale”

      Did you see the good news?
      http://time.com/3960421/seaweed-bacon-dulse-kale-super-food/

      • First Officer

        BACON !

    • Michael McCarthy

      “Bacon tasting Kale”

      Did you see the good news?
      http://time.com/3960421/seaweed-bacon-dulse-kale-super-food/

  • First Officer

    1.6 million reside in Manhattan. If all of Manhattan were converted to farmland, it would support about 25,000. I always ask the eat only local folks, who would they vote off the island?

    • Frank Butler

      This is because you’re being very lazy-minded. You don’t have to grow everything in one place, as big as New York City is. You can have produce in the most urban areas, and to counties just north and west of the city, you can have livestock (if not more on Long Island). There are things such as urban gardens. You can have something like those indoors for NYC, if you don’t want it outside in park areas. Central Park used to be farmland prior to its construction, there could be dedicated plots here and there for that purpose. You can build vertically, too. Buildings support a lot of weight, there are already structures where plants are farmed on tall structures, there can be ways to plant and harvest within a city that would be doable and sustainable, if there were an interest in it. From indoors level to level, to the rooftops, it can be done. Real estate-wise, you’d be charged an arm and a leg, but whomever would do it or shop for those foods would probably be willing to shell out a little extra to eat fresh and local. With the amount of pollution in those waters and proximity to New Jersey, it’s hard to know if fresh fishing is the route to go, but these things are not completely out the question.

      • First Officer

        Am I? Take that in building farming idea. SInce the land area of Manhattan could only support 25000 people, to support it’s entire population, the entire island would have to be covered with 64 stories of farming (63 if you also use the roof), 64 stories where all the present buildings are (most are far below 64 stories), all the streets, parks, alleyways, every square foot. So, now, where will those 1.6 million live? Where will they and the many more who commute to Manhattan work?

      • First Officer

        Am I? Take that in building farming idea. SInce the land area of Manhattan could only support 25000 people, to support it’s entire population, the entire island would have to be covered with 64 stories of farming (63 if you also use the roof), 64 stories where all the present buildings are (most are far below 64 stories), all the streets, parks, alleyways, every square foot. So, now, where will those 1.6 million live? Where will they and the many more who commute to Manhattan work?

  • First Officer

    I think the sun would be roughly 43% as bright as that on earth. (1.52 AU)^ -2 = 0.433

  • First Officer

    I look forward to the day when diseases such as Tay Sachs and Cystic Fibrosis are eradicated and, if that means GE tech, so much the better.

  • Alexei

    I was wondering if it were at all possible to provide a transcript? If not, I understand.

  • Taxil Necrobane

    The main problem I have with GMOs is how Mon Santos has a patented monopoly on the DNA of the plants (or animals) and calling it their property. It’s not that much of a step to create a gene altered human hybrid and then argue it is their property. Effectively creating a slave species. Also, Mon Santos as an Iron grip monopoly on the seed market that keeps us all fed. Anyone who has that much power is someone who can abuse it. And from how many elected officials and more in their pocket already, they are already are abusing it.

    Also, I feel the GMO pushers are doing the ‘Jurassic Park screw up’ to a tee. They likely by now know the full effects the GMOs have on humans and other life forms and environment and refuse to release their findings in full. They don’t realize how dangerous meddling with DNA really is and all they want is to make a profit from it all.

    I am not against humanity from making better food stuffs, I just don’t want those with power becoming corrupt from greed and try to take over our world. That and unknowingly releasing a GMO monster that we can not put back in a cage.

    • McKenzie Rohleder

      Those are some pretty big claims you’ve got there Taxil. However, they’re speculation at best without evidence to support them. Also, your suggestion of a human hybrid slave species is fantastic sci-fi, but a poor ‘slippery slope’ argument. Let’s deal with the technology at hand before we get into dystopian hypotheticals.

      • Vernon Honie

        I agree. Those are some large claims, and I think our collective common sense as a species would not allow something that atrocious to happen. However, Taxil does raise some very good points. The patenting / owning of genetic codes… is just as slippery a slope as owning genetically modified humans. Look at the recent Monsanto lawsuits. They were arguing over their genetic property that bred, and spread via airborne seed or spore. If I claim that a plant is my property, and It ends up growing on another person’s land, who did not plant it there… am I liable, or is he liable? Am I unfairly polluting his crops… or is he stealing my property? Especially, when some of those genetically modified crops are more hearty than the natural ones that they are replacing. Very slippery slope. You could wipe out another person’s entire crop yield, unintentionally… and they could be liable to you. That’s scary.

        • Taxil Necrobane

          Those are the very questions we as a civilization has to get an answer to and soon. Messing with the very make up of life has very serious and often permanent consequences.

          • hyperzombie

            Messing with the very make up of life has very serious and often permanent consequences.

            All plant breeding does this, that is the whole point.

        • Credo

          – Vernon

          Stop doing the slippery slope argument, what are you Fox News? The patents are only for a specific gene placed in a specific place and expire over time, they are not blanket checks where companies can do whatever they want to. If you think patent reform is necessary (which it is) than argue for patent reform not against technology!

          Monsanto has never sued over accidental field contamination … You are talking about the Monsanto Canada Inc vs Schmeizer case in which Percy Schmeizer found that some seed near the road was Roundup resistant, then he saved that seed and replanted it for harvest. Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor of Monsanto for very obvious reasons of patent infringement since the guy did not discard the seed, but instead replanted it. Just read about it online!

          • Taxil Necrobane

            The very fact that Monsanto HAS patents on DNA disturbs me to no end. Where is the line that they should not cross with gene engineering and who sets it? How can they be stopped if they do cross that Rubicon?

          • hyperzombie

            All new and novel plants have patents on them, some are even trademarked as well. (Patents expire in 20 years, trademarks never)

      • Taxil Necrobane

        Big claims? Fantastic sci-fi? We are soon to put people on Mars. Fly a FTL warp drive space ship. Awaken a fully self aware A.I. This age will soon no long be a Sci-fi dream, but a real fact of life. We already making Gene spliced life forms, so how soon do you think Human hybrids will be created? It’ll be sooner than you think. The tech to create those human hybrids already exist.

        • hyperzombie

          Well actually the first GMOd humans graduated high school last year.
          PS you can make hybrid humans without GMO, in fact Gmo is the wrong tech to make hybrids, if you want humans with purple eyes or humans without male pattern baldness, GMO is useful, but not for hybrids.

      • Taxil Necrobane

        Big claims? Fantastic sci-fi? We are soon to put people on Mars. Fly a FTL warp drive space ship. Awaken a fully self aware A.I. This age will soon no long be a Sci-fi dream, but a real fact of life. We already making Gene spliced life forms, so how soon do you think Human hybrids will be created? It’ll be sooner than you think. The tech to create those human hybrids already exist.

    • Credo

      -Taxil

      If you have a problem with patent law, you have a problem with patent law, not with technology. In addition, companies like Monsanto dont hold a patent on a specific gene, the patent is for a placement of a specific gene in a specific place for a specific purpose, and its not permanent, meaning that it expires over time.

      Also please dont do a massive conspiracy, Illuminati, they are hiding the truth from us argument!!! Its just so … weak … In your alternate reality of conspiracy world, scientists are childless psychopaths with no emotions who knowingly poison people. Thx god its just your fantasy and nothing else.

      Also just a reminder, if people dont use money to buy political power, they use ideology, which is exactly what green lobby does 24/7 – applying pressure on politicians to do things that fit their ideology. This is just another form of corruption where no money is exchanged.

      • Taxil Necrobane

        It isn’t a conspiracy Credo. It’s a obvious fact that Monsanto is a top of the heap crony-capitalist that pay off both sides to get the USDA, EPA, or any other agency off their backs. But it’s sad to see you use such petty, childish and mindless attacks at me that just proves you know nothing that which to speak of. Your amount of credibility with me has been exhausted. Have a good day sir.

        • Credo

          Yes and its also a fact that government payed off all scientists to lie about climate change and we never landed on a moon! I mean anyone with open eyes can just plainly see it right?

          You are a profoundly intellectually impoverished person and I pity you dearly!

          • Taxil Necrobane

            Nice dodge and change of subject Credo, it’s not going to work. When you resort to immature 100% emotion driven reaction in that last post, you have lost the debate. My eyes are open just fine and I see it differently than you. You appear to be unable to accept that I and others are not your echo chamber.

    • hyperzombie

      I dont think you understand how plant patents work. You can only patent new and novel traits, the original plant is still free to use by anyone. You know, breed a red flower with a white flower get a pink flower. You can patent the pink one, but the red and white one are still free to use.

      Also, Mon Santos as an Iron grip monopoly on the seed market

      Not even close to a monopoly, less than 25% of the market for seed.

  • Cheebahh

    This episode has felt pretty insulting so far. Of course he’s changed his viws on GMO’s, the companies pushing them have payed the right politicians and it’s now happening from this point forward, he wouldn’t be an outlier or contrarian. The fact you have good guy bill nye as the salesman for this episode will not cover that it’s obvious propaganda.

    There are bigger issues than just ‘woooah are we messing with food?’ How about the hundreds of farmers commuting suicide because they can’t run their own crops anymore and are forced into GMO contracts? Monsanto (who keep rebranding the company name so you don t remember who they are) sell seeds that only have a yearly crop, they don’t reseed so the farmers have to keep debuting every year.

    • Kevin Folta

      It is hard to call something “obvious propaganda” when it aligns with the scientific consensus, as framed by a copious peer-reviewed literature.

      Now farmer suicides, farmers forced to buy, etc– that’s propaganda. None is supported by any reality. Indian farmers are doing well with Bt Cotton (Kathage and Qiam, 2012; Herring works) and farmers have had to purchase corn seeds annually since the 1930’s and the advent of productive hybrids.

      I’m always glad to answer your questions, but it all comes from the literature, not websites and videos. Thanks.

  • Cheebahh

    This episode has felt pretty insulting so far. Of course he’s changed his viws on GMO’s, the companies pushing them have payed the right politicians and it’s now happening from this point forward, he wouldn’t be an outlier or contrarian. The fact you have good guy bill nye as the salesman for this episode will not cover that it’s obvious propaganda.

    There are bigger issues than just ‘woooah are we messing with food?’ How about the hundreds of farmers commuting suicide because they can’t run their own crops anymore and are forced into GMO contracts? Monsanto (who keep rebranding the company name so you don t remember who they are) sell seeds that only have a yearly crop, they don’t reseed so the farmers are locked into buying their seeds every year.

  • GOLDEN RICE, FTW.

  • lssplack

    I’ve been waiting for this one. I was at the taping in Boston… Good times!

    • That was a StarTalk Live! that you were at, which may also end up being an episode of StarTalk Radio. These are Cosmic Queries, where Bill answers questions submitted by our fans.

