What I’ve Learned About GMOs

In a similar manner that Jenny McCarthy scared parents that vaccines do cause autism, anti-GMO activists are doing the same in their movement today with scares on the dangers of GM foods and GMOs. Even though the autism/vaccine myth has been officially debunkedas a nurse I still hear way too many parents stating that is their sole reason for not protecting their children from these deadly diseases. Celebrities and social media have extremely powerful, influential voices these days and it’s all too easy to jump on those bandwagons because it’s the “trendy” thing to do and the latest “buzz” topic. Unfortunately it seems that a lot of us put our faith into health advice from celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, Oprah, Dr. Oz, Roseanne Barr, and in turn the activists vs the true experts in their respective fields.

Since almost all the articles and pictures I see online are negative things about GM foods and GMOs, I wanted to find out for myself and to be a positive voice. Before I go any further, I would like to introduce myself to those who are not familiar with me and my background. My name is Sarah, I have my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Alberta, and I married a 4th generation grain farmer who has his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Crop Sciences) degree, also from the University of Alberta. We are the parents of two amazing little 5th generation farm boys!

I’m not here to convince anyone of anything.

I am very vocal for my love of breastfeeding and cloth diapers too, but I really don’t care if you use formula and disposable diapers – I don’t blog to convince people of anything. I blog because these are things I’m passionate about, and GMOs tend to be one of my husband’s passions that have rubbed off on me. We both have science degrees, we’ve both taken research courses and know the process of valid, peer reviewed, and evidence-based studies and research. 

What I Learned About GMOs

The Anti-GMO Movement is Louder

One of the best things I’ve found in my research has been Mark Lynas’s “Time to call out the anti-GMO conspiracy theory” speech. To brief you, Mr. Lynas is a former anti-GMO activist for Greenpeace who decided to do his own research to find out the truth behind the science of GMOs. I quote from Mr. Lynas:

I am a historian, and history surely offers us, from witch trials to eugenics, numerous examples of how when public misunderstanding and superstition becomes widespread on an issue, irrational policymaking is the inevitable consequence, and great damage is done to peoples’ lives as a result. This is what has happened with the GMOs food scare in Europe, Africa and many other parts of the world. Allowing anti-GMO activists to dictate policy making on biotechnology is like putting homeopaths in charge of the health service, or asking anti-vaccine campaigners to take the lead in eradicating polio.

Activists and environmental groups are powerful people. They can lobby to change legislation (and they have), they can even prevent food entering a famine-ridden country which in turn ends up in thousands of people dying. Their movement is loud and their movement can be powerful. I think the other side needs to be heard too, and some postitive news from a couple of weeks ago was that the French court annulled the ban on GMO maize.

Are GM Foods Safe To Eat?

According to activist group Earth Open Source, “GM foods have not been shown to be safe to eat.” You can read more why they claim that here, but I find in a lot of the info on this website there’s a lot of “suggests”, “potentially”, “could” and the like – and they cash in on that. For this reason? I don’t blame anyone for being scared and believing it. BUT, you just have to dig a bit deeper to find more.

Methods of Plant Breeding
Source: FDA

The question of GM foods safety is asked a lot, and Dr. Cami Ryan often reminds people “nothing is 100% safe. Nothing. NO food.” She also reminds us of the listeria crisis in 2008 (23 deaths) and the e.coli incident in 2012. Oh, and don’t forget about the organic sprouts from an organic farm in Germany that affected almost 4000 people while 53 died in that case alone.

The truth, that cannot be denied, is there is no documented evidence of harm to human health or deaths from consumption of GM foods since they were introduced to the market two decades ago. GM foods have been the most heavily tested food products in the history of our regulatory system. If you want to learn more about exactly how the above graphic works, please read this. Plants have been genetically modified for decades, science just has a more specific way of doing it now!

Is This All Monsanto’s Fault?

Something that has come up time and time again is the assumption from anti-GMO activists that “Monsanto funds all the research and controls the studies.” I’ve also heard these people claim that Monsanto controls the farmers, Monsanto pays off scientists, Monsanto funds the universities that the research is done in. You know what? I cannot prove or disprove that (can you?)…but even just typing it out, those statements, seem like a big hoax and a part of the conspiracy theory to me. I’m sure you’ve also heard that Monsanto is in control of family farms, and forces farmers to buy their products. That is a myth and I can assure you that they are certainly not in control of my family farm. Farmers have choices.

My personal thoughts, feelings, and gut instincts?  I’ve gone and looked at all the top medical and science groups: American Association for Advancement of Science, American Medical Association, World Health Organization, US National Academy of Science, British Royal Society of Medicine, and I have not been able to find one group (other than on Facebook) that say GM food is bad. They and many others [click for a great graphic with statements] state that GM food is safe. I also then asked myself, if the FDA states GE food is safe and allows it to be in our food chain for over 20 years, is it really all in Monsanto’s control?

Can you really, boldly say with certainty that it’s a conspiracy that all these medical, science, and government groups are lying? Or that they’re receiving funding from big companies like Monsanto? With over 20 years and 2000+ peer-reviewed studies proving that GM foods are safe? For me, that right there sells it. People are concerned about long term results. Is 20+ years not long enough? Is trillions of meals of GM food served not enough? I was educated in university to be a critical thinker and to only trust peer reviewed studies. I urge you to trust the science and not the countless (and quite frankly ludicrous) memes that are used for fear mongering out there that are no doubt flooding your Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds.

