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Thread: DOnt think im crazy but i cant find an answer anywhere

  1. #1 DOnt think im crazy but i cant find an answer anywhere 
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    So here goes how did people ever figure out what plants were edible? i am talking about originally. I have a few theories but what im wondering here, is if there is a general theory or maybe everyone just knows the answer except for me. My theories are as follows: 1. People observed what the other animals were eating and they learned from them. 2. People trained animals to eat the plants and discovered what was edible by what happened to the animal when they consumed the plant or product there of. 3. As creatures evolved down to humans the information was passed down by whatever they had been before they evolved all the way back to the beggining of life itself on our planet. 4.(this is my girlfriends)it could either be by sense of smell or personal experience from eating the plants which would either result in receiving sustenance or getting sick.


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    How did you learn not to step in poison ivy as a child? Someone told you, so you could benefit from other person's experience. That's my best idea when you are talking about human beings encountering new flora.


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    Re-read what I posted. I said ORIGINALLY. How did the very first people know what was edible?
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    Quote Originally Posted by permifry
    Re-read what I posted. I said ORIGINALLY. How did the very first people know what was edible?
    I read it. My answer is that it would have to be learned through personal experience, and then that experience is passed on. Sorry, if I didn't make myself more clear.
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    Here's a better one, How is it that someone came up with the fact that you could make olives edible by treating them with lye?

    I can just imagine that thought process:
    "Yuck, these things are inedible. Hey, I wonder if I could make them better by soaking them in this corrosive solution."
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    Yeah, it's sort of obvious how people learned to eat edible plants: any early primates that had an appetite for poisonous plants would have left the gene pool a long time ago.

    A more interesting question is how did early humans devise various complicated methods for preparing poisonous plants in ways that made them edible.
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    sorry i just dont think that the personal experience answer is adequate. if the person who digested the poisonous vegetation died how would the knowledge have been passed on? unless there was someone observing the consumption every time the theory just doesnt make any sense.
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    Another reason the personal experience theory is not complete is the problem that if these primitive men were new to consumption of vegetation they would be consuming a variety of different vegetation in a single day or a single sitting. If they survived the poisining it would therefore be difficult for them to determine exactly which vegetation it was that had caused it. This would possibly lead to the discrimination against all consumed vegetation of that period. It is possible that the "man" in question could have gone about a logical test afterward of determination but it seems unlikely that he would impose this test upon himself.
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    To salsa
    Your claim that the ones with the "taste" for the poisonous vegetation would have left the gene pool is highly suspect. Are you trying to imply that there would be some sort of genetic predisposition for men that enjoyed death? That seems preposterous and highly suspect.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by permifry
    To salsa
    Your claim that the ones with the "taste" for the poisonous vegetation would have left the gene pool is highly suspect. Are you trying to imply that there would be some sort of genetic predisposition for men that enjoyed death? That seems preposterous and highly suspect.
    I'll eat almost anything, for a dare.

    In evolutionary terms, I'm what they call a 'goner'.
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    I recently found out, by the way, that daisies are edible and not too bad tasting. Pass that on to your kids, if you want.

    Dandelions, too, are edible (leaves only; the flowers make me quite ill)

    Grass is not harmful, but there is no nutritional value to it.

    Yew tree is horrible, and probably toxic; made me quite nausious.

    Horse chessnut leaves taste foul, but do no harm.


    You can easily find out what is and is not edible. Whether it is nutritionally valuable is another matter.
    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." ~ Douglas Adams
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    Quote Originally Posted by permifry
    sorry i just dont think that the personal experience answer is adequate. if the person who digested the poisonous vegetation died how would the knowledge have been passed on? unless there was someone observing the consumption every time the theory just doesnt make any sense.
    You're assuming the person dies, but poisonous doesn't always mean deadly. Besides, early humans would live in close-nit bands of people. I don't think it would be very likely that you'd have a person go off on his own; early humans likely hunted and gathered in groups. When coming into a new area, they would quickly learn by trial and error what plants/fruits were good to eat, and even if there were any medicinal value to those plants. Also, we are talking about people having thousands of years to work these things out.
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    My father claims to be 'immune' to poison ivy, and treated us to several anecdotes of working in it bare shirted, while the fire from burning it alone made his unrelated Aunt break out.
    Years later, my mother claims he rubbed it all over his hand at the Botanical Gardens, to show off to her, and developed not a single itch or rash at all.