      • lssplack

        That will teach me to leave a comment prior to listening to the show!

  • forresttanaka

    On the show-ending question about whether humans will become GMOs, I recently learned that we have been for millennia in a very technical sense. About 8% of the human genome is viral in origin — parts of virus DNA are now passed down from every parent to every child. We have been transgenically modified.

  • Cheebahh

    This episode has felt pretty insulting so far. Of course he’s changed his viws on GMO’s, the companies pushing them have payed the right politicians and it’s now happening from this point forward, he wouldn’t be an outlier or contrarian. The fact you have good guy bill nye as the salesman for this episode will not cover that it’s obvious propaganda.

    There are bigger issues than just ‘woooah are we messing with food?’ How about the hundreds of farmers commuting suicide because they can’t run their own crops anymore and are forced into GMO contracts? Monsanto (who keep rebranding the company name so you don t remember who they are) sell seeds that only have a yearly crop, they don’t reseed so the farmers are locked into buying their seeds every year.

    • Jason

      Puh-lease! Suicide?? That nonsense has been debuncked so many times. Talk about insulting. Monsanto’s seeds regerminate the following year just like any other seeds. I know because I see it happening every single spring.

      And when did Monsanto change their name? Aren’t they still Monsanto?

    • Warren Lauzon

      That stupid farmer suicide myth keeps coming up even though it has been debunked as a total fraud numerous times. And since when has Monsanto “rebranded”?

  • nelag

    I love Star Talk and get that it is science show, but considering the only point of view that swayed you (at least from the first part of
    the show) was speaking with the scientists at the various chemical companies assumes that traditional farmers (specifically small family
    farmers) have no useful scientific opinion. After all farmers still exist in America and through-out the world. They have and always will be some of the most practical scientists we have. They are constantly experimenting and testing hypothesizes as to improve what they are
    doing, though rarely are they the products of prestigious scientific universities. Some of the best examples of adaptation to climate
    change and new pests are not fancy and as cool as GMOs but that does not mean they cannot solve some of the same problems.

    Farmers and farm workers are some of the must under-represented people in our developed world (I’m not talking about Agra-businesses) and I assure you spend some time meeting with these people you will hear a very different stories about how GMOs are really used. You cannot explain they are embracing them with open arms because of market penetration. Many of these proprietary (patented) crops easily cross-pollinate with heirloom varieties (a real term not just semantics as was implied in the show — meaning handed down from generation to generation) destroying small farmers lively-hoods. We are living in this world where patent infringement lawsuits make it so farmers can no longer teach their sons and daughters how to raise the crops they know and have grown on their land for generations (the land they know better then any one else) because the GMO crop has inadvertently cross pollinated with it and their seeds are now the property of someone they never met.

    If you think the only way to feed the world is by forcing farmers to pay chemical companies for the right to grow their food you are pushing for a world that will be owned by those chemical companies. While I know this is a science show, I also know that the hosts frequently speak of the policy decisions that led to space exploration, so it is unwise to ignore consequences of science and government politics when talking about GMO crops as well.

    I know Star Talk exists to speak for those who aren’t the best communicators, the scientists who would rather do good work then gain attention. So do the same for the non-traditional scientist doing good work as well — the small family farmer. It sure couldn’t hurt you will learn some of the most practical knowledge about dirt that you can.

    • Jason

      How are gmo crops forcing anyone to do anything? Isn’t it the farmers you hold up so highly that make the conscious decision to purchase these seeds every single year?

      How do patent infringement lawsuits prevent anyone from teaching anything? Your assertion is confusing.

      I also think you may be confusing terms. Heirloom seeds are not something farmers use. They’re something gardeners use. And so long as gardeners are consciously making the decision to propagate these heirloom varieties, they are in no more danger of going away than they have ever been. Heirloom varieties have always been at risk of cross pollination from varieties that are not the same. So, how is this different now? Small farmers benefit from this technology far more than do large farmers.

      I’ve spent the last 20 years working directly with farmers and farm help on a daily basis. I can assure you that their opinions of this technology are far closer to what you heard on star talk than what you have presented here. I honestly think you’ve fallen victim to activist sensationalism that does not refelct reality.

      • nelag

        I agree that Star Talk (as always) is better then most everyone at reflecting reality and my point is not of to argue that GMOs are evil or bad. They seemed completely accurate at assessing the technologies its merits at producing healthy food. My point is to reflect that many farmers though their own scientific work are creating interesting solutions to the problems of the day, by utilizing diverse heirloom varieties they understand though generations of scientific knowledge (to adapt to changing climate etc). However these are local solutions to problems based on detailed knowledge of their land and therefore in direct conflict to the scorched earth mentality of chemical companies. Since you work with farmers you would know that there are many promises that GMO crops have offered and have yet to deliver. But if a farmer has innovated his own varieties that does work and is cross pollinated with a proprietary crop it is now infringing on that patent. My only point is that chemical companies don’t have a monopoly on innovation but current policy reflects that they do. The farmers that I know and have grown up with whom freely share their innovations, help each-other overcome problems, and innovate scientifically, are scared for their lively-hoods, their family farms, at the threat of being indebted to chemical companies that share none of these values.

        • Jason

          I understand your point of view and agree that farmers are a good source for innovation. I’m just stating that you’ve got many of your facts wrong.

          For example, farmers (in the U.S. at least) rarely, if ever, use heirloom varieties. Those are seeds that gardeners use. Farmers use commercially produced seeds because they need to be assured of the genetic variety they are planting. They need to be assured that the seeds are suitable for their climate and soils and management practices and the only way to get that assurance is through testing and publishing the results. Commercial seed companies do that. Farmers need seeds that give them the greatest potential for yield. In the case of gmo crops, I don’t even know of any heirloom varieties that exist. No one is growing heirloom field corn, heirloom cotton, heirloom soybeans. Heirloom seeds are used to grow veggies that have particular tastes. Commercial varieties are grown to yield. There aren’t any farmers innovating their own crop seed varieties. That’s a romantic notion but doesn’t reflect reality. Creating your own crop varieties takes a level of time & commitment that farmers just don’t have to spare, unless they’re just farming part time.

          I’m confused…what promises have GMOs failed to deliver? I was here when roundup ready soybeans were first launched. They promised easier weed control. They delivered that many times over. Even bad farmers had clean soybean fields. I was here when Bt corn was first launched to control European corn borer. It has controlled corn borer so well that now even non gmo corn farmers don’t find themselves with high populations of this insect. I was here when Bt corn to control rootworms was released. It promised easier & more reliable rootworm control. It has delivered that by a good margin. Do you have any idea how much soil insecticide was applied directly into Midwestern soils before that? Frankly, I’m shocked at how anyone that considers themselves an environmentalist can be opposed to that particular technology. All of these things combined have led to higher average yields for farmers and less hazardous chemicals to deal with. If you know any corn farmers that have been around 20 years, ask them how they liked handling rootworm insecticides every spring. It’s not fun. Why is it bad to have these choices available?

          Anyway…the point I’m making is that GMOs are one of many tools. No one forces them on farmers and If farmers didn’t like them, they wouldn’t buy them year after year after year.

          • John C. ‘Buck’ Field

            Jason, I would call myself an environmentalist, but I’m against this particular technology because it’s secret, owned by entities legally obligated to put profits before other concerns, and by the most reliable metrics for whether a product produces injury within similar contexts, we have decades of evidence which would seem to force us to the conclusion that the producers suspect their product is harmful. Which is not to say I favor carpet-bombing Iowa with pesticides.

            You are shocked an environmentalist can be opposed to “that particular technology.” Let’s assume people who call themselves both health-conscious and medically literate are opposed to use of a pharmaceutical being hailed as a “wonder drug”. It has well-established benefits, but critics claim potential adverse impacts which seem to contradict the best medical opinions of the day. Would you be shocked by their position as well?

        • Jason

          I understand your point of view and agree that farmers are a good source for innovation. I’m just stating that you’ve got many of your facts wrong.

          For example, farmers (in the U.S. at least) rarely, if ever, use heirloom varieties. Those are seeds that gardeners use. Farmers use commercially produced seeds because they need to be assured of the genetic variety they are planting. They need to be assured that the seeds are suitable for their climate and soils and management practices and the only way to get that assurance is through testing and publishing the results. Commercial seed companies do that. Farmers need seeds that give them the greatest potential for yield. In the case of gmo crops, I don’t even know of any heirloom varieties that exist. No one is growing heirloom field corn, heirloom cotton, heirloom soybeans. Heirloom seeds are used to grow veggies that have particular tastes. Commercial varieties are grown to yield. There aren’t any farmers innovating their own crop seed varieties. That’s a romantic notion but doesn’t reflect reality. Creating your own crop varieties takes a level of time & commitment that farmers just don’t have to spare, unless they’re just farming part time.

          I’m confused…what promises have GMOs failed to deliver? I was here when roundup ready soybeans were first launched. They promised easier weed control. They delivered that many times over. Even bad farmers had clean soybean fields. I was here when Bt corn was first launched to control European corn borer. It has controlled corn borer so well that now even non gmo corn farmers don’t find themselves with high populations of this insect. I was here when Bt corn to control rootworms was released. It promised easier & more reliable rootworm control. It has delivered that by a good margin. Do you have any idea how much soil insecticide was applied directly into Midwestern soils before that? Frankly, I’m shocked at how anyone that considers themselves an environmentalist can be opposed to that particular technology. All of these things combined have led to higher average yields for farmers and less hazardous chemicals to deal with. If you know any corn farmers that have been around 20 years, ask them how they liked handling rootworm insecticides every spring. It’s not fun. Why is it bad to have these choices available?

          Anyway…the point I’m making is that GMOs are one of many tools. No one forces them on farmers and If farmers didn’t like them, they wouldn’t buy them year after year after year.

          • John C. ‘Buck’ Field

            Jason, I would call myself an environmentalist, but I’m against this particular technology because it’s secret, owned by entities legally obligated to put profits before other concerns, and by the most reliable metrics for whether a product produces injury within similar contexts, we have decades of evidence which would seem to force us to the conclusion that the producers suspect their product is harmful. Which is not to say I favor carpet-bombing Iowa with pesticides.

            You are shocked an environmentalist can be opposed to “that particular technology.” Let’s assume people who call themselves both health-conscious and medically literate are opposed to use of a pharmaceutical being hailed as a “wonder drug”. It has well-established benefits, but critics claim potential adverse impacts which seem to contradict the best medical opinions of the day. Would you be shocked by their position as well?

          • Jason

            I’m not following. Yes, publicly owned companies are beholden to drive growth & profit. So? What exactly is secret about it? It’s one of the most studied technologies I can think of.

            And what do you mean that the producers suspect their product to be harmful? What possible evidence do you have to come to that conclusion??