The Truth (Science) Shall Set You Free

I am by no means an expert, in this sense I’m “just a mom” like many of you, and I have done all my own research with guidance from my farmer husband. I urge you: do your research from credible sources. There is way too much propaganda out there that it can be daunting to sort through it all. I have looked at a lot of the references and articles and studies that are claimed to be “peer reviewed” from my anti-GMO commentors. Any time I followed a lead on any said article such as the pig study or the rat tumors…it wasn’t hard to find out that those studies have either been rejected (see this video on the Seralini rats) and just recently the pig study was deemed to be invalid. Did you know the only thing that the Seralini study proved was that male rats who ingested water laced with RoundUp lived longer? Seriously, watch it.

I have also learned that a lot of the people who publish these papers also have nothing to do with crop science, agriculture, or genetics. Their studies may be “peer reviewed” but not by peers in the field of study. Dr. Ryan’s explanation in the comments of my last post that “if you write an article about how to construct a building and the article gets ‘peer reviewed’ by a chef, there are problems with that, yes. It brings into question the validity of the results” – this explains it perfectly.

A great resource, and person to talk to and ask questions, is Kevin Folta. You can see a 5 minute interview of Kevin, a scientist, discussing GMOs on Huffington Post Online. Kevin is an independent scientist who is passionate for educating people on biotechnology. He wants to listen, to hear what people are afraid of, and to teach. “Monsanto’s business practices has to be considered separate from the science“, says Folta. Genetic manipulation of plants has been happening for 50 years, and for the public – that’s okay. But with the addition of one gene of known function where we know what it does – somehow this causes controversy.

More than one person commented in my last post that a “GM food free diet” has cured them of their (too many to list) ailments. Great! This is anectodal evidence, but if it works for you—good on you. However, this would be akin to me saying “my husband works with RoundUp and sprays it in the fields around our house, I’m sure I have inhaled trace amounts of it and been exposed to it because of this. I have had 2 healthy pregnancies and 2 healthy babies. Thus concluding RoundUp does not cause birth defects like some have claimed.” I wish it were that simple, but it’s not. That’s what science and research is for!

Norman Borlaug

As I said at the beginning of this post (if you’ve even made it this far!), I’m not here to convince you of anything. This is what I found, and yes—t’s what I believe. I just wanted to be positive about agricultural biotechnology and not instill any fear in you as so many have already done in this “mommy blogger” community that I’m in. I have read claims that have NOT been proven that GM food will give our children allergies, autism, diabetes, cause obesity, and cancer. That is scary. Is it not? My goal is to reach my readers who didn’t know about GM food and GMOs, and my readers who are on the fence and just not sure about the things that they’ve read. We are all scared of what we don’t know. I’m not an expert and I cannot answer all  your questions about the specific science and genetics of how GMOs work, but I can do my best to refer someone who does know to answer your questions.

I would also like to disclose the following:

  • Yes, we are farmers
  • Yes, we purchase some GMO canola to seed, grow some GM crops, harvest, and sell by our own free will
  • No, this post is not sponsored by anyone or any company
  • I am not an expert in this field, I just did my own research with some guidance from my husband (who has vast knowledge, but is not an expert either)
  • If you have a comment or a question that I cannot answer (read: I am not an expert in the exact science/genetics) I will refer someone to answer your question
  • I do not give health advice on this blog

I hope you enjoyed my post and that if you choose to leave a comment you will be respectful, keeping the above that I just disclosed in mind. 

Sarah

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I'm a nurse who married a farmer and I'm mom to Braden and Ethan. I love blogging about photography, agriculture, recipes and embracing my role as farm wife and mom. I'm knee-deep in tractors, trains and trucks and I'm often seen with my camera in my hands catching life's moments. Thanks for reading!

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Comments

  1. Ed_in_CT says

    Old article, but I'll add my 2 cents. You are entitled to your opinion, but that is all it is. My opinion is that I want labeling. I demand it. I don't allow anyone to tell me what I should feed my children and just like nutrition facts are important, so is the GMO information.

  2. Ed_in_CT says

    Old article, but I'll add my 2 cents. You are entitled to your opinion, but that is all it is. My opinion is that I want labeling. I demand it. I don't allow anyone to tell me what I should feed my children and just like nutrition facts are important, so is the GMO information.

    So if you like eating GMO foods please continue to do so. I choose not to and it's that simple.

  3. Rhonda says

    Interesting that a farmers wife and nurse would have this opinion. Easy to buy in when its your livelihood. Did they give you a kickback? Also interesting that the comments are all positive.

    • says

      You haven't read all the comments then have you? Open the threads. No I don't get “kickbacks” and when anyone assumes that I get paid for my opinions, you have nothing intelligent to say.Sent from my iPhone

  4. TIM says

    I'm always suprised when the people who say they are trying to are trying to protect the world from GMOs and autism get so angry and say mean things.. Hope those kind of commenters don't destroy your faith in humanity.
    Keep up the good work, Sarah!