    When I eventually do come across confirmed poison ivy, I will try out a little on myself. Imagine it proves to be 'true' and I don't develop any problem. Should I try eating a piece to see what it tastes like?


    oooooooo that's teasing "the reaper"...
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    First the poison Ivy, I've had it and even more poison oak. I can show you plenty of poison oak. If you live in the western united states let me know . Anyway some people are fairly immune to it and can be in contact with it without a reaction. It is not a garauntee of complete immunity though I do know people who never got it in 20 years and then suddenly they got a reaction. I personally have always been suseptable to it but never have had a reaction on my face and some certain other private location. I believe it is the oil's in my skin or the porus nature of my skin in certain area's are different I really don't know. So yes your relative was probably able to work in it without getting it but so has my dad and I get it so don't think it is heredity or at least you would need both parents to be immune for you to hope to be likely immune.

    Second the original eating of plants. Obviously humans were around long before they domesticated animals so they already had to determine what was edible before they could force their animals to eat it. If you believe in evolution then you must assume humans are just a transformation of earlier primates and those original pre-homosapiens being primates were omnivors and so already were eating plants and fruits along with bugs and what ever ealse they ate. So the first homosapiens simply ate what the previous primate ate by learning from the parent primate that produced the first homosapiens being hominids themselves and being able to eat basically the same thing.

    This would leave you asking either how did the first primate figure out what to eat or after homosapiens began to expand their range how did they then figure out what new plants and so on were edible. I would think you are talking about the later. I would say in that case all your answers would probably play a role with observation of other animals, smell, taste, and actual consumption with early communication passing on the information and later probably using animals to test first also on occasion being used. Necessity would cause homosapiens to eat somethings they never ate before in desperation those that they survived and did not have a negative reaction to would then be included in the diet and taught to others.

    Finally I agree and have thought about the olive question and other toxic plants being combined with another substance to eat being a very interesting question. I would say that goes to man's need and desire to make use of any and all potential food substances as posible. As man became more sophisticated and we must be aware that the egyptians and other early societies were much more sophisticated than we can determine. With their understanding of substances they had available these discoveries were made by the determination of those people who were convinced that olives and certain other food could be made edible if the toxic tastes and so on could be leached out by some manner, their logical conclusion acid.
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    Great question! One of the best

    The theory of evolution answers it quite well though. We have evolved senses to determine what is edible and not. Most inedible things, like dirt, tree bark, grass, potato leaves, taste or fell very inedible, don't they? "good" food is "good" because it tastes, looks and feels better eating it, but why does it?

    Because we have evolved to favor surtain things that help us, over other things, that don't.

    There is much difference in "tastes" across cultures and between individuals in those cultures, but that's because of the local availability of curtain foods during our evolutionary strides.

    Why does poop smell bad? Because it's not edible... but why does it radiate stench? because it's not healthy to be around

    now how people figured out we could cook things to make them edible, that's more of a mystery. I would assume it was on accident, discovering foods that were cooked by a wild fire, maybe wild animals(the one's that humans noticed ate similar things as we) ate these wildfire roasted foods and man watched them, and learned.
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    The error of assumption is here:
    the very first people
    As mentioned above, the 'very first people' didn't suddenly appear int he 'Garden of Eden'. They evolved from primate ancestors. And what you're talking about is an Australopithecus - something with very much the same brainpower as a modern chimp. You wouldn't have considered one human if you had to interact with them, I am sure.

    The point is, animals evolve from parents. They don't suddenly appear on the Earth full grown. Most mammals learn from their parents or from older specimens of the same or even similar type. Add to this that plants have evolved right alongside us, and you get a totally edible plant that happens to take an evolutionary route of putting more and more toxicity in itself. At one point, eating that plant that was sooo good for your parents makes you somewhat ill. You avoid that plant, and your descendants avoid it too. The plant is now toxic, and the few deaths it took among your peers to figure that out drives the point home.
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    my question is what was the first person to smoke something was thinking. 'hey lets burn it and inhale the smoke. hack hack.
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    Until recently, Natives of the Pacific Northwest were foragers. They've relayed lots of information about what to eat & how to eat it. For example you can eat a certain berry in moderation if you also take oolichan grease, but you'll become drowsy. Much info is honestly anecdotal or speculative and open to correction. Some is just wrong, like an evil-looking plant presumed poisonous that really isn't. Some is baffling, like the peeled stems of poisonous water hemlock called "indian celery" and no dire warnings about it. I guess the truth is we don't always know what's safe, and we never did.