      • Taxil Necrobane

        The problem the other farmers and gardeners (farmers on a smaller scale) is that they want to use heirloom seeds, but the GMO crops are made to cross breed with them and thus contaminate their crops, and THEN those Argi-corps come in and sue them for something the Argi-corps allowed to happen. It’s a dirty all around and with Monsantos being a monopoly who has nearly complete control over our food supply, there is nothing that can be done about it.

        Being a farmer will not make you wealthy, but it is a critically needed profession. Monsantos can an do charge an arm and a leg for those GMO seeds, and there is little anyone can do anything about it.

        Your work with farmers then? Citation needed please.

        • Jackson

          The problem the other farmers and gardeners (farmers on a smaller scale) is that they want to use heirloom seeds, but the GMO crops are made to cross breed with them and thus contaminate their crops

          The point Jason was making was that GMOs don’t cross pollinate any extra than their isogenic lines, so heirloom varieties are at no greater risk for cross pollination with GMOs being grown than without.

          and THEN those Argi-corps come in and sue them for something the Argi-corps allowed to happen.

          This doesn’t happen. Monsanto sues farmers for intentional planting of their patented seeds without paying for them, but has never sued for accidental contamination. They actually pay to have any accidental contamination removed from any farmers field that has any inadvertent GMOs growing.

          It’s a dirty all around and with Monsantos being a monopoly who has nearly complete control over our food supply, there is nothing that can be done about it.

          I am in favor of strong anti-trust laws, but Monsanto has what, 25% of the seed market? I’m not sure if that is big enough to freak out about. What percent of the market do you think should be the limit before anti-trust suits are brought?

          Monsantos can an do charge an arm and a leg for those GMO seeds, and there is little anyone can do anything about it.

          Of course there is. Farmers can just choose not to buy seeds from Monsanto. Or buy non-patented seeds.

          They are constantly experimenting and testing hypothesizes as to improve what they are doing, though rarely are they the products of prestigious scientific universities

          I think you are selling farmers a little short, or maybe selling short some really good universities. Many farmers do get degrees from some really great universities. Farming today is a complicated business.

          • Taxil Necrobane

            Monsanto controls over 80% of the GMO seed market of the Corn, Soybean, and cotton seeds, and over 80 to 97% of total of those crops in the U.S. and many areas of South America ARE GMO. So yes, they have an effective monopoly over those markets. Other seed crops they have a lesser but still a huge percentage control over. Farmers have little choice of whom to buy seeds from. The anti-trust suits should have been filed long ago.

          • Jackson

            Monsanto controls over 80% of the GMO seed market of the Corn, Soybean, and cotton seeds, and over 80 to 97% of total of those crops in the U.S.

            Do you have a source for this? Monsanto licensing a trait to a different seed company is not the same thing as Monsanto having control of that seed company. That is like saying Apple has a monopoly on iphones, and so needs to be broken up.

            If Monsanto develops a product that people like, then lots of people buy that product. Patent protection allows Monsanto 10-20 years to make back the RD costs plus profit, then the patent expires and anyone can make generic versions of that product.

            Farmers have little choice of whom to buy seeds from.

            You can go on the internet and choose from hundreds of seed companies. Farmers can choose to buy from any of those.

          • Credo

            Yes and the reason why they control such huge market share is because 1) they were an early adopter of this technology and pioneered it in the market environment earlier than others 2) they provide a popular and demanded product as evident by their market share 3) they dont have much competition (in US market). And now we arrive at the question as to why they dont have much competition? I wonder if ridiculous regulatory barriers with a 5-10 year delay in product delivery to market has something to do with eliminating all possibility of smaller companies entering the market place! Huh funny how that works! First you put up barriers because you are paranoid about GMOs, than you complain that there is not enough competition in the industry, because guess what, you put up those barriers.

          • Casey Miller

            Monsanto makes as much money as Wholefoods. Apple Inc makes 12 times as much as either. Apple sues over patent violations equivalent to every other day. Monsanto has sued over patent violations in 20 years, what Apple does in one. (the plant patent act was made in 1930, organic and conventional also have patents). Obama didn’t start the great depression in 1930.
            Only 12% of GMOs are for crops or plants. The first gmo approved by the FDA was Insulin, and it was 13 years before the first gmo plant was approved. No, Monsanto, a company as big as wholefoods, doesn’t buy every university in the nation. They don’t control the food supply on Wholefoods budget. You’re starting to sound like a creationist.

        • hyperzombie

          but the GMO crops are made to cross breed with them and thus contaminate their crops,

          LOL, most heirlooms are tomatoes and other veggies, other than a very small amount of GMO sweet corn and a tiny amount of squash there are no GMO veggies. How many heirloom cotton farmers do you know, heirloom canola (LOL) farmers, heirloom sugar beet farmers?

          • Credo

            I swear I just lost it at heirloom Canola :)))

        • Jason

          Tamil, you seriously do not have a clue as to how farming & the seed business work. No… Farmers do not want to use heirloom seeds, particularly where gmo crops are concerned. Heirloom field corn, heirloom soybeans, heirloom sugar beets, heirloom cotton…. Ever heard of them? Me neither. And I’ve been in the seed business 20 years. Farmers want to use seeds that give them the best chance at high yields. Period.

          Gardeners want to use seeds that give them produce that tastes good. So, they favor particular varieties that produce the flavor they want. They do not care as much about yield.

          And Monsanto has never sued anyone over cross pollination. That’s a ridiculous internet rumor that gullible rubes have bought into. Congrats on that. Court cases are a matter of public record. All you need to do is find one single court cases where that’s ever happened. Good luck.

          And you really want me to give a citation that I work with farmers? What exactly would that look like? Is there a peer reviewed study somewhere documenting that I sell seed and have a tri-state crop consulting license?

          • Taxil Necrobane

            Who’s Tamil? Seriously, you want me to take you seriously you need to have to spell my name right. If you can’t even do something as simple as that, you are not worth my time. Seriously, it’s my pet peeve.

            Oh and yes I have heard of Heirloom field corn (and those others). Some farmers know there is a market for non GMO crops.

            The citations, Yes. You made some really big claims and I and others here want to see proof. If you do, I will acknowledge it and let this discussion abide. Other wise I won’t believe you.

          • Jason

            That was an ipad autocorrect. Sorry that I didn’t catch it. You’re probably going to have to lighten up a bit on that given that the name you picked was Taxil.

            As for the rest, of course there is a market for non-GMO crops. You’re making an assumption that non-GMO corn is the same as heirloom corn. It is not even close. Our seed company sells non-GMO corn hybrids. But they are still commercially produced F1 hybrids. NOT heirloom corn. If you find a legit farmer that is planting commodity grain corn and using heirloom varieties, you have found a very bad farmer and one that will not likely be around long. The production level is not even comparable.

            Can you tell me what a citation of who I have worked with would look like?

          • Taxil Necrobane

            Alright, An ipad mess up I can forgive. I have this name because it stands out.

            I had to look that up, and I will say heirloom and hybrid seeds can be one and the same but there can differences between the two. I can see your point and still my point can stand too. Anyway, I think you are seeing it as a farmer who is aiming for a massive bulk production (mid western mega farms), and I was seeing the smaller scale family farmer. I know there is a booming market for a non-GMO crops that people will pay top dollar even for smaller yields.

            Lastly, I had to calm down and think about the citations and I realized I might have asked too much of you. the citations i would have asked for would have exposed your real ID here on this site and leave you open to trolls and ID scammers and I just can not do that to you. I do have standards and I just can’t cross them. So the best I can do is that it might be better to leave it as it is and agree to disagree with you Mr. Jason. I maybe have disagreements, but I DO NOT want you harmed in anyway.

          • There is a fuller discussion on the most cited case of a Monsanto “cross-pollination” suit in this older article on NPR discussing it and other GMO myths. ( http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/10/18/163034053/top-five-myths-of-genetically-modified-seeds-busted ). The the last sentence of the first of the paragraphs I’ve copied below hints as to the likely reason why the “cross-pollination lawsuit” story has gotten traction; Monsanto may not have sued for cross pollination but have engaged in “plenty” of behavior that many would characterize as bullying. Those kind of actions get a very David and Goliath reaction from people that sticks and so those were likely conflated with the Cross Pollination Lawsuit myth. Of course, that has less to do with the work of geneticists and more to so with aggressive patent lawyers but there you go…

            “…It’s certainly true that Monsanto has been going after farmers whom the company suspects of using GMO seeds without paying royalties. And there are plenty of cases … in which the company has overreached, engaged in raw intimidation, and made accusations that turned out not to be backed up by evidence.

            But as far as I can tell, Monsanto has never sued anybody over trace amounts of GMOs that were introduced into fields simply through cross-pollination. (The company asserts, in fact, that it will pay to remove any of its GMOs from fields where they don’t belong.) “

        • First Officer

          Huh, who was sued for accidental cross pollination?

      • Shadeburst

        Thanks for a commonsense answer Jason. I have worked for a couple of ag companies and farmers love seed providers like Monsanto. Certified seed is one of the biggest breakthroughs resulting in improved yields year after year. Once you’ve planted the seed it costs the same to bring a crop to harvest whether 90% germinates or only 75%. Keeping back “free” seed for next year’s crop could be a very expensive mistake. Farmers don’t lay on the herbicides and pesticides thick because they like killing things. Less chemicals means less expense means more profit (or to be realistic, often it’s a smaller loss they’re aiming for). Irrigation costs a ton too and hybrids that need less water, whether GM or otherwise, are a godsend to the farmer. And finally, products with a longer “fresh” life from harvesting to time of sale means less wastage, and this is exactly where most of the millions of tons of food thrown away happen. Thanks to commercial ag research, farmers will be able to feed the 9 billion human population projected for 2050 with the same resources or only slightly more.

      • Bob Retelle

        Are you seriously claiming ignorance of the legal crusades Monsanto and other GMO seed companies have been waging against small farmers?

        No one is actually talking about “heirloom seeds” here. It’s evident that English is not nelag’s first language, and his use of the word “heirloom” was an understandable mistake.

        Also the issue isn’t with “small farms” that are actually large agri-businesses and which find it more economical to simply buy new seed each year and whose profit motives bring them to select GMO seeds for the financial advantages.
        (Similar to the way the definition of “Small Business” also includes companies with multi-million dollar gross yearly sales.)

        The issue is small family farmers who routinely set aside part of their harvest as seed for the next year’s plantings. Not all small family farmers can afford to run down to the co-op every Spring and splurge on factory fresh seeds from Big-Agra, GMO or not.

        However Monsanto has pursued a vigorous campaign of patenting their seeds, AND sending teams of investigators out to those farmers who fail to buy GMO seeds to test their saved seed from previous seasons. If any Monsanto DNA is detected in a farmer’s seed, he’s sued for patent infringement and ordered by the court to destroy all his seeds.