  5. Anna says

    Ya know, it's probably true that the amount of pesticide on that one apple is harmless. Then, there's the hormones in the milk, the vaccines and steroids in the beef, the pesticides on the potatoes and carrots, the fluoride in the water, stir it up with your rubber spoon, pour it into your plastic bowl after cooking it in your aluminum pot and WHALA!!!!
    Bon appetite !!!!
    I prefer organic to the accumulation of all the products that are safe, on there own. Not to mention that grapefruit and spinach is perfectly healthy and good for you, but combined with certain medications will kill you. What is the combination of all these additives and chemicals doing to us in the long run? Some day in the future they're gonna look back and wonder what the heck we thought while putting this crap in us, every day!

  6. Jim says

    Solid correlation for the Winter Olypmics <table> <tr><td>Country </td><td>Medals </td><td>GMO % Medals/10Million people</td> </tr><tr><td>Norway </td><td>26 </td><td>1% </td><td>52 </td> </tr><tr><td>Austdia </td><td>17 </td><td>1% </td><td>20 </td> </tr><tr><td>Sweden </td><td>15 </td><td>2% </td><td>16 </td> </tr><tr><td>Netherlands </td><td>24 </td><td>1% </td><td>14 </td> </tr><tr><td>Switzerland </td><td>11 </td><td>1% </td><td>14 </td> </tr><tr><td>Czech Republic </td><td>8 </td><td>30% </td><td>7 </td> </tr><tr><td>Canada </td><td>25 </td><td>70% </td><td>7 Highest for a GMO user </td> </tr><tr><td>Germany </td><td>19 </td><td>1% </td><td>2 Recent bans </td> </tr><tr><td>Russian </td><td>33 </td><td>0% </td><td>2 </td> </tr><tr><td>France </td><td>15 </td><td>1% </td><td>2 </td> </tr><tr><td>Korea </td><td>8 </td><td>1% </td><td>2 </td> </tr><tr><td>USA </td><td>28 </td><td>80% </td><td>1 </td> </tr><tr><td>China</td><td>9 </td><td>40% </td><td>0.1</td> </tr><tr><td>Totals:</td><td> </td><td> </td><td> </td> </tr><tr><td>GMO users</td><td>70</td><td>55%</td><td>124.14</td><td>Total GMO medals (Nearly ten times as many per capita.)</td> </tr><tr><td>Clean Folks</td><td>168</td><td>.67%</td><td> 15.37</td><td>Total Clean medals</td> </tr></table>

  7. says

    I want to know how I can become a paid shill of… Well… Anyone! The Government… Monsanto… The Illuminati… I keep spreading EVIDENCE and am told I must be a part of the conspiracy yet I don't make a penny off of "The Conspiracy!" I'd LOVE to be able to be PAID to keep spreading facts! That would be spectacular!

  8. says

    Thank you for simplifying this and cutting through a lot of myths and jargon. Kudos is in order and I am sharing this on Facebook. I wish more "mommy bloggers" were into skepticism and science rather than blindly buying into all this hyped up pseudo-science scaremongering.

  9. R.M says

    Why do you keep asking the same question? Does that actually prove anything other than you are good at being annoying?

  10. says

    I deleted your 2nd comment on this thread as it wasn't relevant at all, it was a copy and paste from the LMD website.

    Please see my comment on the "Online Activism" post, I'm getting tired of chasing you around my blog saying the same thing. But I will reiterate yet again (as I disclosed in this actual post) and for anyone else who is interested, the Life Made Delicious program did not sponsor this post. All opinions on my blog, even when I am getting paid to post, are always my own. Just read my disclosure at the end of every sponsored post as I am legally obligated to say.

    I am a housewife, but I'm not the mother of a farmer. My kids are 3 and almost 1. I can't get paid for telling the truth so how is being a wife and mother propaganda???…not sure where you're going with that. I'm not pretending to be a "little nurse-turned farm wife". I am a nurse. I am a farm wife, and never once have I stated "I love GMOs". In this very blog post I state "Someone said I was biased and pro-GMO and I was here to convince you all that they are good. I’m not here to convince anyone of anything." It is absolutely no secret that once a month I blog for LMD, as I've said to you twice today already, but they did not sponsor this post, nor did Monsanto…in case you were wondering. No one can tell me what to blog, apparently you have no idea how that works.

    Thank you for help spreading the word of the great LMD website, I use it weekly for recipes!
    My recent post Online Activism: Is It Worth It?

  11. HawaiiAgWife says

    In my book the first person to play the shill card looses. How about presenting data to support your arguments instead of accusations of corruption?

    • says

      Well the "Mamavation" blogger who hosts all the anti-GMO Twitter parties is a paid blogger for Stonyfield Organic Yogurt and hands out prizes for participating in their Twitter parties of lies regarding biotechnology and she doesn't disclose that…yet Stonyfield truly DOES sponsor her Twitter parties and direct involvement with her anti-GMO movement…so…..
      My recent post Catch the Moment – September

        • says

          Oh I know! No worries at all! ;)

          I just find it funny that since I CLEARLY disclosed that this was NOT a sponsored post, someone thinks they've "outed" me when I say on my blog disclosures time and time again "all opinions on this blog are my own." No one can or ever will hold a gun to my head and MAKE me type something.
          My recent post Catch the Moment – September

  12. guest says

    Gee, let's see you're a paid blogger in the "life made delicious" program run by GENERAL MILLS of Canada, one of the largest users of GMO foods. How much did they pay you to defend their products?