    I feel safe trying exponentially larger doses. So I'll try a lick or nibble, give an hour to digest, and if I feel fine I'll try more, and so on. I only met trouble with this method once, from a certain mushroom. After trying larger and larger doses, I was feeling pretty damn good.


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  20. #19 to ewok 
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    You're assuming the person dies, but poisonous doesn't always mean deadly. Besides, early humans would live in close-nit bands of people. I don't think it would be very likely that you'd have a person go off on his own; early humans likely hunted and gathered in groups. When coming into a new area, they would quickly learn by trial and error what plants/fruits were good to eat, and even if there were any medicinal value to those plants. Also, we are talking about people having thousands of years to work these things out.

    is what ewok said
    OK ewok so there are a few problems first we are talking about "originally" so are you saying that from the begininning of humanity people roamed in tribes? More likely they lived with immediate family groups like monkey's but who knows. Secondly we come back to the old thing that if someone did see a person eat something and get sick it would not necessarilly be conclusive because the human most likely had more than one thing in a day and it could have been any of those other things. Also if it was deadly the two or more gatherers in the group would most likely have done it as well and therefore would die as well not passing on the information to the rest of the tribe.
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    i do think that the evolution theory is a good one though it makes sense the most out of everything. also the increase in quantity of amount digested sounds good with it if you were to take into account that mans growing expansion in number forced his decendants to move into new areas and need to adjust to there surroundings. does it seem likely that the digestive process of such early humans was understood to them in some degree at that time.
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    I imagine foragers are better attuned to digestion than modern people.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    That's an interesting hypothesis to test because I imagine there is no real difference.

    Can we test that hypothesis on a group of hunter/gatherers extant today?

    Will living in the modern world and digesting manufactured crap weaken your digestive system in the same way that sitting your ass on a chair and playing 'warcraft' will weaken your muscles and make you a pudgy doughboy?

    The doughboy can go to the gym and become hard and strong - if a computer nerd relocates to the rainforest, will his digestive system slowly adapt and become 'strong'?

    There's some good science questions to get you started. Let us know what research has been done so far! Not what people think might be the data...
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    Quote Originally Posted by C_Sensei
    Will living in the modern world and digesting manufactured crap weaken your digestive system in the same way that sitting your ass on a chair and playing 'warcraft' will weaken your muscles and make you a pudgy doughboy?

    The doughboy can go to the gym and become hard and strong - if a computer nerd relocates to the rainforest, will his digestive system slowly adapt and become 'strong'?
    What do you mean by "strong" and "weak" digestive systems? How would a hunter gatherer's diet impact digestion? What is wrong with todays manufactured foods? They are generally preferable. We are exposed to a greater variety of nutritious, high calorie foods, and possess at least a basic understanding of what is needed to promote health.
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    I see this discussion is still going on and evolving to some extent. I think the smoke question earlier has been answered. If man is creating fire than he is burning material, and so he is inhaling smoke. Certainly some things smoke smells good and Man was almost certainly already becoming aware of halucingens and other drug effects of certain plants. It is probably likely things like tobacco and other plants were eaten first and produced enough effect in that manner for man to recognize it.
    It should also be noted that early humans were very intelligent and inquisitive, they could hypothesis both religion and pratical events by observation and correlation without actually first experiencing it. Therefore you could say with certainty they experimented and when experimenting they were likely very careful.
    I also think it is a mistake to think well the group all ate it and they all died and that was it for that plant no person ever tried it again. Certainly the same plants were likely tested and retested by different groups of people throughout time. As communication became possible certain plants became well known as food or dangerous. So maybe a whole group of people died trying it, and maybe 100's of groups of people tried a particular plant and died from that same plant but eventually there has to be some living people either seeing the dead people holding the deadly plant or some of the people did not eat it or some simply did not eat as much and got sick but lived.
    In a survival situation a person will not be running around eating every unknown thing he or she see's. If it is an unknown but they feel a need to see if it is edible they will try that in a small quantity if possible or if desparete maybe in a large quanity and if they have no ill effects they will likely continue to eat that item which others will eventually observe and copy. If it kills them the next people may see the person laying dead in a feild of the toxic plant and are smart enough to put two and two together.
    We should be careful to underestimate the intelligence of early humans as they had the same brains as us so were just as smart. Keeping in mind that unlike us they were not trying to do their taxes and other mundane things that distract us, they were focused on those fundamental things that effected their survival certainly they became experts of their environment. We should also be aware that our close Primate relatives are also intelligent and are also able to learn and teach their young what is edible and what not and through observation can determine and make decissions. This all being said along with the evolution of the human digestive system adjusting to the food being presented to it. There will always be specific questions and unknowns about specific discoveries of what was edible but given the time frame of the evolution of man it is safe to say there was plenty of time for trial and error with eventual communication and finally recording to have a reasonable understanding of how man would determine what food was edible and which were not.
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    If you look at primitive aboriginal tribes from pretty much anywhere (but especially places like the Brazilian Amazon), a lot of them have a "professional" designated shaman of some kind in the tribe. Sometimes these guys might know crazy stuff, like how to mix strong poisons, or maybe even cure a few conditions or diseases. (Just as often, I'm sure they do some really silly/dumb treatments that just make the condition worse, too.) A shaman's wild guess at what should cure you would generally be accepted as fact, giving them a free reign to try stuff.