        Farmers who have never planted Monsanto GMO seed are finding wind-blown cross-polination with neighbor’s crops (a perfectly natural part of normal farming) has often destroyed their livelihood when Monsanto’s lawyers descend on their lives and demand payment.

        Even when it can be proven that there was no intent to infringe, and that the source of contamination is determined to be “volunteer” cornstalks growing along the drainage ditch next to a road used by Monsanto trucks delivering seed corn to other farms, a small farmer will have his crops and seed destroyed.

        And, it’s difficult to find a court citation when a family farmer gives up and pays Monsanto, or ends up destroying his crop and the case is dismissed, the way apparently a huge percentage of these cases are settled. (And as Monsanto’s lawyers obviously know will happen. The small family farms who would be involved in saving seeds for the next season certainly isn’t going to have a team of lawyers on their payroll to defend them against corporate giants.)

        The issue of preventing teaching should be self-obvious.
        If Monsanto is the final arbiter of what seed you’re allowed to use, there’s no point in trying to hand down generations of farming knowledge about seed husbandry or cross-breeding, since it’s likely anything you produce will become contaminated and belong to Monsanto. And destroyed.

        Eventually ALL farmers will be forced to buy Monsanto or other Big-Agra seeds because of this legal miscarriage allowing the patenting of seeds. Companies should be allowed to profit from their investments in technology, yes. But they should not be allowed to control something as essential to human life as agriculture for their own profits. A lot of Big-Agra lobbyist money must have changed hands to make this kind of thing legal.

        And yes, this issue has nothing directly to do with the scientific discussion about the safety or efficacy of genetically modified crops. But it speaks volumes about the ethics and trustworthiness of the people putting out the “studies” supposedly proving that their stuff is safe and wholesome.

    • Vastmandana

      Thank you nelag…the raft of ignorant commentators on this thread smells of corporate propaganda and Bill Nye is no longer the legitimate “science guy”… It is sad to have seen him morph into the “corporate food industry science guy”…

  • nelag

    I love Star Talk and get that it is science show, but considering the only point of view that swayed you (at least from the first part of
    the show) was speaking with the scientists at the various chemical companies assumes that traditional farmers (specifically small family
    farmers) have no useful scientific opinion. After all farmers still exist in America and through-out the world. They have and always will be some of the most practical scientists we have. They are constantly experimenting and testing hypothesizes as to improve what they are
    doing, though rarely are they the products of prestigious scientific universities. Some of the best examples of adaptation to climate
    change and new pests are not fancy and as cool as GMOs but that does not mean they cannot solve some of the same problems.

    Farmers and farm workers are some of the must under-represented people in our developed world (I’m not talking about Agra-businesses) and I assure you spend some time meeting with these people you will hear a very different stories about how GMOs are really used. You cannot explain they are embracing them with open arms because of market penetration. Many of these proprietary (patented) crops easily cross-pollinate with heirloom varieties (a real term not just semantics as was implied in the show — meaning handed down from generation to generation) destroying small farmers lively-hoods. We are living in this world where patent infringement lawsuits make it so farmers can no longer teach their sons and daughters how to raise the crops they know and have grown on their land for generations (the land they know better then any one else) because the GMO crop has inadvertently cross pollinated with it and their seeds are now the property of someone they never met.

    If you think the only way to feed the world is by forcing farmers to pay chemical companies for the right to grow their food you are pushing for a world that will be owned by those chemical companies. While I know this is a science show, I also know that the hosts frequently speak of the policy decisions that led to space exploration, so it is unwise to ignore consequences of science and government politics when talking about GMO crops as well.

    I know Star Talk exists to speak for those who aren’t the best communicators, the scientists who would rather do good work then gain attention. So do the same for the non-traditional scientist doing good work as well — the small family farmer. It sure couldn’t hurt you will learn some of the most practical knowledge about dirt that you can.

    • Jason

      How are gmo crops forcing anyone to do anything? Isn’t it the farmers you hold up so highly that make the conscious decision to purchase these seeds every single year?

      How do patent infringement lawsuits prevent anyone from teaching anything? Your assertion is confusing.

      I also think you may be confusing terms. Heirloom seeds are not something farmers use. They’re something gardeners use. And so long as gardeners are consciously making the decision to propagate these heirloom varieties, they are in no more danger of going away than they have ever been. Heirloom varieties have always been at risk of cross pollination from varieties that are not the same. So, how is this different now? Small farmers benefit from this technology far more than do large farmers.

      I’ve spent the last 20 years working directly with farmers and farm help on a daily basis. I can assure you that their opinions of this technology are far closer to what you heard on star talk than what you have presented here. I honestly think you’ve fallen victim to activist sensationalism that does not refelct reality.

      • Tipsy

        Jason GMO crops aren’t forcing anyone to do anything, it’s the companies that distribute them and mess with the laws to ensure they have complete control over them, and the fact that companies like Monsanto have shown they don’t much care if they crush farmers who haven’t signed onto their product left right and centre.

        If you’re a farmer, how you gonna defend yourself in court against a company with a professional legal team?

  • sepiae

    I find Bill Nye’s change of hear extremely pleasing and uplifting. It’s example for the very spirit of scientific approach for a science educator as well to be able to be lectured by the facts and alter one’s opinion. Genetic engineering: ask what exactly is it – you’ll have to ‘start’ with Mendel – is it really ‘unnatural’ – it ain’t, and it wasn’t ‘invented’ by us – before you come to Methods and Application. It’s not exclusively synonymous with the name of one company, and if we’re talking methods and application, a spoon can be used for the better or worse. With the problems of resources, droughts and population growing, GMO might be the only answer. Plus, as it’s been pointed out, if you buy a ‘bio’-banana in the store, you won’t buy a banana that isn’t engineered: just measure its length…

  • I think this is a great discussion. There do appear to be a lot of myths circulating around GMO’s. I agree with Bill that GMOs should not be banned outright, it’s clearly just a refinement of selective breeding. However, I still have many reservations about his acceptance that glyphosate is not harmful when consumed by humans.

    I didn’t hear any mention of the fact that many countries have recently banned glyphosate, as well as the recent report from the World Health Organization that glyphosate is a carcinogen. I’m aware that some studies have shown otherwise, but if nothing else, to the casual observer there does not seem to be a consensus on the safety of glyphosate. I have seen claims that glyphosate-resistant crops lead to increasingly higher amounts of glyphosate in food samples, and that is enough to give me pause. I have not seen anyone offer a counter argument to that, and initial evaluations of glyphosate’s safety were clearly done with the expectation of lower doses, since it has been in use for such a long time.

    Part of my issue is that this product is coming from Monsanto, which has a horrible reputation and is one of the least popular companies when people are polled. This is the same company which is still trying to push the use of neonicotinoids despite growing scientific consensus that such use is responsible for the colony collapse disorder of bees. They’re hardly stewards of scientific fact or of trustworthy behavior when considering the public’s health.

    • hyperzombie

      First of all good job with understand what a GMO is. And not really having a problem with them.

      The rest of your post is somewhat ill informed.

      Many countries have not banned glyphosate in Agriculture, I think Jamaica is the only one with a ban on glyphosate in Ag, but there are many countries that ban glyphosate for homeowners and gardeners (probably a bad idea, considering most homeowners will just use far more dangerous herbicides on their lawns)

      The WHO did not report that glyphosate is a carcinogen, it was the IARC and it was deemed a potential carcinogen for applicators using it regularly. This warning applies to mostly landscapers and forestry workers, most farmers only use glyphosate one or 2x per year.

      Well there are more foods with glyphosate residues in them, but once agin this is a good thing. It just means that there is far less other herbicides in and on the food. The application rate for Roundup or glyphosate has always remained the same at 16 oz per acre (can go as high as 32 oz per acre, but this is normally only used for land clearing and forestry). So yes there are more foods that may have very small amounts of glyphosate on them, only because glyphosate is used on more crops today. The initial evaluation of glyphosate was done far before any GMOs, it came out in 1974.

      Monsanto the chemical company ceased to exist in the mid 90s, it is now owned by Pfizer, I think. Today’s Monsanto is a Ag company, that focuses on making farming more productive, that is it. They sell very few chemicals compared to the other big Ag Co`s, like syngenta, Bayer, and BASF.

      Neonicotinoids are a Syngenta product, and they are not linked to CCD. Neonics are a powerful insecticide and can kill bees, but they actually save bees when used as a seed treatment.

      • I thought that I could make my comment without citing references, but it seems as though I should. Many people here claiming to be informed, but I imagine everyone thinks they are informed. In general I have been appalled by the quality of reporting on these issues, it’s nearly impossible to find objective articles from genuine news sources that do not have an agenda on one side or the other. None of these articles I will link to fall under that category. Perhaps your opinion was misinformed by similar bad reporting (as mine has been at times) but I think you’ll see you have some of your facts mixed up. A few specific points:

        1. I will agree with you that the “ban” of glyphosate has been overstated, and I was misled. You’re correct, only Mexico seems to have banned it for agricultural uses, and there only in its farming states. Though, much of Europe has banned its sale over the counter (i.e., as you say, to gardeners) and German politicians seem to be trying for an outright ban in the EU, much as they have done for neonicotinoids.

        2. The IARC is a branch of WHO. So, if the IARC declare something a “probable” carcinogen (their words) then by definition, the World Health Organization is doing so. They are the same organization.

        3. Monsanto sells seeds with added neonicotinoids, but does not sell the insecticide by itself. They have publicly defended it. As you imply, it is more often sold by Syngenta (though Bayer sells still more) but the irony here being that Monsanto and Syngenta are as of this week in merger talks, with Bayer being widely rumored as a second option if the talks fail. So this could be a moot point soon enough.

        4. I don’t know much about the amounts of glyphosate sprayed on crops, but a recent scholarly paper studying GMO soy declared “Glyphosate tolerant GM soybeans contain high residues of glyphosate and AMPA.” The paper is entitled “Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans.” That seems to support the idea that “Roundup-ready” crops contain more glyphosate than scientists would have envisioned in 1974, when its safety was originally evaluated and not the “very small” amounts you describe.

        http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/aug/08/sweet-victory-beekeepers-monsanto-gm-soybeans
        http://www.globalresearch.ca/world-health-organization-wont-back-down-from-study-linking-monsanto-to-cancer/5439840http://www.ehjournal.net/content/pdf/1476-069X-14-6.pdf
        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613019201

        http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/10/25/people-really-hate-monsanto-its-latest-move-shows.aspx

        http://www.americanscientist.org/science/pub/colony-collapse-disorder-linked-to-neonicotinoids
        http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/blog/2014/10/monsanto-will-keep-selling-seeds-treated-with.html

        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-23/monsanto-says-bayer-among-options-if-syngenta-takeover-fizzles

        • hyperzombie

          it’s nearly impossible to find objective articles from genuine news sources that do not have an agenda on one side or the other.