    • says

      Hi there anonymous "guest". I am a paid blogger for the Life Made Delicious program run by General Mills Canada. I make that very evident on my blog, you can see my button under my Brand Ambassador label on my blog's side bar. All of my LMD blog posts have a disclosure statement under every post. As I stated in this post, this is not a sponsored post by any company, brand, or person. All thoughts are my own and do not reflect those of any company. In my LMD blogging group we blog about recipes and promote new General Mills products. We have never discussed nor been asked to endorse biotechnology. You can check out my Life Made Delicious posts here: http://www.nurselovesfarmer.com/category/lmdconne

      Thanks for your interest!
      My recent post Catch the Moment – September

  13. Victor Cardoso says

    If people heard from monsanto themselves instead of listening to gossip with no evidence you would realize they are doing a great job ask any poor hungry person being fed from the crops yielded from these farms people jump into conclusions without any facts just here-say well i have contacted monsanto myself and am extremely happy with their setup and what they are doing….long live monsanto. ( i would offer my service to them anytime as long as i could help the needy and hungry )

    • says

      I found something you might enjoy to read, Leslie: http://www.examiner.com/article/are-gmo-producers

      Also, as a friend in a forum states "In the case of tobacco smoking, the scientific community agreed that it was harmful since the beginning. In the case of GMOs, the scientific community agrees that GMO food causes no ill-effects if consumed and are essentially the same as their conventional counterparts."

  14. says

    Clearly your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree didn't teach you a thing about science.

    Firstly, ASD's cause in UNKNOWN. That means you don't know what causes it, and studies that indicate that vaccines DO NOT cause ASD could be flawed. The studies that have been performed used the vaccines properly, in proper storage facilities that were also administered properly, and you overlook that corporations may mishandle the vaccines, hospitals my mishandle the vaccine, and doctors may mishandle the vaccine. Further, the studies I've read from ASF don't test facilities for these errors or environmental conditions that might lead to the vaccines causing damage. You haven't considered or addressed the possibility that the vaccines in combination with environment conditions might be the cause of ASD. http://www.wral.com/unc-researchers-uncover-poten

    To continue your lack of scientific approach, you'll note that many cancers take 30+ years to become apparent, so unless you have more then 30 years of studies to support your opinion of GMO safety, you're full of bunk. Many "safe" ingredients from the past are now known to cause cancer or other health issues that could lead to cancer, and some affect the offspring of the user (cholesterol problems are often linked to heredity).

    In conclusion, your "scientific" assessment isn't at all scientific. It's based on your opinion, news stories, and psedo-science.

    I admit, I don't know the cause of ASD or the repercussions of GMOs, but neither do you. And that's FACT.

    • Evilien says

      "In conclusion, your "scientific" assessment isn't at all scientific. It's based on your opinion, news stories, and psedo-science. "

      But.. YOUR only 'source' is a newspaper? Not a scientific article…

    • says

      Hello, Cy. I didn't claim to know the cause of autism, I just stated the fact that Wakefield's study has been debunked. BUT, I'm not really here to discuss vaccines, maybe another day, though!

      I don't claim to be an expert or a scientist, I thought I made that evidently cleared. It is, however, absolutely not pseudoscience, as you state. And you're right, no one knows how GMOs will affect us in the long-run, just like no one knows how aspartame will or organic spinach. I made it very clear that no food is 100% safe, I never disputed that. Have a lovely day.
      My recent post Catch the Moment – September

  15. 240donutswag says

    all these synthetic foods are causing ailments and it will only get worse i assure you, don't be fooled there has always been enough natural resources to feed the entire population naturally from mother earth, and as for immunization, do you really even know what they are injecting in to your body? did you inspect the ingredients yourself? they could be injecting you with anything, they do call it a doctor's practice don't they? you are their practice, merely test subjects, they could be secretly testing something new on the public and nobody would ever even know.

    • says

      1. "all these synthetic foods are causing ailments and it will only get worse i assure you"
      Really….feel free to cite any specific study which backs up your assertion.

      2. "there has always been enough natural resources to feed the entire population naturally from mother earth"
      Really…..explain the massive famines and everyday starvation for as long as history has been recorded.

      3. "as for immunization, do you really even know what they are injecting in to your body?"
      Yes, it is well documented. Just because you don't understand chemistry, biology, immunology, epidemiology, and medicine does not mean that the rest of us are similarly handicapped.

      4. "did you inspect the ingredients"
      I don't have to. That's what multiple layers of inspection and oversight are for. Problems are rare and remediated very quickly.

      5. "they do call it a doctor's practice don't they? "
      Seriously, that is a fifth grade semantics game.

      You are the perfect example of the underinformed ideologue that this article talks about.

  16. Ladge K says

    Great to see you have put the time and effort into this, I too have friends who love the conspiracy theories , and chemtrails etc etc
    Much of the fear is possibly fear of anything new, remember people would die because the air would be sucked out of trains if they ever exceeded 35Mph ! and when electricity came along it was going to cause so much damage and death…….. and of course your right we can never be sure anything is 100% safe but then neither is sitting here and doing things the way we have in the past.

