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Thread: Genetically Modified Organisms

  1. #1 Genetically Modified Organisms 
    Forum Sophomore CShark's Avatar
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    OK, this is bound to stir things up: are GMO's 'evil' ?
    We have been modifying genetics since man first learned to farm, about 6000 years ago (in Britain). By allowing certain sheep or goats to breed, we've overridden 'nature' for our benifit. How is this different from selectively choosing one genome to enhance, say, a cow to produce more milk ? In a controlled lab environment, a single trait can be isolated, then passed onto the same, or other species. Disease resistant wheat, rice or potatoes feed millions. How can this be 'bad' ? Seems to me those who are afraid of GMOs should stop protesting and start reading a little on the subject.


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  3. #2  
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    No they are not evil without genetic modification things will not advanced. people fear Thea's things mainly because we fear things better than us or that other people are more powerful. It's human nature to do that.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Bt modified plants limit the use of chemical pesticides, studies have shown that farmers that farm Bt plants (which carry an insect specific bacillus endotoxin gene) have higher life expectancies and lower rates of cancer. So, GMOs are not only not evil, but save lives.
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    Forum Sophomore Kenny Klassen's Avatar
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    I was working on a gene theorpy form but I found it made the rats gentic code unstable and they died of cancer a week later, I might want tell you it was chemical and I really hope I did not create a supper virsus I will explain more about what I did if you want but it was fairly useless
    sorry I was gone so long, there are just to many undereducated people here I did not want to add to the problem but I am going to anyway
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  6. #5  
    Forum Sophomore CShark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny Klassen
    I was working on a gene theorpy form but I found it made the rats gentic code unstable and they died of cancer a week later, I might want tell you it was chemical and I really hope I did not create a supper virsus I will explain more about what I did if you want but it was fairly useless
    Sorry, I lost you at the gene "theorpy form" bit......
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  7. #6  
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    Yeah doesnt it really come down to our lack of understanding of what may happen radically introducing a new gene to an ecosystem in a new way. It may have bad unforeseen consequences.
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    Forum Sophomore CShark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robbie
    Yeah doesnt it really come down to our lack of understanding of what may happen radically introducing a new gene to an ecosystem in a new way. It may have bad unforeseen consequences.
    True, but this is also true every time we cross two types of wheat or potatoes: we are manipulating genes to improve selective trait(s). I think your argument is, introducing a non-species specific, that is, foreign genetic code into an organism, e.g. BT into wheat, may have unforseen consequences. Yes, but I would rather eat BT wheat that cereal sprayed with insecticides, fungicides and bacteriacides!
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  9. #8  
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    Well, couldn't a genetically engineered plant go wrong? Perhaps an important nucleotide sequence is deleted when inserting a gene into a plant or other negative effects the new gene could have on the plant.
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    I think what we are experiencing now, is the fact people realize that not only is it possible genetic modified farm animals to mess up the ecosystem, but that we have already messed up ecosystems with the cows and chickens and stuff we have bred and transplanted in the past and throughout history.

    It has not been so bright and cheery as you made it out to be, sometimes when quote:
    "we've overridden 'nature' for our benefit" end quote;
    we get unexpected, sometimes devastating results.

    Take bees for instance, we tried breading better honeybees, we got killer bees.

    How much worse might it be if we played with the genetics directly?

    Our tampering has not always been so good, and it has the possibility to be worse. We need strict controls in place and need to think really hard before doing this kind of stuff, and even then there will be unforeseen side-effects.
    "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense." - Mark Twain
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  11. #10  
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    GM'ing evil? As an ethical relationship between us and other species, or nature, I think it is. However, who said humans must be good? In my opinion that's not possible.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Sophomore CShark's Avatar
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    So, by the logic that it may be 'bad' and therefore should be avoided, we should not attempt anything that 'may' be harmful to the enviroment, ourselves, or other species. That leaves out most of science, progress, medicine, farming, etc. The huge benifits of GMO's (imo) far outweigh any potential risks.
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  13. #12  
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    I think that SuperNatendo's reasoning is: the benefit is incremental and not really necessary, while the potential harm, though unlikely could be devastating.

    Is something like a prion disease possible through GMO food? Perhaps something that develops under the radar for decades so we "only" get Alzheimer's dementia visible in autopsy after fifty years of eating the stuff? Then realize what we've done, too late?