          That is so true, there is so much misinformation on this issue all over the internet. The GMO issue, just like vaccines, gravity and climate change they only have one side, the truth.

          1. I will agree with you that the “ban” of glyphosate has been overstated, and I was misled.

          Yep, and you are still posting erroneous info. Mexico has not banned Glyphosate, just GMO soy in a region or 2. Nothing to do with the amount of glyphosate used. I dont think you understand that HT GMOs only change the timing of the herbicide application, not how much or what herbicide is used. Without RR GMOs farmers will just use glyphosate preplant and pre harvest (some crops) or postharvest. It doesn’t force farmers not to use herbicides.

          Germany will never ban glyphosate for agriculture, it is their number one herbicide also one of the safest and most effective. It is just a bunch of politicians trolling for votes.

          2. The IARC is a branch of WHO. So, if the IARC declare something a “probable” carcinogen (their words) then by definition,

          So true, but they still haven’t released how they determined that glyphosate was a possible carcinogen. And once again it still only applies to applicators that use it regularly.

          3. Monsanto sells seeds with added neonicotinoids, but does not sell the insecticide by itself.

          All row crop seed dealers sell seed with neonicotinoids as an optional seed/crop protection, even the small guys, Land o lakes, Stine. Of, course Monsanto and everyone else in Ag defends Neonics, it is far better than foliar applications of organophosphates, which will kill 100% of the bees every time.

          Syngenta and Monsanto are not in merger talks, Monsanto is trying to buy them. I dont think that they can do it, Syngenta is far bigger. There is no chance that Monsanto could or would want to buy Bayer. Bayer is the 3rd biggest chemical company in the world. Monsanto is not even in the top 50. I would be far more worried about Bayer or BASF gobbling up Monsanto.

          4. I don’t know much about the amounts of glyphosate sprayed on crops, but a recent scholarly paper

          I love this study, but I bet you never read it. Check out table one. Would you rather have 2-4 herbicides sprayed on your soy or one? Do you know what Pursuit plus, fusion, flexstar, firstrate is? Do you know what the Environmental Impact is of these herbicides is? Why are Organic farmers buying seed from Dow and Monsanto? Why did the scientists just test for glyphosate when at least 5 other herbicides were used?
          The application rate for glyphosate has never changed, applying more than 32 oz per acre is just a waste of money, they probably figured this out before 1980.

    • hyperzombie

      First of all good job with understand what a GMO is. And not really having a problem with them.

      The rest of your post is somewhat ill informed.

      Many countries have not banned glyphosate in Agriculture, I think Jamaica is the only one with a ban on glyphosate in Ag, but there are many countries that ban glyphosate for homeowners and gardeners (probably a bad idea, considering most homeowners will just use far more dangerous herbicides on their lawns)

      The WHO did not report that glyphosate is a carcinogen, it was the IARC and it was deemed a potential carcinogen for applicators using it regularly. This warning applies to mostly landscapers and forestry workers, most farmers only use glyphosate one or 2x per year.

      Well there are more foods with glyphosate residues in them, but once agin this is a good thing. It just means that there is far less other herbicides in and on the food. The application rate for Roundup or glyphosate has always remained the same at 16 oz per acre (can go as high as 32 oz per acre, but this is normally only used for land clearing and forestry). So yes there are more foods that may have very small amounts of glyphosate on them, only because glyphosate is used on more crops today. The initial evaluation of glyphosate was done far before any GMOs, it came out in 1974.

      Monsanto the chemical company ceased to exist in the mid 90s, it is now owned by Pfizer, I think. Today’s Monsanto is a Ag company, that focuses on making farming more productive, that is it. They sell very few chemicals compared to the other big Ag Co`s, like syngenta, Bayer, and BASF.

      Neonicotinoids are a Syngenta product, and they are not linked to CCD. Neonics are a powerful insecticide and can kill bees, but they actually save bees when used as a seed treatment.

  • KAM

    Bill – Whether it is Monsanto, Dow, Nestle, etc.; once they control food, we are all at the mercy of companies. Monsanto controls farmers by forcing them to use their seed – Example – Soy. Any farmer caught growing non-Monsanto Soy Seed – Monsanto has stomped all over – I do not want to live in a world controlled by Mega Corps calling the shots – As they are trying to do with Water. Think Bill, Please Think !!!

    • hyperzombie

      Wow, conspiracy much…
      No one is forced to buy any seed from anyone, farmer buy GMOs cause they work and it pays to buy the best seed.

      • KAM

        So – Then why are the Mega Corps opposed to labeling – If it is so safe and so good you would want labels to promote the health benefits – Hmmm, Control of Food Source – Yup. I live in the USA being able to make informed choices is something that I desire – So, label GMOs and let an informed public decide. PS – I don’t 100% agree with your comment – Control of food forces farmers to make hard choices …

        • hyperzombie

          If it is so safe and so good you would want labels to promote the health benefits

          It is not safer or healthier, it is the same. So no label is needed.

          – I don’t 100% agree with your comment – Control of food forces farmers to make hard choices …

          Nope, farmers can buy whatever seed that they want. Most farmers choose to buy the best seed and germplasm every year, because it is the smart thing to do. It almost always pays.

        • hyperzombie

          If it is so safe and so good you would want labels to promote the health benefits

          It is not safer or healthier, it is the same. So no label is needed.

          – I don’t 100% agree with your comment – Control of food forces farmers to make hard choices …

          Nope, farmers can buy whatever seed that they want. Most farmers choose to buy the best seed and germplasm every year, because it is the smart thing to do. It almost always pays.

          • KAM

            PS – to my original comment – about food being controlled by mega corps – Here we are in the worse drought we’ve had and there is Nestle pumping our water to bottle it for consumers around the country and ignoring our needs over profits or the environment – That is what scares me about company controlled resources – such as GMO controlled foods.

        • Michael McCarthy

          “labels to promote the health benefits”

          they never claimed health benefits, just that they are the same as conventional crops. It is your beloved organic industry that got in trouble for trying to label their foods as healthier. See how that works?

          ” I live in the USA being able to make informed choices is something that I desire”

          You have the right to make “informed” choices, buy organic or certified Non-GMO. Not everyone has your irrational fears due to being uninformed (thus the need for your “informed” choice, quite the paradox).

          “Control of food forces farmers to make hard choices …”

          No it doesn’t.

  • KAM

    If GMOs are so great – then why try to BAN Labeling:

    http://naturalsociety.com/congress-could-soon-ban-gmo-labeling-under-new-bill/

    Let an informed public decide – It’s as bad as the old Tobacco Companies trying to convince folks that smoking is OK – “4 out of 5 Doctors Prefer Pall Malls when Smoking” remember this? I am not totally opposed to GM, but I want to know what is, what is not modified. In the end, I see a corporate grab to control food source – Control food and you control the world !!

    • hyperzombie

      If Organic is so good, and they are so proud that they only used natural fertilizer, why not a “Grown in Animal Feces” label? Unlike GMOs, animal feces is a Real health threat.

      but I want to know what is, what is not modified.

      ust look it up, do we need a label because you are to lazy to google what crops are GMOs?

      • KAM

        No, I am not lazy – But, I can see how a mom/dad with kids in a store would like to read what is in their food – Again, if GMO is the greatest thing since slice break – why all the blocking of labeling – What’s in it and what it contains – come now, if you can put “may contain soy, peanuts” surely having “contains GMO” is not that hard.

        • hyperzombie

          GMO is NOT an ingredient, it is a plant breeding technology. Are any other plant breeding technologies labeled? Are there Mutagenic labels? You are comparing 2 different things, GMO corn is still corn, Gmo soy is just soy. No need to label.
          And if Mom and Pop want to avoid GMOs for some strange reason, they can buy the food that is labeled just for them, Organic and non GMO. Simple.

          • KAM

            I respectfully disagree — In CA we pushed to have Calorie Count put on Menus – now, I am able to see how many calories I am consuming at any given restaurant – Great Idea! Now we have visual labeling on the front of packaged food – Calories, Sat Fat, Sodium, and Sugars – I used to see these labels when I traveled to EU – finally made it here – Great Idea!

            My point being is why are you so anti-labeling – Information is power. Interesting that Anti-Labeling GMO is using the same tactics as the Tobacco industry “the consumer will be confused by such labeling” – Huh!?! – Well, California will help bring about GMO Labeling – and Ergo CA, Ergo USA.

            Yes, I am a total liberal with total liberal values and ideas!

          • hyperzombie

            I respectfully disagree

            Well thank you, I will respectfully disagree, and tell you once again that GMO is just a plant breeding technology. You can politely disagree with facts, but that doesn’t change them.

            calories= useful info

            Sat Fat= useful info

            Sodium= useful info

            Sugars=Hmmm, could be usefull info

            What useful health or nutritional info will a GMO label give you?

            I am totally pro label, for useful info. I want month of harvest labels for all fresh produce, so we know that they are fresh. Also a grown in untested animal feces label. Labels like this can and will provide useful info.

          • KAM

            Interesting perspective – “month lablel” That said, I think when it comes to processed food I’m still in favor of GMO Labeling and I think most Americans, well certainly a vast majority of us CA’s would like to know if it has GMO. It *will* happen in CA, and being a left-leaning state, other states tend to follow our lead – Gay Marriage being one prime example … Now…that said i am not anti-GMO – I’m waiting to hear of GMO Tree’s that absorb “3x +” times the amount of carbon in from the air, trees that grow “x” times faster to replenish forests, algae that can quickly (unlike today, they are painfully slow) eat up oil spills and other toxins, even radioactivity, and so on. That would be a wonderful thing!

        • Michael McCarthy

          “may contain soy, peanuts”
          you’re right, you’re not lazy, you’re an idiot. May contain soy/peanuts is due to allergies thus why it is necessary.

  • KAM

    If GMOs are so great – then why try to BAN Labeling:

    http://naturalsociety.com/congress-could-soon-ban-gmo-labeling-under-new-bill/

    Let an informed public decide – It’s as bad as the old Tobacco Companies trying to convince folks that smoking is OK – “4 out of 5 Doctors Prefer Pall Malls when Smoking” remember this? I am not totally opposed to GM, but I want to know what is, what is not modified. In the end, I see a corporate grab to control food source – Control food and you control the world !!

  • Tipsy

    Wait wait wait wait wait. What was that bit about the Indian elephant and the Mammoth??

  • Tipsy

    Also, loved the humour in this show.

  • Jason

    Don’t be so sure that Monsanto couldn’t buy Syngenta. In ’96 they bought the 2nd largest seed company in the country (DeKalb). Before that, they had no seed presence what so ever. Then not long after, in 96 or 97, I remember Monsanto buying out Holden Seed Genetics which at that time was the single largest provider of hybrid corn genetics in the country and maybe the world. One out of every 3 hybrids grown were Holden’s genetics. Within a year or two, they were a major player in the seed biz.