  17. Anne Purcell says

    I really appreciate this post – particularly since I've been avoiding eating corn while I try to figure out what is true …. and I do so love corn. Your post was a perfect place for me to start to ask and read. So I'll ask you first.
    What I worry about is when food genes are replaced or augmented by non-food genes. So, for example, where a corn genome is altered by something that we haven't historically ingested. That's such a big unknown. Do you know of any work or research studies that talk about that?

    • says

      Hi Anne! Thank you so much for coming by. What concerns you about corn? Do you think you have a corn allergy or are you specifically worried about GMOs in our food?

      As far as the specific science of how a gene is replaced I would guide you here: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/can-you-describe-detail

      The work and research and studies all show that transgenic foods are safe and pose no greater risk to consume than non-transgenic foods and there's a LOT of studies out there, see the link in my article about 600+ peer reviewed articles.
      My recent post Catch the Moment – September

  18. Erik says

    Excellent post. I'm happy to see that the comments here aren't calling you a shill or trying to debunk the facts you've reported. Keep up the good work.

  19. says

    Thanks for this well-researched post, I learned some things & appreciate hearing your perspective. I think you'd say I fall into "anti-GMO" crowd, but it's not that I'm necessarily anti-GMO, I'm just pro-labeling and pro food industry transparency. We have very little transparency right now, and peoples' lack of knowledge and lack of desire to research or learn more about their food is what's harming us, in my opinion. I'm attacked for my views all the time on social media, so I liked reading this post as it's informative rather than offensive. I'll be checking your blog periodically for farming info – I always like learning from people who grow our food (or in this case their wives!).
    My recent post Three Bean Salad

    • says

      Hi Amelia, thanks for taking the time not only to read, but to comment! I'm not sure what the "pro food industry transparency" term exactly means, but I am quite up in the air about labeling. It doesn't seem to be a relevant issue in Canada, certainly not as much as in the States. What scares me about labeling, especially as a producer, is that because of all the misinformation and fear out there, it seems a lot of people *think* falsely that GMOs are BAD for you, when it has been proven and stated by all the organizations I listed in my post that they are safe. I think labeling GMO foods would tend to imply that something is "bad" or wrong with them. If people want to avoid them, there technically is a label "USDA Organic". I truly appreciate your comment, and I'm certainly not trying to come at you or offend you – its just that labeling could be a whole other topic in itself and that's why it scares me. We don't label everything and the cost of it would be quite significant for the producer and the consumer. Also there's arsenic in apple juice….but it's safe so it's not labeled and highlighted on the front package, ya know? Keep coming back, thanks again!
      My recent post Saying Goodbye To Summer

  20. says

    When I read about "the man who save a million lives" the GMO issue sounds like a replay of the DDT uproar. Initially I was disturbed by some negative studies but in the end DDT is a pesticide that saved people from insect-born diseases. I need to study GMO more, like I have home birth and vaccines. I am for home birth, with screening and against vaccinations unless there is a present risk and again with screening. Yet from where I stand now, if I were in a famine-prone land where this debate could be life or death for me, I would likely want the GMO activists to just go away.
    My recent post Yes, there is really such a thing as DIY Phonics

    • says

      Hey Deborah – thanks for your comment! I agree – we need to do our own research, and not just buy into everything we see online, and yes – that includes my article! If people don't believe me, or share my views, I want them to find it out on their own. I would be absolutely pro-home birth (for myself) for anything after my 1st baby, but I'm not an eligible candidate because we live >45 minutes away from our hospital. As for vaccines, I better not go there, but I'll just say I don't believe that herd immunity is the answer for non-vaxxed kids these diseases are still very rampant. As for getting back to GMOs, yes I don't understand where the activism in 3rd world countries arises from when it's potential life-saving technology….and the activists are blessed enough to have a choice in what they eat – if that makes sense!
      My recent post Online Activism: Is It Worth It?

    • says

      The DDT "uproar" as you call it, was the cause of the near extinction of numerous species of wildlife. I wouldn't call that an 'uproar' I would call it a man-made tragedy though. Mankind has put his own needs beyond those of every other species for far too long, and DDT is a fine example of that; neonicotinoid and nicotinoid pesticides are another example.

  21. pinkbears says

    You've definitely done your research on this – and it's great that you have so many professionals weighing in. It occurred to me while looking at some of your plant breeding images that this really isn't much different than simply grafting fruit trees together. What little I know about tree grafting would have me believe that it really isn't possible for that kind of genetic modification to be dangerous – if it grows, then the life is entirely natural. Sure, 'God didn't put it there', and there may be ethical issues especially when you go from modifying plants to modifying animals to the possibility of modifying people – but (and I could be speaking out of ignorance here) the idea that there could be health risks – beyond that of any food that could cause allergies/reactions – doesn't really make a lot of sense scientifically.
    My recent post 32 Months and Counting

    • says

      I did a LOT of research. And you're right – it's not much different than grafting fruit trees, from the little I know either. Actually, Davison Orchards is a great resource to have those questions answered. BUT, what I didn't touch on in this post, is that every food that we eat now, has been genetically modified at some point – it does not exist in nature like it does in our grocery stores. Seedless watermelons. Grapples (grape flavored apples), Ruby Red Grapefruits. Transgenic (GMO) technology allows geneticists to take the ONE gene of the desirable trait, when they know EXACTLY what it does, and insert it into the DNA of the plant they want to modify. This is what saved Hawaiian papayas from distinction as they were taken over by a disease, and this is what's happening with the orange in Florida right now (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/science/a-race-to-save-the-orange-by-altering-its-dna.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

      I also just learned that GMO canola, for example doesn't lead to GMO canola oil. The GMO is only in the plant, not the oil that is crushed out of the seeds. It's truly above and beyond my comprehension when you get down to the nitty gritty at the DNA level, but I do trust and believe my sources.