    Well, I'll jump if everybody else does.
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  14. #13  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    That leaves out most of science, progress, medicine, farming, etc. The huge benifits of GMO's (imo) far outweigh any potential risks.
    The huge benefits appear to accrue principally to the shareholders of GM companies. Alternative means of ecologically balanced farming receive less funding, support and publicity because they are not money spinners.

    GM is not inerently bad, nor is it inherently good. It could be dangerous. As Pong and SuperNantendo have pointed out the potential for major problems may be small, but the consequences of those problems could be enormous. There are also significant social, political and economic issues associated with GM products that maske them less attractive.
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    the main thing about GM crops is that containment is virtually impossible, unless you can somehow convince the insect pollinators to stick to GM crops only ...
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR
    the main thing about GM crops is that containment is virtually impossible, unless you can somehow convince the insect pollinators to stick to GM crops only ...
    Perhaps that could be done by genetically modifying the insect pollinators. :wink:
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  17. #16  
    Forum Sophomore CShark's Avatar
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    I wonder if the general 'distrust' of GMOs has to do with a fear of science, that biologists are playing God, or perhaps cloning unspeakable horrors in a basement lab somewhere! In my opinion, a modified rice field, free of insecticides, able to produce substantially more, and perhaps better (fortified) rice, is a good thing. We need a way to stop polluting our streams and ecosystem, while increasing yields. I do not endourse modifying everything blindly, but there are many cases where I think the benifits outweigh the risks.
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  18. #17  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    My distrust is based upon an intimate knowledge of business from the inside, an awareness of historical and current environmental distruction caused by 'good intentions', and proven track record by science - such as its nature - to get some things spectacularily wrong.

    On the last point, each generation seems to think that they have the basics nailed down. The next generation fights this notion, the one after laughs at it.
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  19. #18  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    I find that the best argument against GMO's is that it allows companies to own crops, some of the GMO plants will not germinate in field, and the farmer will be required to buy the seeds every growing season. This isn't a problem in the west where farmers do this regularly anyway. However, in places like Africa many small farmers usually produce their own seeds. Then there are fears of monopolies, imagine if all tomatoes on Earth were owned by Dupont, they already own nylon and velcro it's not that outlandish an idea.

    Edit: I'm aware nylon and velcro are synthetics made by Dupont , but it just shows that this company is quite capable of dominating a market.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    I find that the best argument against GMO's is that it allows companies to own crops, some of the GMO plants will not germinate in field, and the farmer will be required to buy the seeds every growing season. This isn't a problem in the west where farmers do this regularly anyway. However, in places like Africa many small farmers usually produce their own seeds. Then there are fears of monopolies, imagine if all tomatoes on Earth were owned by Dupont, they already own nylon and velcro it's not that outlandish an idea.

    Edit: I'm aware nylon and velcro are synthetics made by Dupont , but it just shows that this company is quite capable of dominating a market.
    This is partially true: monsatto (sp?) owns a number of patents on GMOs. They have controlling rights on those specific modifications. This, however, does not stop other companies/governments etc. from making different modifications or enhancements to say, a tomato. In the end, the market is what drives any product. If you build a better mouse trap....
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    If you build a better mouse trap....
    Then the ruthless competition only hurts mice. But GMOs can never be the products of small business. We're looking at monster profit-machine multinationals driving this, and governments trying to regulate them. Or It. Consider Microsoft's real monopoly. Better have one benevolent corporation in charge, or several trying to ruin each other's business when the battleground is agriculture?
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  22. #21  
    Forum Sophomore CShark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    If you build a better mouse trap....
    Then the ruthless competition only hurts mice. But GMOs can never be the products of small business. We're looking at monster profit-machine multinationals driving this, and governments trying to regulate them. Or It. Consider Microsoft's real monopoly. Better have one benevolent corporation in charge, or several trying to ruin each other's business when the battleground is agriculture?
    I am not sure what your point is, sorry. If you are saying that commercial enterprise is part of the food producing system, then, yep, of course it is.
    As for 'big business' driving this endeavour, that applies to pretty much the entire financial world: e.g. Wal-Mart, Oil conglomerates, banks, etc.

    Whether or not GMOs are monopolized is another issue; what I started out saying is that I feel they are no more dangerous than any other food product, and in some cases at least, likely far healthier. Those who use scare mongering to put down these product do so with little or no evidence; 'GMO's might cause brain cancer", or "that potato might escape and breed out of control".