    So, basically, from the very earliest level of Homo-Sapien society, there's been a drive toward knowledge and discovery. If the tribe's shaman is experimenting around and finds a new edible plant, or a way to treat a plant and make it edible, he/she will probably pass that information along. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them carried out deliberate, cruel experiments on captured enemy warriors, too.

    It's sometimes hard for us to accept that primitive people are/were just as smart as modern people. They just weren't literate, so they couldn't write anything down, which makes them seem dumber than they were.
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  27. #26 What to eat 
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    I know there are other more logical ideas on how they learned what to eat, but I like the train an animal like a monkey to do it plan. If it lives, then eat. If not, don't eat. It sounds like a plan to me.
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  28. #27  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    now how people figured out we could cook things to make them edible, that's more of a mystery. I would assume it was on accident, discovering foods that were cooked by a wild fire, maybe wild animals(the one's that humans noticed ate similar things as we) ate these wildfire roasted foods and man watched them, and learned.
    Good question. It could also be from experiment. Maybe someone was sitting around a fire thousands of years ago trying to keep warm and decided to see what would happen if he or she stuck some food in the fire and decided it tasted good.
    Think of all the "dumb" experiments we've all done in the (slim) hopes of discovering something cool.
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    Humans didn't just pop out of nowhere:wink:. Unless you believe in the creation story. Which case the answer is easy. God told them! Seriously tho humans and our ancestors have been eating fine for about 500 million years. A better question would be "How does all life know what things it can and can't eat?" Sense this would indicate knowledge can be passed on through genes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukhri
    Quote Originally Posted by C_Sensei
    Will living in the modern world and digesting manufactured crap weaken your digestive system in the same way that sitting your ass on a chair and playing 'warcraft' will weaken your muscles and make you a pudgy doughboy?

    The doughboy can go to the gym and become hard and strong - if a computer nerd relocates to the rainforest, will his digestive system slowly adapt and become 'strong'?
    What do you mean by "strong" and "weak" digestive systems? How would a hunter gatherer's diet impact digestion? What is wrong with todays manufactured foods? They are generally preferable. We are exposed to a greater variety of nutritious, high calorie foods, and possess at least a basic understanding of what is needed to promote health.
    Actually we are exposed to a much lower variety of nutritious foods. But there's plenty of calories in them that's for sure. And to answer your question of "what is wrong with todays manufactured foods?" Clearly you've never gone from a regular "normal" diet of manufactured foods to a all natural organic diet and back again. It's insane. You have way more energy, your mood is better and you just feel WAY better. Then go from that diet and decide "hey i havn't had a soda in awhile some Dew sounds good." You literaly get sick. It sucks. Clearly all the additives and chemical processes that our food goes through have a lot more effect than companies will admit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midgetmaid
    Actually we are exposed to a much lower variety of nutritious foods. But there's plenty of calories in them that's for sure.
    In the very same supermarket, I can find corn, potatoes and peppers originating from the Americas, Basmatti rice from India, and meats such as beef, chicken and mutton bred throughout Europe and Asia. I have easy access to thousands of varieties of food from around the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midgetmaid
    Clearly you've never gone from a regular "normal" diet of manufactured foods to a all natural organic diet and back again.
    Sure have. I didn't notice an impact on health, although jogging was easier after emptying my heavy wallet buying organic foods.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midgetmaid
    It's insane. You have way more energy, your mood is better and you just feel WAY better. Then go from that diet and decide "hey i havn't had a soda in awhile some Dew sounds good." You literaly get sick. It sucks. Clearly all the additives and chemical processes that our food goes through have a lot more effect than companies will admit.
    I stated that modern foods are generally preferable to that of an ancient hunter/gatherer's if one follows a proper diet. Today's food can be enriched with needed nutrients, has been further developed and hybridized for more desirable traits.