      As far as health risks, no food can ever be proved 100% safe. Think of how often we hear of food poisoning, e. coli deaths as I mentioned…but people still eat out at restaurants and buy organic sprouts! ;)
      My recent post The Breastfast Club: Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Hard

  22. says

    I love this post! I've been studying the whole GMO debate for almost a year…and I love the way you have expressed my thoughts in an eloquent fashion. :) My husband and I have a very small farm and sell directly to the end-consumer. You can check us out at http://www.homesteadhillfarm.com Many assume that this means that we are ANTI- …well, everything. Not so. Agriculture covers a wide variety of disciplines and I admire a number of folks that follow a lot of different practices. I think that we need to focus more on just explaining our point of view and not bashing those who differ.
    I will be following this most interesting subject.
    Thanks!

    • Lisa Kriese-Anderson says

      Barbara…..well said. I believe in some ways agriculture has helped in creating some of the food uncertainty seen in the media because of our advertising techniques in order to sell a product. For instance…..poultry or pork packages labeled ….no added hormones…..in the grocery store. The average person who has not researched this says….oh I don't want added hormones in my family's food…..so they buy that package. When in reality, it is ILLEGAL(and UNNECESSARY) to add growth promotants to poultry or pigs. They may even pay more for that package. Growth promotants don't work in poultry and swine because most have not reached puberty prior to harvest. Therefore adding an expensive ingredianet would do nothing to enhance the size of the chicken breast or porkchop. So we in agriculture need to quit bashing one another too!

      • says

        I agree Lisa. I think that the science of GMO has been the "worst scientific communication failure in history" as Mark Lynas puts it. But these brands are buying into people's fear. They KNOW people don't want to buy meat filled with hormones and antibiotics…even though they're not allowed to sell them with it anyway, so it's a moot point – but it sells. Just look at what happened with Panera and their EZChicken campaign – it caused an uproar in the ag community, so good! Thanks for the comment! I do not bash organic or other kinds of farming, there's more than enough room for all these practices :)
        My recent post The Breastfast Club: Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Hard

  23. says

    I have SOOO much to say about this post– all good things of course! This was so well written, well thought out and well researched! It's true, people don't take the time to do true, REAL research on topics like this and just let the fear consume them instead. I always giggle when someone posts "cold hard facts" on Facebook when really it's from some nonsense website that has zero credibility. I always remind myself that if it wouldn't hold up as a reliable source in a college research paper, than it's probably bogus. And there's a whole lot of bogus surrounding all this GMO hype. Loved your shout out about the hype surrounding immunizations, too. I'm a HUGE immunization advocate (as I'm sure you can imagine) and it just makes me cringe when people still believe and quote that airhead Jenny McCarthy.
    My recent post Fruity Pebbles Parfait

    • says

      Thanks for reading, Miss Chelsea. I got quite the "eye full" (as opposed to 'ear full'!) on my call out for questions so I was trying to have my bases covered as best I could. I knew you would understand about credible research. I wouldn't be caught dead referencing a website like Earth Open Source in a nursing research paper. It's just too bad there's more hype and there's another huge Twitter party tomorrow night in regards to this too.
      My recent post GM Foods &amp; GMOs: What I’ve Learned

    • Ellen McCormick says

      Don't forget that Monsanto owns the research in most of the Universities in this country. That would not be an unbiased piece of research in any way. How can eating foods filled with Round up or BT be good for you when none of it has been proven to be safe?

  24. says

    great job on relaying the info…I've come to the conclusion that none of us can be 100% sure about anything–EVERYTHING has bias, all we can do is our best!

    • says

      I think if we dig deep into the science (if we have an interest or concern) and we don't automatically fall for all the BS that is thrown out there – we're doing just fine. I would just hate to see someone, who doesn't reeeeeeeeeeally know about the science/facts on GMOs/agriculture becoming an activist motivated purely on emotion. There's tons of health movements out there like eating clean, organic, gluten-free, paleo…if you wanna do it – awesome, but don't go scaring people about GMOs if you don't *know* about them, KWIM? Thanks for your comment, Ruthy!
      My recent post GM Foods &amp; GMOs: What I’ve Learned

  25. marjorie phillips says

    I think a larger problem in food production is our lack of diversity. However were I a farmer producing eggs I would be raising Leghorns. They are the better layers of all breeds. Trouble is that there are few other breeds being produced and if something wipes out the Leghorns there will be few eggs! Isn't Red Fife wheat modified? I believe it does not get rust and so many crops were wiped out in the early years with this disease. Many like to forget the world famine that was not so uncommon a short while ago. A good code to live by is, don't eat too much, eat as close to the source as possible and have for the most part plain food and you will be fine.

    • says

      Marjorie! Happy to see you comment! Jay will know more about the red fife, but crops have been modified for decades – just like how Noman Borlaug bread the dwarf wheat and "saved 1 billion lives". The thing that really irks me is that Greenpeace has been a very big factor in lobbying against GMOs, has them banned in Europe, and they actively stopped GMO cornmeal from entering a famine-ridden Zambia in 2002 thus killing thousands of people. That's okay?