    It's an easy thing to forcast the future, as the future is anybody's guess.

    Can anyone guarantee they are 100% safe ? If we needed that kind of assurance we would not be driving cars or buying cigarettes.
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  23. #22  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    I believe on the subject of BT plants they calculated that a normal human would have to eat an entire field of BT corn to die from the toxin (which causes pore formation in intestinal cells and causes ulcers, since intestinal cells have high turn over I doubt the toxin accumulates in a person). So, I think these plants are a lot safer than pesticide sprayed plants.

    Ideally, agriculture should be using engineered viruses, nematodes, fungi, and bacteria to control insect populations, but these methods are very expensive and not readily available in the developing world.

    Then there is the issue of GMO plants being mostly genetically homogonous, so they are at increased potential risk of epidemics since there is lower diversity. Moreover, plant pathogens are natoriously hard to contain (a good example is the near extinction of elm trees from Dutch Elm's Disease). If a strain or bacteria or fungi evolves that is resistant to these plants then we would be in serious trouble. Also, the everpresence of poison in each bite of the plant is putting a lot of selective pressure on the pest insects to become resistant, as they have to most chemical pesticides used in the 70s.

    There is a possibility that the plants used to generate the GMO could be nutritionally inferior to non-GMO. These plants are expending excess energy producing products they don't normally produce, so there could be deficiencies.

    Overall, I am in favour of organic produce because it supports the small farmer and can be got locally. For health reasons I don't see any reason not to eat GMO, in fact there are fungi that infect grains that produce toxins known to be a common cause of liver cancer in the developing world where crop quality is lower, if the corn is modified to be resistant to this fungi it lowers the chance of liver cancer. Then there is the controversial golden rice to provide B vitamins (Can't remember which ><) , which a deficiency in causes blindness, in an affordable form for the developing world.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    I am not sure what your point is, sorry.
    Probably because I'm not opposing GMOs, only voicing those cynical predictions we can all agree on.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Ideally, agriculture should be using engineered viruses, nematodes, fungi, and bacteria to control insect populations, but these methods are very expensive and not readily available in the developing world.
    If people are worried about a carrot crawling to another field, imagine how they would react to genetically modified organisms. I happen to work in the plant pathogen field; modifying nematodes/viruses etc. for commercial use is still a long way away.

    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Moreover, plant pathogens are natoriously hard to contain (a good example is the near extinction of elm trees from Dutch Elm's Disease). If a strain or bacteria or fungi evolves that is resistant to these plants then we would be in serious trouble.
    Two points: 1) some plant pathogens are difficult to contain, one being dutch elm, the other the pine beetle. However, many other plant pests, particularly viruses and fungi, have been eliminated from some coutries by extensive surveys and eradication plans. PVYn and potato wart come to mind.

    2) Not to be picky, but the elm tree is not near extinction, at least not where I live.


    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Then there is the issue of GMO plants being mostly genetically homogonous, so they are at increased potential risk of epidemics since there is lower diversity
    How do GMO plants differ from non-GMO plants in this respect ? If a farmer is growing Yukon Golds, they are all genetically the same, whether GMO or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    There is a possibility that the plants used to generate the GMO could be nutritionally inferior to non-GMO. These plants are expending excess energy producing products they don't normally produce, so there could be deficiencie
    True, although you would assume if company X is going to invest serious capital in modifying, say, rice to be mold resistant, they would start by choosing the best rice variety there is...

    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    in fact there are fungi that infect grains that produce toxins known to be a common cause of liver cancer
    Are you referring to wheat smut ? If so, wheat infected with this, or any detectable pathogen, would not be sold on the market. At least, not in the developed world.
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  26. #25  
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    If people are worried about a carrot crawling to another field, imagine how they would react to genetically modified organisms. I happen to work in the plant pathogen field; modifying nematodes/viruses etc. for commercial use is still a long way away.
    Well nematodes, viruses, fungi and bacteria are in commercial use as biological pesticides, we are still a ways away from modifying them, but we have adapted distribution methods to make them resistant to UV degredation. I shouldn't have used the word engineered, but we do have a lot of formulations and methods recently developed that has opened the door to the use of many microbial insecticides. Although, strains of bacillus have been selected for on the basis of use as pesticides.

    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IN081

    This paper gives a good overview of the ones currently in use.

    And Dutch Elm disease killed 95% of the susceptible Elm population globally, only isolated trees survived. White Elm are naturally resistant though and thrived.