    It was only a $1B purchase, but back then, that was enormous and we thought there was no way they could pull that off. But… here we are.

    • hyperzombie

      Ok, Monsanto could if they tried may be able to buy Syngenta, but there is no way that they could buy Bayer or BASF.

      • Taxil Necrobane

        Monsanto’s could buy up Bayer and/or BASF if they can steer their stock prices down enough to be affordable and make them panic enough to allow themselves to be gobbled up. There are ways to altering other company stock prices, but that is a subject for another time and place. I’m just saying it is not out of the realm of possibility in this economic environment.

        • hyperzombie

          How could Monsanto drive BASFs stock price down? Basf is the worlds largest chemical company.

          • Taxil Necrobane

            Planting (no pun intended) rumors in the market place well enough to spook the stock market in one way. Hiring black hat hackers making good on data breaches and releasing BASF’s internals and top secret data to the public. Lord there is many more ways to damage a rival corp and all of this goes on to one degree or another across the world. Yes, BASF has a lot of solid monetary capital in physical properties like chemical plants and liquid capital with cash in their bank accounts. But many corps hold a lot of their value tied up their stocks’s perceived value on the market. Crash that and you might reduce a company’s price tag down enough to be able to be bought out one way or another.

            Of course pulling such corp shadowruns on another corp always has a risk to it. But some people see the pay out worth doing even if they do get caught at it.

      • JoeFarmer

        But Monsanto wouldn’t be trying to buy the whole banana, just Bayer Crop Sciences. Huge companies do spin off divisions pretty frequently.

    • JoeFarmer

      Yep.

      But I am personally opposed to a Monsanto-Syngenta merger. I can see why it’s been proposed from a financial-engineering standpoint, but I see absolutely nothing in it for me as a farmer. Actually, I see negatives.

  • The GMO issue, just like vaccines, gravity and climate change they only have one side, the truth.

    This is the biggest issue I have with people arguing about GMO’s. You can liken the fear of the concept of genetic modification to the fear of vaccination. I have never put forth the argument that GMO’s in general are unsafe, so you should save this argument for someone else.

    But there is not a scientific consensus that glyphosate is not harmful to humans. Vaccination and genetic modification are simple concepts, whereas the effects of an herbicide on the human body is not. History is full of examples of the scientific community believing certain substances were safe (often with the encouragement and research dollars of a large corporation), only to find with time and much more study, that they were in fact harmful. Science is based on a series of hypotheses, most of which end up getting amended with time, and the human body is an extremely complicated system.

    I dont think you understand that HT GMOs only change the timing of the herbicide application

    Again, I am not trying to argue that glyphosate dosage has increased due to GM crops, so I’m not sure where you’re going with that.

    So true, but [the IARC/WHO] still haven’t released how they determined that glyphosate was a possible carcinogen

    One of the links I posted appears to have gotten mangled, so maybe you did not see this, but the researchers have defended their study and given their reasoning:

    Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, told Reuters,“There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations and damaged chromosomes.”

    The researchers found “convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause cancer in laboratory animals.”

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/world-health-organization-wont-back-down-from-study-linking-monsanto-to-cancer/5439840

    To my recollection, the basis for Bill Nye’s defense of glyphosate was that it affected the shikimate pathways of plants, and since humans do not have these pathways, glyphosate is therefore safe. But I did a quick search for glyphosate studies and found 10 papers (I stopped after two pages) noting the “genotoxic” effects of glyphosate on fish, amphibians, and snails. Clearly, it can affect animals as well. The real question in my mind is not whether or not glyphosate could cause harm to humans, it clearly has the capacity to do us harm. The question is how much glyphosate exposure would be carcinogenic.

    I love this study, but I bet you never read it.

    Oh I definitely did not read the entire paper. But unlike you, who seemed to have skimmed over to the first table and then started trotting out straw man arguments, I at least read the abstract. That is relevant to discussion here and you seemed to have missed it, so I’ll paste the TL;DR version for you:

    •Glyphosate tolerant GM soybeans contain high residues of glyphosate and AMPA.

    GM-soy contained high residues of glyphosate and AMPA (mean 3.3 and 5.7 mg/kg, respectively). Conventional and organic soybean batches contained none of these agrochemicals.

    • hyperzombie

      But there is not a scientific consensus that glyphosate is not harmful to humans.

      There certainly is a consensus that glyphosate residues on food pose no human health concerns whatsoever. Even with doses 10x higher there would be 0 human/mammal health effects.

      History is full of examples of the scientific community believing certain substances were safe (often with the encouragement and research dollars of a large corporation), only to find with time and much more study, that they were in fact harmful.

      Name one, that there was a 20 year consensus on the safety that was overturned with new evidence?

      Science is based on a series of hypotheses, most of which end up getting amended with time, and the human body is an extremely complicated system.

      Yep, but the substance in question normally has to have some residency time at biologically relevant amounts in the body for any health effects to occur. Glyphosate is a salt, it goes right through the human body. Even people that try to commit suicide by drinking large amounts of glyphosate (92% survive, it is a horrible ineffective suicide agent) have no detectable residues 72 hrs after ingestion.

      but the researchers have defended their study and given their reasoning:

      But they have not released what evidence that they used to come to this conclusion. Both the Canadian government and the German government reviewed glyphosate and claimed that it was not carcinogenic or mutagenic, what evidence does the IARC have that these governments don’t have?

      noting the “genotoxic” effects of glyphosate on fish, amphibians, and snails.

      Well there could be toxic effects on these animals at high doses, but not genotoxic effects . I dont believe you.

      Clearly, it can affect animals as well. The real question in my mind is not whether or not glyphosate could cause harm to humans, it clearly has the capacity to do us harm.

      Well everything has the capacity to do harm, drink 8oz of table salt dissolved in water, it is just salt and water, it can’t possible hurt you can it? (dont try it, it may kill you) The dose makes the poison, toxicology 101.

      GM-soy contained high residues of glyphosate and AMPA

      LOL, of course the crops that were sprayed with glyphosate had some glyphosate on them, like Duh.

      AMPA (mean 3.3 and 5.7 mg/kg, respectively).

      AMPA is degraded glyphosate, so over half the glyphosate has already decomposed.

      The big question about this study is why didn’t they test for the other herbicides so they could compare the results???? Wouldn’t that make sense?

      Oh I definitely did not read the entire paper.

      And I read the whole entire paper, many times in fact, it came out years ago.

      • History is full of examples of the scientific community believing certain substances were safe (often with the encouragement and research dollars of a large corporation), only to find with time and much more study, that they were in fact harmful.

        -Name one, that there was a 20 year consensus on the safety that was overturned with new evidence?

        Trans-fats. Tobacco. Asbestos. It’s pretty easy to come up with examples, there are many more.

        [T]he substance in question normally has to have some residency time at biologically relevant amounts in the body for any health effects to occur. Glyphosate is a salt, it goes right through the human body. Even people that try to commit suicide by drinking large amounts of glyphosate (92% survive, it is a horrible ineffective suicide agent) have no detectable residues 72 hrs after ingestion.

        Sure, sounds basically harmless. And yet, here it is, causing kidney disease in Sri Lanka and seemingly now in Central America as well:

        http://www.ehjournal.net/content/pdf/1476-069X-14-6.pdf

        http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/04/30/306907097/mysterious-kidney-disease-slays-farmworkers-in-central-america

        From your description, it sounds to me like one single large dose of glyphosate only occasionally kills people, but regular exposure causes long-term health effects. Which is why the idea of ingesting increasingly higher doses of it in our food supply on a regular basis is concerning to many, and seems in need of more study.

        noting the “genotoxic” effects of glyphosate on fish, amphibians, and snails.

        -Well there could be toxic effects on these animals at high doses, but not genotoxic effects . I dont believe you.

        One study was on guppies exposed to glyphosate in a lab but I believe most of the animals covered in the studies I saw lived near farms actively using glyphosate, so I don’t know what constitutes a high dose in your book, but it seems to be affecting animals in the water table near farms growing GMO crops. Here’s the first paper I found that mentions genotoxic effects on snails:

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048357515000279

        Here’s another that discusses genotoxic effects on fish:

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1382668913002846

        GM-soy contained high residues of glyphosate and AMPA

        -LOL, of course the crops that were sprayed with glyphosate had some glyphosate on them, like Duh.

        I see that you would prefer for me to spell out the results, rather than just accepting a quote in an article from a peer reviewed journal. Sure, why not:

        “All individual samples of GM-soy contained residues of both glyphosate and AMPA. In contrast, no sample from the conventional or the organic soybeans showed any residues of these chemicals (Fig. 1). In the GM-soy samples, the concentration of AMPA (mean concentration = 5.74 mg/kg) was on average nearly twice as high as glyphosate (3.26 mg/kg).”

        There’s also a nice chart. The authors break it down to this: GMO soy = high glyphosate residue. Non-GMO soy treated with conventional pesticides, including Roundup: low glyphosate residue. Organic soy: no residue. Pretty straightforward.

        The big question about this study is why didn’t they test for the other herbicides so they could compare the results???? Wouldn’t that make sense?

        In fact, I think you’ll see that the authors of the study did compare them. They found trace residues of malathion, Fluazifop-P and Dieldrin in the non-GMO samples, among other trace residues, but at something like 1/200th the concentration. It almost sounds like you’ve never read the entire paper…

        And I read the whole entire paper, many times in fact, it came out years ago.

        Thank goodness! I was worried for a minute there. Funny, though, it looks like it came out almost exactly a year ago. Years, you say?…

        There certainly is a consensus that glyphosate residues on food pose no human health concerns whatsoever. Even with doses 10x higher there would be 0 human/mammal health effects.

        And that same scholarly paper you know so well sums this up under the heading “4.6. Toxicity and health relevance of pesticide/glyphosate residues.” They cite about 10 other glyphosate studies showing adverse effects on animals (including mammals and human cells), state at one point “The toxicity and health relevance of glyphosate and Roundup have been debated widely,” (doesn’t sound very consensual to me) and in their conclusion, strongly recommend better testing of the long-term effects of glyphosate residues in food. Cause for concern, wouldn’t you agree?

        • hyperzombie

          Tobacco.

          LOL, there was no consensus on tobacco safety ever, it was linked to cancer many times back in the 1910s, the first study linking cancer to tobacco use was in 1903 (chewing tobacco). In the 1930s it was linked to lung cancer even before mass produced cigs were widely available. In the 1950s there was a consensus that tobacco use was not safe. I think you are confusing Marketing with science.

          Asbestos

          The only scientific consensus on Asbestos that there was is “Asbestos makes an excellent fire retardant” still holds true to this day.

          The only scientific modern consensus that I can think of off the top of my head that was totally wrong, was the medical consensus that stress caused ulcers. Boy was that wrong.

