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Messages - Kai

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31
Well, you can try to sell it, but if people won't eat it, the idea is kind of moot.

Another entirely separate issue to food security that I would love to talk about is the rapid loss of cultivars in pretty much every kind of crop.

That is incredibly distressing, and oddly we just don't seem to learn from the various blights and famines that it's a bad idea to lose diversity.

That actually is a good argument against GMOs and hybrids in general, that it homogenizes the genetic diversity within a species by crossing everything together. There's also the problem of cultivar sale, that the number of kinds of cultivars out there has decreased dramatically. Even apples and tomatoes, which retain a relatively higher average number of cultivars for sale, are tiny in comparison to 100 years ago.

32
Well, you can try to sell it, but if people won't eat it, the idea is kind of moot.

Another entirely separate issue to food security that I would love to talk about is the rapid loss of cultivars in pretty much every kind of crop.

33
Okay, hirley0, I am sufficiently terrified.  :eek:

34
I think polyculture is a great idea, and wish it became the standard. I don't think it should stop the research on GMOs though.

35
I'm not saying it's not potentially useful, just that it will be of dubious benefit on its own.

My problem with a lot of GMO food is that it puts more of the control over food into the hands of the people who are largely to blame for much of the situation.

My other problem is with single-generation seeds.  There's a horror story in there.  We've had 3 dark ages, and we have never lost the knowledge gained from the agricultural revolution.  Making seeds that don't make more seeds makes that hideous possibility more likely in the next dark ages.  And there will be a next dark ages, sooner or later.

That has nothing to do with GMOs though. Pretty much every crop plant is a sterile hybrid now.

Do you have a citation for this? Because my understanding is that while some are sterile hybrids, most are fertile hybrids that will revert.

You know what? I pulled that out of my ass from recollection. I can't find anything supporting that statement, which means it's probably bullshit.

It does call into question Roger's fear about single generation seeds, though.

36

Let's put it this way. Pests: The heart of the problem is that pests are eating the plants. You can kill the pests with broad spectrum insecticides, which is a hugely harmful process. Or you can insert a gene which kills a much more limited number, which is still not the best solution. The best solution is to make it so the insects don't even recognize the plants as tasty, so they get left alone.


We already know pesticides are a losing strategy.  We should be, as you say, taking an entirely different approach, like sacrificial plants that attract insects away from the plants we want.  Making that plant LESS resistant to pests and MORE attractive.  That way you don't lose the crop and you don't lose the bugs.

Or something.  When you approach A doesn't work, you don't do it MORE, you walk around to the other side of the problem and attempt approach B.

Or that just creates a source-sink dynamic. You still have to lower the attractiveness of the main crop in correspondence to raising attractiveness of the decoy. The other thing is, crop pests are often generalists, so they have other choices in the landscape. These other choices often act as a sink when the crop isn't available. Brown marmorated stink bugs don't go away if they have no soybeans to feed upon. They just find less attractive food sources.

37
I'm not saying it's not potentially useful, just that it will be of dubious benefit on its own.

My problem with a lot of GMO food is that it puts more of the control over food into the hands of the people who are largely to blame for much of the situation.

My other problem is with single-generation seeds.  There's a horror story in there.  We've had 3 dark ages, and we have never lost the knowledge gained from the agricultural revolution.  Making seeds that don't make more seeds makes that hideous possibility more likely in the next dark ages.  And there will be a next dark ages, sooner or later.

That has nothing to do with GMOs though. Pretty much every crop plant is a sterile hybrid now.

38
And since the patent holders are going to give it out freely, it's like the Polio vaccine all over again.

False equivalence.

You're going to have to elaborate.

Polio vaccination does not spread from the person vaccinated.  Plants introduced into an environment can.

While I am reluctantly on board with golden rice, that is because the situation calling for it is DIRE, and the regular plant life in the target regions (ie, equatorial Africa, etc) is already more or less gone.

But just deciding that there can't be unintended consequences in the biological sciences because you WANT a particular result is no fucking different than the Luddites denying any science that disagrees with their values and/or religious beliefs.  IT ISN'T SCIENCE.

Did I fucking say that? NO, I DIDN'T FUCKING SAY THAT. In fact, I admitted that Bt crops and Roundup Ready crops were a shitty solution.