      I agree with your good code! Much love!
      My recent post GM Foods &amp; GMOs: What I’ve Learned

    • says

      Sorry for getting back to you late, Christina..for some reason your comment got shuffled to spam (the nerve!). But thank you kindly for reading this, and I sure hope they do too!

  26. ScienceMama says

    Great article! There needs to be more voices like yours, someone who understands agriculture, understands information literacy, and understands being a mom!

    • Jessika stringer says

      Faster and more precise than say mutagenises. Less pesticides less, in some cases healthier for us ( ie in wheat there is a bug that eats it which allows a fungus to get into the plant which is hazardous to us, some GMO wheat repel that bug, so less fungus) higher crop yields so less land is needed ( so no having to cut down rain forest) and some are made to be drought tolerant or salt tolerant so they can use less water and can grow in awkward places. then there are the potentials of golden rice to aide in preventing vitamin A deficiency which causes blindness and death in third world counties. Mendel in the Kitchen by Nancy Federoff is a great read, I highly recommend it.

      • says

        You're not ignorant at all, Lindsay! Thanks for answering, Jessika. Instead of trial and error over and over again, or blasting repeatedly with radiation which has been done, scientists can take 1 specific gene from, say a weed, that is resistant to a chemical. They take that 1 gene and insert it into the plant (say, canola). Now we can (and do!) grow this GMO/transgenic canola so that when we spray the chemical, it is resistant thus killing the weeds (which take over the crops if we don't spray), but not the canola. In turn, if used properly with crop rotation (ex. 1 year a field grows canola, the next year wheat, the next year corn, then back to canola, etc) we end up using less herbicide/chemicals.
        My recent post GM Foods &amp; GMOs: What I’ve Learned

        • Jodi Venema says

          Jessika, I grew up on a dairy farm and am still active in working with farmers. Most of my farmers find that using GM corn and soy seed gives them more freedom. Freedom from spraying several different types of pesticides several of which tend to be fairly toxic. Most can get by with using Roundup which isn't too toxic. The yields from GM seed has really increased what's been the norm. I live in N. Michigan which is NOT the Corn Belt. Our growing season is too short, but we can grow corn and soybeans. When I was a kid a good yield of corn was 120 bushels of corn per acre. We are now looking at 200 or even in some really good years almost 300 bushels of corn per acres. This has only happened in the last 5 years. My dad was able to sell excess corn for the first time in 40 some years of farming. So GM crops really do produce more with less.

    • Ellen McCormick says

      Good questions. We don't need them. Hybridizing has been very sucessful for hundreds and thousands of years and is in no way the same thing as genetically engineering. GE crops are made by gene blasting a piece of DNA from an "out of species" (from a pig, a virus, an insect) into the native plant to achieve a desireable trait. The problem is they haven't been tested independently on a long term basis for safety. The FDA's own scientists told the Bush Sr. government not to allow them into the food chain until there was more testing but they did it any way to promote the bio-technology business which was in its infancy. These are seeds and crops that have been developed by the chemical industry to sell chemicals. They have claimed they would feed the world but we have now proven that they are not as nutritious and are creating many health problems. We were told they would increase yields which isn't happening. Organic crops have outperformed the GE crops especially during droughts and difficult growing conditions. Many U.S. farmers are now fed up and are going back to either organic or conventional farming again because this is an expensive, chemical driven, failed technology that is hurting farmers, creating health problems for anyone eating the products including the animals who eat GMO feed. The increase in allergies, infertility and autism, etc. in this country has been increasing ever since these foods were introduced. It's a long story but read more and check in with your GMOFree group in your state or the "Right to Know" group in your state. They will help you learn more. If I can help just reply to my email. Good Luck.

  27. sleuth4health says

    Well done Sarah! You're so correct when you write that one must dig deeper than the first google click. You can almost trace the path that people take when they start inquiring about GMOs. Earth Open Source. GM Watch and…shudder…Institute for Responsible Technology. The 'information' there is sensationalized and shocking and it's at that point that the familiar anti-GMO script starts to run. I know the script well because i regurgitated it verbatim – until I discovered I had been duped by pretty flimsy facts.

    The internet can be the best, or worst source of information. The best information is often NOT the one that gets the most hits.
    My recent post Drunk on Drums and Bugles

    • says

      Thank you! I love your blog, Cami directed me there. I feel a lot more 'prepared' to deal with any anti-GMO people now because they tend to say the same thing and reference the same articles. When I point out a fact that clearly makes them stop and think…they end up ultimately ignoring it, won't acknowledge that I DID make a good point, and go off on a tangent about Seralini. ;)
      My recent post GM Foods &amp; GMOs: What I’ve Learned

    • Ellen McCormick says

      The facts against GMOs are continuing to add up day-by-day. You haven't been duped by flimsy facts. More and more scientists are coming out at their own peril to tell the story about GMOs not being safe. I would keep a watch rather than believing the garbage coming out of the chemical industry. You haven't seen the problems with the health of the Hawaiians who are living near the experimental fields of Monsanto or the Argentinians who are now very sick from using the chemicals to grow the GMO crops. Over 250,000 Indian farmers have committeed suicide for various reasons after signing on to grow Monsanto's crops. It's a story of profit and greed and a failed technology. You were right the first time.