          Sure, sounds basically harmless. And yet, here it is, causing kidney disease in Sri Lanka and seemingly now in Central America as well:

          But that is not what the study says. It claims that it may be hard water, misc pesticides or glyphosate, or a combination of all of the above. They don’t know, it is just a hypothesis. And even if it was true it only applies to dehydrated workers without PPE that drink very hard water in the tropics. Once again, it only applies to applicators, not consumers. Remember the dose makes the poison.

          Here’s the first paper I found that mentions genotoxic effects on snails:

          Both these studies exposed fish and snails to very high doses, and in the case of the snails high doses for a long time. If you used coffee or pepsi in the same study, you would see similar or even worse results. Look the animals don’t live in the spray tank (field applied dose), they may be exposed to that amount, but only for a second or 2, not 96 hours. If you would like to read the entire studies I can send you a link.

          I see that you would prefer for me to spell out the results

          Hmmm, for some reason I think that you think that I don’t know what I am talking about….Strange.

          In contrast, no sample from the conventional or the organic soybeans showed any residues of these chemicals

          Well, of course not, they didn’t use any on the crops.

          Non-GMO soy treated with conventional pesticides, including Roundup:

          Well how could the conventional farmers even get a crop if they sprayed with the crop with glyphosate? Glyphosate kills non GMO soy.

          Pretty straightforward.

          Is it??? Glyphosate kills non GMO soy 100% of the time.

          They found trace residues of malathion, Fluazifop-P and Dieldrin in the non-GMO samples,

          Malathion is an insecticide, along with Dieldrin, Nothing to do with this study, but I wonder why it showed up in the organic crops??? Hmmm.

          among other trace residues, but at something like 1/200th the concentration. It almost sounds like you’ve never read the entire paper…

          Nope, it sounds like you don’t know anything about ag. or the chemicals used for growing crops.

          among other trace residues, but at something like 1/200th the concentration. It almost sounds like you’ve never read the entire paper…

          They never tested for the other herbicides as they clearly state.

          Eurofins laboratories GfA, Otto-Hahn-Str. 22, D-48161 Münster (Germany), performed analysis of organochlorine, organophosphorus, pyrethroides, PCBs, glyphosate and AMPA (aminomethylphosponic acid – the major degradation product of glyphosate) based on the list of pesticide brand names used by the farmers (see Table 1). The following Eurofins methods were used; LMBG L00.00-34, DFG S19, GC–ECD for organochlorine pesticides, pyrethroides, PCBs and LMBG L00.00-34, DFG S19, GC–FPD for organophosphorus pesticides. DFG 405, HPLC–FLD for glyphosate and AMPA.

          They cite about 10 other glyphosate studies showing adverse effects on animals (including mammals and human cells), state at one point “The toxicity and health relevance of glyphosate and Roundup have been debated widely,”

          10… LOL. so funny. I could cite 50 bigfoot papers. Once again Glyphosate is harmless in the amounts found in food,.

          • I started to reply to your post point by point, as we’ve been doing, but it felt to me like we’re running in circles. You’re clearly very knowledgeable about this topic, yet you you seem to more dead-set on pushing an agenda than any pro- or anti-GMO rant blog I’ve seen, and less inclined to having a civil discussion, which is what I came here for. In light of the fact that you’re clearly misrepresenting your own experience I can hardly take anything you say at face value.

            The facts in this situation which remain compelling to me are as follows:
            – glyphosate use has been increasing worldwide exponentially, thanks in part to GMO techniques
            – an international cancer research institution has declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen
            – various studies have shown deleterious effects on animal life from glyphosate, often leading to kidney problems in the animals studied
            – farmers working around glyphosate have of late begun encountering kidney illnesses
            – glyphosate-resistant crops contain glyphosate residue
            – seemingly no one has studied the effects of a long-term diet of crops which contain glyphosate or AMPA residues. The longest term study I could find was 2 years.

            In light of that, I’d like to pose this final question to you: Do you (or anyone else who has managed to follow this discussion) know of any such long-term? Presumably the life expectancy of rats is an obstacle for long term study. Without seeing something concrete like that, and in light of these points, I’m inclined to believe the researchers I’ve come across who are dubious of the safety of glyphosate, and I’ll likely continue to avoid crops treated with it, recommending others do so also.

          • I started to reply to your post point by point, as we’ve been doing, but it felt to me like we’re running in circles. You’re clearly very knowledgeable about this topic, yet you you seem to more dead-set on pushing an agenda than any pro- or anti-GMO rant blog I’ve seen, and less inclined to having a civil discussion, which is what I came here for. In light of the fact that you’re clearly misrepresenting your own experience I can hardly take anything you say at face value.

            The facts in this situation which remain compelling to me are as follows:
            – glyphosate use has been increasing worldwide exponentially, thanks in part to GMO techniques
            – an international cancer research institution has declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen
            – various studies have shown deleterious effects on animal life from glyphosate, often leading to kidney problems in the animals studied
            – farmers working around glyphosate have of late begun encountering kidney illnesses
            – glyphosate-resistant crops contain glyphosate residue
            – seemingly no one has studied the effects of a long-term diet of crops which contain glyphosate or AMPA residues. The longest term study I could find was 2 years.

            In light of that, I’d like to pose this final question to you: Do you (or anyone else who has managed to follow this discussion) know of any such long-term? Presumably the life expectancy of rats is an obstacle for long term study. Without seeing something concrete like that, and in light of these points, I’m inclined to believe the researchers I’ve come across who are dubious of the safety of glyphosate, and I’ll likely continue to avoid crops treated with it, recommending others do so also.

          • hyperzombie

            yet you you seem to more dead-set on pushing an agenda

            Funny, I am the only farmer that comments on this issue that doesn’t grow GMOs and rarely uses any pesticides, I have no agenda. In fact if GMOs were banned, I would most likely make more money, but my immediate environment would be damaged. That is the only reason I am pro-GMO, because I am pro- environment.

            In light of the fact that you’re clearly misrepresenting your own experience I can hardly take anything you say at face value.

            What did I misrepresent? Please point them out, I admit I have been wrong many times before, and strive not to make the same mistake again.

            – glyphosate use has been increasing worldwide exponentially, thanks in part to GMO techniques

            Sort of true, Glyphosate use has also been expanding because it is off patent since the late 90s and it is less than half the price now.

            – an international cancer research institution has declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen

            So is orange oil and hairdressing and shift work. Alcohol and Sunshine are definite carcinogens, and coffee is a probable carcinogen and people drink it on purpose.

            – various studies have shown deleterious effects on animal life from glyphosate, often leading to kidney problems in the animals studied

            If you study something often enough there will be some effects, sugar leads to kidney effects, no one want to ban that.

            – farmers working around glyphosate have of late begun encountering kidney illnesses

            Not really, and the people that use glyphosate the most are forestry workers not farm workers. How come forestry workers not showing the same effects?

            – seemingly no one has studied the effects of a long-term diet of crops which contain glyphosate or AMPA residues. The longest term study I could find was 2 years

            2 years is an eternity with animals studies, when rats only live 2 years on average.

            I’m inclined to believe the researchers I’ve come across who are dubious of the safety of glyphosate

            Why, and I am just asking not judging.

            Most researchers have found no problems with glyphosate.

            and I’ll likely continue to avoid crops treated with it

            How would you know what crops glyphosate was used on?

  • rational exuberance

    Here is a nice debate between four knowledgeable participants. You be the judge.
    http://www.npr.org/2014/12/10/367842658/debate-should-we-genetically-modify-food

  • What did I misrepresent?

    Claiming to have read a study multiple times that you stated was years old when it’s clearly not that old. Up until that point, I gave you the benefit of doubt.

    -I’m inclined to believe the researchers I’ve come across who are dubious of the safety of glyphosate
    Why, and I am just asking not judging.
    Most researchers have found no problems with glyphosate.

    Why? I just laid out my case in the comment I am replying to. Scroll up. You don’t agree with my conclusions, and that’s fine, I certainly expected you to try to individually attack them based on your prior comments.

  • I appreciate the reasonable discussion of this tool in agriculture, that I think is unfairly controversial. I think one of the biggest distractions of the gmo debate is separating the practice of introducing genes into plants via transformation FROM the business practices of the companies that do this for production, the livelihood of agricultural workers, some problems of agriculture that lead to environmental degradation, etc etc etc. The idea that it’s conventional ag versus organic is divisive,and GMOs have become the most visible scapegoat for protest with these other issues.

  • Tipsy

    Look I gotta agree mostly with Bill, BUT he hasn’t mentioned some of the main reasons we hate Monsanto, they do some really evil stuff for profit, NOWADAYS, forget agent Orange.

    E.G. Making crops that don’t give out seed for next year’s crop, i.e. fucking with their reproductive cycle. What this means is instead of having a crop that atleast supplies some of next year’s crop, now a farmer with Monsanto seed has to BUY new seeds every year. Are you kidding me? That’s called making a problem then selling the solution.

    And there’s that nonsense about suing farmers who happen to have some of their neighbour’s Monsanto crop grow in their field, just because plants tend to do that.

  • Tipsy

    Look I gotta agree mostly with Bill, BUT he hasn’t mentioned some of the main reasons we hate Monsanto, they do some really evil stuff for profit, NOWADAYS, forget agent Orange.

    E.G. Making crops that don’t give out seed for next year’s crop, i.e. messing with their reproductive cycle. What this means is instead of having a crop that atleast supplies some of next year’s crop, now a farmer with Monsanto seed has to BUY new seeds every year. Are you kidding me? That’s called making a problem then selling the solution.

    And there’s that nonsense about suing farmers who happen to have some of their neighbour’s Monsanto crop grow in their field, just because plants tend to do that.

  • Jason

    You’re right. They don’t force farmers into anything. And yes, they aggressively defend their patents. But then, all of the cases they’ve taken to court have shown to be legit patent infringement issues.

    I suppose youre free to not like that, but it says nothing about the safety of the product.

    • Andy Van

      Infringement lawsuits are not legit when when the companies allow their seed to blow freely in the wind and destroy neighboring farmers fields out of neglect. Farmers in Canada have sued Monsanto for destroying their crops in this manner then Monsanto somehow perverts the law to convince the courts to give the private farmers land to Monsanto claiming the farmer stole their product, when in reality Monsanto negligently allowed their product to destroy the private farmers personal property.

  • tunie

    Wow. Sad how uninformed Bill Nye is. For example, the only way California could remain in drought forever is if the state ignores all permaculture protocols that restore watersheds and re-establish rainfall patterns. This is true for the whole planet. We don’t need to seed clouds, we just need to plant trees with understory and reforest the desert. Youtube it for examples… You can’t fix all problems from a test tube.