But you are comparing plant and insect life with things that do not reproduce.  Like computers and vaccines.

This situation's risks have more in common with jackrabbits in Australia.  Once you let 'em into the wild, the situation is more or less out of your control.  You can live with the results, or you can go find a spider to swallow to catch the fly.

1. The more complicated the changes you make, the less likely the plants can hybridize.

2. The metaphor was for technology. The creation of transgenic plants is technology. Right now it's in first generation. The solutions are makeshift and shitty.


Let's put it this way. Pests: The heart of the problem is that pests are eating the plants. You can kill the pests with broad spectrum insecticides, which is a hugely harmful process. Or you can insert a gene which kills a much more limited number, which is still not the best solution. The best solution is to make it so the insects don't even recognize the plants as tasty, so they get left alone.

Weeds: These are always a problem, as they steal both nutrients and space from the crops. You can weed, or spray herbicides, or spray herbicides while using a crop plant that is resistant to them, but in the latter two cases you're still spraying shit on the landscape. But plants have found ways to deal with this. Walnut, and many other plants, have created allelopathic compounds which deter plant growth in their vicinity. Same with Eucalyptus. Give your crops a system like this, no more herbicide spraying.

Water/Fertilizer use: Already gone over this. C4 system on rice is in progress.

The point is, the future is weird. These solutions we are agonizing over are new, short term, and likely to be a failure within the next ten years. Why? Because resistance is easy. But more complicated systems make that more difficult.

39
You know, Nigel, I'm thinking back to that BookFace thread where I got butthurt and you were probably right. Sticking a single gene into a plant to make it produce a pesticide is a rather crude solution. It's a band aid, really. Any pest insect species subjected to a strong enough selection pressure will develop resistance eventually. Equally crude is giving plants herbicide resistance. These are quick fixes. These are first generation transgenic plants, much like the first generation of automobiles, or the first generation of airplanes, or the first generation of computers. They WORK, and at the time they look cool. But remember watching those movies from the 1950s and seeing those clunky gigantic mainframe supercomputers, and thinking that all of that computing technology could now be held in the palm of your hand? Yeah.

Monsanto is playing the first generation game. They have the big boxy supercomputers. But the Rice Initiative is making smartphones.

The irony, of course, being that unless we overcome the problems with food distribution and politicking that are the root of most famine, being able to produce more nutritious and more efficient crops is itself nothing more than a token gesture. Africa has enough arable land to feed the entire world using ordinary crops and ordinary sustainable farming methods, yet is home to some of the most food-poor regions in the world. For some reason people are married to the idea that we have a shortage of farmland, or will face one soon, but not only is farmland being abandoned on a mass scale, but the prices at which big agriculture is able to produce more cheap food (due in part to government subsidies) are driving small farmers out of business all over the world.

I appreciate the idealism behind the research, and I appreciate research for its own sake, but I seriously doubt that more food cheaper is going to result in an improved situation, unless major institutional changes accompany it.

I can't do anything about the institutional changes. All I can do is promote Science. And it's not just about cheapness. Water shortage is a huge problem, as is fertilizer use. Given that it's the staple crop for the majority of humans, and that 20% of all energy consumed is rice, and that rice farming is heavily water and fertilizer intensive, increasing the efficiency of yield is very much something to work towards.

40
And since the patent holders are going to give it out freely, it's like the Polio vaccine all over again.

False equivalence.

You're going to have to elaborate.

Polio vaccination does not spread from the person vaccinated.  Plants introduced into an environment can.

While I am reluctantly on board with golden rice, that is because the situation calling for it is DIRE, and the regular plant life in the target regions (ie, equatorial Africa, etc) is already more or less gone.

But just deciding that there can't be unintended consequences in the biological sciences because you WANT a particular result is no fucking different than the Luddites denying any science that disagrees with their values and/or religious beliefs.  IT ISN'T SCIENCE.

Did I fucking say that? NO, I DIDN'T FUCKING SAY THAT. In fact, I admitted that Bt crops and Roundup Ready crops were a shitty solution.

41
And since the patent holders are going to give it out freely, it's like the Polio vaccine all over again.

False equivalence.

You're going to have to elaborate.