    Edit: On liver damaging grain pathogens, http://ianrsearch.unl.edu/pubs/plantdisease/g1408.htm
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  27. #26  
    Forum Sophomore Kenny Klassen's Avatar
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    Oh, I supposed I should say I am definatly not against Gentically Modified Organsims, just in case my last comment did not express that to you.
    sorry I was gone so long, there are just to many undereducated people here I did not want to add to the problem but I am going to anyway
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  28. #27  
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    Something in the attic of my mind, maybe here's a good place to dust off:

    GM opium poppy, which is resistant to a devastating engineered pathogen, developed at the same time. Then we set that anti-opium bug/disease loose on Earth, infect every region with it, decimate opium poppy to extinction, wild and cultivated, all gone, forever. This is not targeted dusting - I mean a species specific disease that spreads on its own.

    Can it be done?

    Coca too?
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  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Something in the attic of my mind, maybe here's a good place to dust off:

    GM opium poppy, which is resistant to a devastating engineered pathogen, developed at the same time. Then we set that anti-opium bug/disease loose on Earth, infect every region with it, decimate opium poppy to extinction, wild and cultivated, all gone, forever. This is not targeted dusting - I mean a species specific disease that spreads on its own.

    Can it be done?

    Coca too?
    why do that? drugs aren't that bad you know. i'll leave my politics out of it

    the real problem is that you pathogen is going to be looking for food once the non gm poppies start running out, some are going to be resistant whatever chemical you engineered into those poppies and sooner or later you're going to extinction on your hands.

    that's farmers who plant bt corn have to plant the non modified variety around somewhere close, some of the non-resistant larvae need to survive and stay in the breeding population so they dont start eating the gm corn

    no chocolate, no morphine, no codeine, no cocaine... you know we need those things, right?

    ok not so much the last one... but it should probably be legal anyways
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  30. #29  
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    Quote Originally Posted by medlakeguy
    the real problem is that you pathogen is going to be looking for food once the non gm poppies start running out, some are going to be resistant whatever chemical you engineered into those poppies and sooner or later you're going to extinction on your hands.
    We can design a "throwaway" baddie that won't get out of bounds. This would not thrive without some help. So we'd be dropping barrels of it here and there, which is much better than the laborious (and often politically selective) aerial spraying of fields we do now, with contact herbicide. I think that just knocking out the harvest for a few seasons would financially ruin those who should be ruined, and effectively detox most addicts/buyers in developed countries. The pathogen needn't be persistent.


    The new GM poppy (or coca) would be supplied to legit growers, established and proven several seasons prior to the wipe-out. It could be a "terminator" (seeds don't sprout) so shady cash-croppers can't do a thing with it. Its chief difference from the natural crop would be resistance to our pathogen, of course. I really doubt it would get the bug too.

    OK, the pathogen might move on to infect other kinds of poppy, it's possible and maybe even hurt the floral industry. Pfft. Small price to pay.

    The project could be managed and funded multilaterally, through open agreements, by UN facility for example. I'd be curious to see which countries vote against it.
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    And Dutch Elm disease killed 95% of the susceptible Elm population globally, only isolated trees survived. White Elm are naturally resistant though and thrived.

    Edit: On liver damaging grain pathogens, http://ianrsearch.unl.edu/pubs/plantdisease/g1408.htm

    Thanks for the link.
    Can you tell me where you get the 95% figure for the elm deaths? I tried a quick google search, but came up with varying regional numbers. From the little I read, the number of tree infections seems to be on the decline, at least in europe and parts of Canada.
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  32. #31  
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    And Dutch Elm disease killed 95% of the susceptible Elm population globally, only isolated trees survived. White Elm are naturally resistant though and thrived.

    Edit: On liver damaging grain pathogens, http://ianrsearch.unl.edu/pubs/plantdisease/g1408.htm

    Thanks for the link.
    Can you tell me where you get the 95% figure for the elm deaths? I tried a quick google search, but came up with varying regional numbers. From the little I read, the number of tree infections seems to be on the decline, at least in europe and parts of Canada.
    I remember it from a documentary, it may have been figures for England though, where only 15000 trees survived the peek of the outbreak back in the 60s.
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    no chocolate, no morphine, no codeine, no cocaine... you know we need those things, right?
    ok looks like i got that one wrong. coca and cocoa are two different things...
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  34. #33  
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    Quote Originally Posted by medlakeguy


    that's farmers who plant bt corn have to plant the non modified variety around somewhere close, some of the non-resistant larvae need to survive and stay in the breeding population so they dont start eating the gm corn

    no chocolate, no morphine, no codeine, no cocaine... you know we need those things, right?
    Crop refuges don't work though, and governments often have problems getting farmers to actually set them up properly. They tried refuges with regular pesticides and it didn't work. There is starting to be research showing increased resistance to Bt, which was previously thought to be impossible because of the amount of mutations required to gain that immunity, but it's apparently happening. I suspect the next step is Bt and another insecticide, hit the insects with so many different poisons that they just can't compete.