    Fast food and soda are hardly the only accessible foods. My well rounded diet that basically follows the recommendation of dieticians is certainly better than that of a hunter/gatherer who has a limited food gathering range, available food sources and ability to gather such foods.
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  32. #31  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midgetmaid
    Actually we are exposed to a much lower variety of nutritious foods. But there's plenty of calories in them that's for sure. And to answer your question of "what is wrong with todays manufactured foods?" Clearly you've never gone from a regular "normal" diet of manufactured foods to a all natural organic diet and back again. It's insane. You have way more energy, your mood is better and you just feel WAY better.
    That's just an anecdote. When you change diets, you feel better. But how do you know what caused that change? A lot of the time, people feel better when they change their habits for purely psychological reasons, or because they were going to feel that better that day anyway for some unassociated reason. So when you have a sample set of one, or even a bunch of people with personal stories, you can't really distinguish real effects from placebo-style effects and coincidences with any confidence. That's why we do big controlled studies and also why we sometimes go even further and do statistical analyses of big groups of those studies. We call those meta-analyses.

    Meta analyses show that organic foods offer no nutritional benefits.

    Now, that's not to say that they may not taste better or put less of a strain on the environment or that they may pose less of a risk of pesticide contamination. These things have not been rigorously tested. But we can say with some confidence that the nutritional factor is out the window.
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    Pesticides damage digestive tract, which has a negative effect on nutrition. Even after washing and peeling away the fda aproved levels, there is still SOME, albeit insignificant, pesticide left over (the amount depends on the plant and the pesticide)

    I am not sure about the chemistry involved and whether these trace chemicals actually get close enough to the bacteria to destroy it, and if they do how much of an overall effect on average it has on digestion. There must be studies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Pesticides damage digestive tract, which has a negative effect on nutrition. Even after washing and peeling away the fda aproved levels, there is still SOME, albeit insignificant, pesticide left over (the amount depends on the plant and the pesticide)
    Quite possibly, but does this result in reduced nutrient assimilation?

    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    I am not sure about the chemistry involved and whether these trace chemicals actually get close enough to the bacteria to destroy it, and if they do how much of an overall effect on average it has on digestion. There must be studies.
    What do bacteria have to do with this? Do pesticides have a negative impact on gut flora? And if so is it significant? This wouldn't really impact on nutrient assimilation, though it could conceivably unbalance gut flora competition.

    I'm sure there must be studies, and it'd be great to see them posted here.
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    I took a course on insect physiology and pesticides (it contained a substantial part on biological pesticides that I was interested in at the time), and most pesticides are neurotoxins that I would think would be incredibly unlikely to kill bacteria. Others like Bt toxin cause destruction of the gut wall of the insect, but they are highly species specific.
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    I took a course on insect physiology and pesticides (it contained a substantial part on biological pesticides that I was interested in at the time), and most pesticides are neurotoxins that I would think would be incredibly unlikely to kill bacteria. Others like Bt toxin cause destruction of the gut wall of the insect, but they are highly species specific.
    Bt is used in some pest-resistant GM crops, isn't it? I think humans just metabolise it. We don't have receptors for Bt at all. Should be far safer than chemical pesticides in theory.
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  37. #36  
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    i think they found fire first...
    Science Fair!
    Fa-MAS
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