42
You know, Nigel, I'm thinking back to that BookFace thread where I got butthurt and you were probably right. Sticking a single gene into a plant to make it produce a pesticide is a rather crude solution. It's a band aid, really. Any pest insect species subjected to a strong enough selection pressure will develop resistance eventually. Equally crude is giving plants herbicide resistance. These are quick fixes. These are first generation transgenic plants, much like the first generation of automobiles, or the first generation of airplanes, or the first generation of computers. They WORK, and at the time they look cool. But remember watching those movies from the 1950s and seeing those clunky gigantic mainframe supercomputers, and thinking that all of that computing technology could now be held in the palm of your hand? Yeah.

Monsanto is playing the first generation game. They have the big boxy supercomputers. But the Rice Initiative is making smartphones.

43
Here's a GMO project which is not Monsanto, is not related to pesticide resistance or production, and will ultimately be free for use.

http://c4rice.irri.org/

Quote
In the majority of plants, including rice, CO2 is first fixed into a compound with three carbons (C3) by the photosynthetic enzyme ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (Rubisco)—this is known as C3 photosynthesis.Rubisco is inherently inefficient because it can also catalyze a reaction with oxygen from the air, in a wasteful process known as photorespiration (rather than photosynthesis). At temperatures above 20°C, there is increasing competition by oxygen (O2), with a dramatic reduction in CO2 fixation and photosynthetic efficiency. While all this is happening, water is escaping from the leaves while the CO2 is diffusing in. Thus, in the hot tropics where most rice is grown, photosynthesis becomes very inefficient.

C4 plants are more efficient in carbon dioxide concentration that results in increased efficiency in water and nitrogen use and improved adaptation to hotter and dryer environments.
In nature, this has occurred more than 50 times in a wide range of flowering plants, indicating that, despite being complex, it is a relatively easy pathway to evolve.

In other words, they're going to up yield, increase water efficiency, and lower fertilizer use, by turning rice into a C4 plant. If you can't get behind it, you are some sort of technophobe.

ETA: I've talked to one of the members of this team just recently. To make this work, they have to change about 12 steps in the basic cellular physiology of these plants. As of now, they have four steps. So, one third there. As they keep adding steps the work is going to get more and more complicated.

THAT kind of thing is fucking cool.

It's the way of the Future, Nigel. Once we make it work for Rice, what's stopping us from doing it for all of our crop plants? And since the patent holders are going to give it out freely, it's like the Polio vaccine all over again.

44
IS THIS THE PLACE WHERE WE COME TO SHOW HOW RIGHT WE ARE AND HOW SUPERIOR WE ARE TO THOSE PEOPLE?

NO, THIS IS WHERE WE TALK ABOUT HOW FUCKING AWESOME SCIENCE IS THAT WE CAN DO SHIT LIKE TURN A C3 PLANT INTO A C4 PLANT.

45
Here's a GMO project which is not Monsanto, is not related to pesticide resistance or production, and will ultimately be free for use.

http://c4rice.irri.org/

Quote
In the majority of plants, including rice, CO2 is first fixed into a compound with three carbons (C3) by the photosynthetic enzyme ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (Rubisco)—this is known as C3 photosynthesis.Rubisco is inherently inefficient because it can also catalyze a reaction with oxygen from the air, in a wasteful process known as photorespiration (rather than photosynthesis). At temperatures above 20°C, there is increasing competition by oxygen (O2), with a dramatic reduction in CO2 fixation and photosynthetic efficiency. While all this is happening, water is escaping from the leaves while the CO2 is diffusing in. Thus, in the hot tropics where most rice is grown, photosynthesis becomes very inefficient.

C4 plants are more efficient in carbon dioxide concentration that results in increased efficiency in water and nitrogen use and improved adaptation to hotter and dryer environments.
In nature, this has occurred more than 50 times in a wide range of flowering plants, indicating that, despite being complex, it is a relatively easy pathway to evolve.

In other words, they're going to up yield, increase water efficiency, and lower fertilizer use, by turning rice into a C4 plant. If you can't get behind it, you are some sort of technophobe.

ETA: I've talked to one of the members of this team just recently. To make this work, they have to change about 12 steps in the basic cellular physiology of these plants. As of now, they have four steps. So, one third there. As they keep adding steps the work is going to get more and more complicated.

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