    Ya cocoa and coca are different plants, but you are right about the useful opiates which are vital pain killers. I'm not sure cocaine is all that useful, but the farmers in Columbia would be quite upset about Americans plotting to kill their crops.

    Anyway if you really want to get rid of drugs it's a lot easier to legalize, then when organized crime is no longer involved, you hit the drugs with massive taxation like cigarettes and usage will just drop.
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  35. #34 GMOs 
    Forum Freshman Chisco1389's Avatar
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    Ok this is like the are Guns bad thing. By them selves no they are not nad but in the wrong persons hands they can prove to be disasterous. For this reason i think that although GMO's are Brilliant and a solutions to many of the worlds problems they are not worth the risk @ this moment. they belong in the labs where they are developed until we are absolutly %100 sure that one and only one gene has been altered. and by the way before you tell people to get their facts straight u might want to check yours. a genome is the sum of all Genes a Gene is obviusly one gene and its not being afraid its being cautius until we map the Genes of what ever organism we are altering like we did for the Human Genome project we dont know what dominoe effect we may cause. it only takes one Hox Gene to be activated to completed change an organism. That is why it is EXTREMELY dangerous. It has unspeakable potential, but for now belongs in the lab and out side of human consumption.
    Nothing is certain, but uncertainty.
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  36. #35 Re: GMOs 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chisco1389
    .....its not being afraid its being cautius until we map the Genes of what ever organism we are altering like we did for the Human Genome project.
    Actually, we are well on our way tp mapping the entire genomic sequence of many foods, including potato, wheat, and rice (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...081001054.htm)
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    Well Arabidopsis is being manipulated by thousands of plant biologist around the world on a daily basis since it is a model organism like fruit flies. Though they tend not to use the expensive high tech procedures the GMO companies use .

    Arabidopsis' genome has been completely sequenced too, and it is closely related to the cabbage. (I think, plants aren't my specialty )
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  38. #37  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Well Arabidopsis is being manipulated by thousands of plant biologist around the world on a daily basis since it is a model organism like fruit flies. Though they tend not to use the expensive high tech procedures the GMO companies use .

    Arabidopsis' genome has been completely sequenced too, and it is closely related to the cabbage. (I think, plants aren't my specialty )
    What is an arabidopsis
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  39. #38  
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Well Arabidopsis is being manipulated by thousands of plant biologist around the world on a daily basis since it is a model organism like fruit flies. Though they tend not to use the expensive high tech procedures the GMO companies use .

    Arabidopsis' genome has been completely sequenced too, and it is closely related to the cabbage. (I think, plants aren't my specialty )
    What is an arabidopsis
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thale_cress

    A genus of plants containing the mustard Weed or thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, it grows to maturity in 4-6 weeks so it's a favourite for plant biologist in the lab. Atleast that's what I've been told. Arabidopsis thaliana has had it's genome sequenced.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabidopsis

    Ya and it is related to the cabbage.
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  40. #39  
    Forum Sophomore CShark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Well Arabidopsis is being manipulated by thousands of plant biologist around the world on a daily basis since it is a model organism like fruit flies. Though they tend not to use the expensive high tech procedures the GMO companies use .

    Arabidopsis' genome has been completely sequenced too, and it is closely related to the cabbage. (I think, plants aren't my specialty )
    What is an arabidopsis
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thale_cress

    A genus of plants containing the mustard Weed or thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, it grows to maturity in 4-6 weeks so it's a favourite for plant biologist in the lab. Atleast that's what I've been told. Arabidopsis thaliana has had it's genome sequenced.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabidopsis

    Ya and it is related to the cabbage.

    Thanks. Although I work in the plant health field at the moment, I have never heard of that one! We use roughly twenty different species as indicator plants, but not Arabidopsis.
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