    And regardless of how “safe” gmo’s are, I can always tell when I’ve unknowingly eaten a modified ingredient because flu-like symptoms appear like clockwork after the fact. I’ll go back and check the ingredients and find something like citric acid (gmo’d) or canola oil. It may not kill me but who knows what is actually going on? Perhaps for specialized applications like medicine it may be acceptable, but to install gmo’s as a fundamental ingredient in ALL food and not label it as such is manipulation and frankly, misguided.

  • june2

    The reason gmo’s are so offensive (aside from lack of long-term research, lack of integrity around labeling, a mafia-like desire to control ALLL food production to the point of arresting innocent farmers to put them out of business, among many other heinous reasons), is because it supports the mindset that got us to the very problems it claims to address. It is literally just further down the path of disharmony and control.

    Drought from wasteful water practices as an entitled and uncaring 1rst world country? Don’t bother addressing American ignorance, just GMO drought resistant plants instead so we can keep being wasteful – to the very last drop! Mono-cropping in sterile, toxic soil that no longer supports life (maybe a clue)? GMO those plants to grow without soil, without sunlight, without bugs, etc! It is literally insane behavior.

  • John C. ‘Buck’ Field

    You imply that the claim of secrecy is suspect because there is massive evidence the overall technology has been studied in great detail, which is true. The quality of study is at issue however, not its volume.

    There are many analogies, but let’s take weapons technology for example: it has been studied many times longer, and by many more people, using many more resource than corporate GM tech.

    Would such study undermine claims that harmful effects have been caused by particular weapons? Let’s assume that tight controls have been put in place by organizations and governments which normally are used to suppress negative facts, that these groups have obvious interests in such suppression here, and that they have long histories of profitably doing so under similar conditions. Generally, I would tend to defend the position that studies under such conditions would be incapable of detecting such effects. Studies which cannot detect effects offers no information on the veracity of claims about that effect, although by their failure, they are used to make people infer safety.

    A classic example is Hempel’s raven paradox, where we might gather all the ravens we can by the easiest means known (their black color), and while our study might confirm our bias toward a belief that “all ravens are black”, cannot tells us whether there are non-black ravens, (or non-black anything). The key would seem to be to start with the assumption that GMO’s are safe, and attempt to refute it.

    I’m happy (even eager) to address your subsequent questions about how we might be certain about producers’ thoughts on product safety, however I’m still wondering about whether you’d be shocked by health-conscious, medically literate opposition to a drug with proven benefits, when critics assert harm which is impossible according to the best medical consensus, or would you have a more nuanced, analytical reaction like curiosity. What would you think about the critics, their claims, and application of the precautionary principle in such a situation?

    • Jason

      “The quality of study is at issue however, not its volume.”

      True, but volume helps to weed out poor quality. Outliers gain perspective. Unless you have some reason to suspect massive quality issues that the worlds major scientific organizations haven’t picked up on, then I don’t see why quality of studies would be a concern.

      “Let’s assume that tight controls have been put in place by organizations and governments which normally are used to suppress negative facts, that these groups have obvious interests in such suppression here, and that they have long histories of profitably doing so under similar conditions.”

      Any evidence that is is an assumption that’s relevant to this situation?

      “The key would seem to be to start with the assumption that GMO’s are safe, and attempt to refute it.”

      Is this exactly what we do?

      “I’m still wondering about whether you’d be shocked by health-conscious, medically literate opposition to a drug with proven benefits, when critics assert harm which is impossible according to the best medical consensus, or would you have a more nuanced, analytical reaction like curiosity.”

      I would be completely open to the possibility up to and until such time that there was sufficient evidence to the contrary. Is this an issue that’s been widely studied or not? Is this an issue that medical experts agree is possible or not? The larger the body of evidence to the contrary, the less likely something is to be true. And given that I can’t possibly know the truth about an individual’s situation, I’m inclined to believe the body of evidence.

      • John C. ‘Buck’ Field

        > volume helps to weed out poor quality
        It can, but we can easily imagine an increasing record black ravens not helping us determine whether non-blacks exist.

        >massive quality issues that the worlds major scientific organizations haven’t picked up on
        This assumes scientific organizations are the proper source of epistemological standards for, and subsequent judgments on the validity of scientific research relative to knowledge, risk, and certainty. I share the view of many that historians and philosopher of science, risk managers, and others are proper communities for such standards and judgments.

        > is an assumption (of tight controls, by groups with obvious interests, etc.) relevant here?
        Given the actions of firms like Monsanto, yes. See one “summary” (36 pages) of binding terms for a “Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement” they demand prior to putting a seed in dirt. Research terms are secret, making my informing you potential grounds for being prosecuted as a criminal, violating Monsanto’s IP rights. This is not free and open research.

        > Is this exactly what we do (start with the assumption that GMO’s are safe, and attempt to refute with open research) ?
        Not at all; See one of the many general-readership articles like: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/13/opinion/la-oe-guriansherman-seeds-20110213

        > I would be completely open until sufficient evidence to the contrary
        One cannot be shocked when completely open. “Shock” suggests one has firm ideas about what is expected, and some perceived stimulus was not. To me, this suggests one is not fully aware of their beliefs or assumptions in this particular case.

        > Is this an issue that’s been widely studied or not? Is this an issue that medical experts agree is possible or not?
        Our epistemological status in terms of knowledge of potential harm from GMO’s is worse than that of Thalidomide when the placental barrier was considered impermeable to drugs in 1957. There were good reasons to prescribe it, but precautionary studies had not been conducted.

        Again, I would point out that medical experts are not epistemological experts competent to assess whether tons of studies qualify as “wide”. The overwhelming majority of people (including doctors) would probably say that 10,000 studies over many years constitutes “a wide spectrum”, when in fact it could be microscopically narrow, but since they don’t understand the intricacies of information system design and management, they would have no way of detecting such errors.

        • Jason

          “It can, but we can easily imagine an increasing record black ravens not helping us determine whether non-blacks exist.”

          I am not following your logic here. Would not an increasing number of black ravens make it less and less likely that non black ones exist? With each new black raven sampled, it’s one less possible non-black raven that could exist. At some point, wouldn’t it be a reasonable conclusion that they don’t exist? Nothing is impossible, just as no one has claimed that some novel harm from some GMO crop is impossible. But the more studies conducted that show no additional risks above conventional corps, the more likely it is to be true.

          “Given the actions of firms like Monsanto, yes. See one “summary” (36 pages) of binding terms for a “Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement” they demand prior to putting a seed in dirt.”

          I’m very familiar with the Monsanto use agreement. I’ve had hundreds of farmers sign one to use our seed. So what? As for not allowing universities to research their seeds, I tour research plots with Monsanto & Dupont technologies in them at Purdue University every single year and have for almost 20 years. They’re certainly not prohibited from conducting experiments. I’ve seen them with my own eyes countless times. Yes, I know that Monsanto has a research agreement that all must sign in order to test their seeds. However anyone, anywhere can obtain GMO grain and run tests on that. You need sign nothing to buy GMO grain. At this point we’re approaching 3000 studies on this technology about a third of which are independent.
          “One cannot be shocked when completely open. “Shock” suggests one has firm ideas about what is expected, and some perceived stimulus was not.”

          Who said anything about being shocked? You gave a hypothetical, to which I replied that I’d be open to that hypothetical until such time that the data suggests I shouldn’t be.

          “Our epistemological status in terms of knowledge of potential harm from GMO’s is worse than that of Thalidomide”

          According to who? Anti-GMO activists haven’t even proposed a reasonable means by which the crops COULD pose a safety risk, let alone that they do.

          Again, I’ll say that when all of the worlds major scientific organizations are reviewing the body of evidence and coming to eh same conclusion, I’m inclined to agree with that until somebody produces credible evidence that I shouldn’t. Are you saying you have that or just that it’s not impossible that it exists?

  • Terry Miesle

    Hi, Bill. Thanks for bringing this GMO issue into general discussion. We won’t get anywhere without sane talk.

    I’d like to correct something you said about bees. Your comment about only seeing female bees is only really true for honey bees. This introduced species has the largest colonies of any social bee. The bumble bees are next, with a couple dozen to a couple hundred per colony depending on species and resources. The vast majority of bees are solitary, one female supplying a small number of eggs with resources. Some are huge, like the big carpenter bees, some are less than 5mm long. There are a lot of crops which depend on these bees, since honey bees are “short tongued” and only use some resources.

    You see male bees all the time, but you have to start noticing bees other than honey bees. I encourage people to look up resources like the Native Bee Awareness Initiative. I’m part of that group, and we’re starting to lead public education events like prairie walks. Fewer pesticides are a good thing as far as bees are concerned.

  • Clifford Chamney

    Some comments indicate that the industry only cares about yields. Could this represent a nutrition problem? For example, in my youth tomatoes used to have a distinctive and delightful flavor, which many of you might also remember. Colors are said to provide anti-oxidant benefits. Is it possible that flavors do so, as well? Has anyone here heard of the book “Wheat Belly”? I have seen the presentation on PBS and it is scary. Today kids get Type 2 (once referred to as “adult onset”) diabetes. The ratio of autism spectrum births is said to be one in eighty-eight these days. When I was a kid I didn’t even know of one autistic person. It would seem that there might be some kind of trend here. What is the common denominator? What if crop breeding for yield and not nutrition is contributing? Recent research is changing ideas about nutrition. Could there be a new kind of business opportunity here?

  • cattwmn

    GMO Strawberries in a random test were found to be dangerously high in potassium – if you were a heart patient. My mother could not have eaten them.

  • Michael Fons

    When asked about what is the number 1 thing that made him change his stance on GMO’s, Bill Nye mentions Monsanto’s seed chip DNA screening technology, which has nothing to do with Genetic Modification of Organisms. Monsanto plant breeders use traditional non-gmo plant breeding methods to create new hybrid plant seeds. Then, they use the seed chip / DNA screening to select the seeds with desirable traits. It is a fast method of traditional plant breeding that I fully support, but has absolutely nothing to do with GMO technology. Monsanto uses the DNA screening to produce desirable traits through traditional breeding, and then adds their Rounup Ready, BT,etc trait by genetically modifying these traditionally bred plants. Bill Nye is conflating seed chip DNA screening used in traditional breeding with Genetic Mortification of Organisms. I am disappointed that Bill Nye could not come up with a better reason for his change of heart regarding GMO’s.

  • Matt Cain

    How would bill respond to this https://youtu.be/mkBoVfkOWqQ

  • Andy Van

    In regards to the question about trees that are effective air scrubbers.
    How about hemp, great for manufacturing, grows fast, the some of your founding fathers farmed it and they are better than any tree at air scrubbing carbon to oxygen. Though oxygen is corrosive right, so we wouldn’t want to have plants become overly proficient at converting carbon to oxygen. You can literally make an entire car from hemp products as well as the fuel that goes into the engine.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srgE6Tzi3Lg

  • ILUVmyCountry

    Yes it is a complex topic. Anything that stems from a glyphosate base or seed is of no interest to me.

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