  28. says

    I have some friends who are very anti-GMO. I see the propaganda plastered all over my facebook every day. They are very from the earth, all organic, would never eat a frozen pizza or hot dog in their life, ever! kind of people. So most of their time I look at their stuff as a pretty "extremist" & haven't done any looking into it myself. But now I might. If I can find some time :(

    I have glanced through a few articles today,literally I glanced, but what peaks my interest is the ones discussing the possibility of food allergies related to GMOs. One of them discussing a known allergen in a Brazillian nut, placed into a soybean as part of their GM process, making more people allergic to the soybean. Given the rise in food allergies in our children's generation, that does intrigue me. Again, haven't done my research, but it is interesting to me. But I also saw some articles that I didn't get to read, about using the GMO process to take OUT the "allergy component" of the peanut to try to decrease the growing peanut allergies.

    And while one or 2 or 10 specific foods on their own might not be of any harm & perfectly safe, what about them all interacting? As we get more & more GM foods are we going to see any issues with them being combined in our systems? Is too much of a "good" thing going to be a "bad" thing type of thought?

    And, related to the above comment, I personally, I don't think the "20+ years of research" you quoted is even close to enough. Though, again in my ignorance I'm not sure what 20+ is? 22 or 62. Either way, we have not seen the impact on individuals, like our kids, raised on so many GM foods into adulthood or old age. Their long term health. Their fertility. Or on their kids or grand kid's long term health. 20 years of following "me" from age 10 to 30 is not near enough to convince me one way or another. Follow my kids into their 90s & their kids into old age, then maybe it will be fair to make a conclusion. I think is still pretty "new" & far to early to make a concrete decision one way or another on if this is really good for us.

    And my bigger question is less about are these foods good/bad for us & more about if we "mess" with nature & alter things from the way God planned them, what other consequences or issues are we setting ourselves up for? Every action has a re-action. Are we going to breed or encourage something as a side effect that will have a severe impact on the Earth or human race long into the future.

    I think its all pretty controversial.
    My recent post Its the Splits

    • says

      Hey Katie!

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. There are definitely extremeists – and that's fine. If you never want to eat processed "junk" food – good on you, we all should be like that – but to be an "anti" activist, takes it to another level.

      I will get a person more versed in the allergy aspect to comment on this I haven't heard about allergens being used in GM crops.

      As far as "long term" they have been in our food chain with over 3 trillion meals served since 1996.

      I get the "God" thing asked of me a lot, especially because I am a Christian. Man has been changing and transforming foods and plants long before GMOs. It happens in nature as well. Think of seedless grapes and watermelons! They didn't naturally come that way. Also, I would argue why do we have medicines? Did God intend for anyone with diabetes to just die? Why do we have insulin, which from what I understand, is made from a process similar to how we get GM crops (correct me if I'm wrong, anyone).

      Regardless – you're right. It's all very controversial because social media has made it so.

      • says

        I'm definitely not saying I want any diabetics to die. But look at Antibiotics. They are great, clearly they save lives, but we overused them & now we have "created" things like MRSA & VRE. Its a slippery slope between good & too much. Just asking what are the implications of overuse? And that we just need to tread carefully, and remain honest & transparent. I've seen some stuff lately about one of the Doctors from the Gardasil vaccine campaign" now speaking out against the vaccine. IF an issue does come up with GMOs, is there going to be an individual brave enough to speak out, despite the huge economic implications?
        http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500690_162-5253431.ht

        And 3 trillion meals is a lot yes, but since 1996 is not. I was 14 then, now I'm 30. I have not even gotten to the stage of my life yet where I worry too much about severe illness, or my body starting to fail me. I'm not at the recommended age for a mammogram or colonoscopy. I want to know if its going to influence that. Years from now. Or if me eating those foods with a child in-utero will impact them not now, but in 30, 60, 80 years. When you say since 1996 those who were infants at that time, are not even 20. Not in their childbearing years. Not entered the prime years for cancer. Or heart failure. We have not even seen yet if eating many GMOs in young childhood, infant years will impact heath into adulthood, let alone old age. Maybe any potential impacts won't happen fast, but over time. Maybe? We can't, it hasn't been long enough. Maybe we will be better off healthwise? Who knows? I'm just saying, its too early to know.

        I'm not saying I'm sharing the anti ads on my social media, I'm just saying, I am far from sold.
        My recent post Its the Splits

        • says

          I think it's good to have the attitude that you do Katie. But ask, ask, ask if you continue to have any questions. This is going to be a great forum to ask farmers, scientists, and researchers in the fields. As far as long, long, long term….you're absolutely right. There's no way to know. Same with medicines, environmental components, microwaves, the use of plastic, etc.
          My recent post GM Foods &amp; GMOs: What I’ve Learned

        • Ben Edge says

          Katie,

          Think of it this way. If we had never developed antibiotics (and abused them), we would have people dieing from plain old SA, instead of MSRA, and there is a lot more SA than MSRA. If we had never developed vaccines because a few people have a bad reaction, we would have millions of people afraid to go outside in the summer and thousands crippled by polio or scarred by smallpox, or dead from either.

          For the things you are concerned about to happen, there would have to be a plausible explanation for how it could happen. If we insert a gene for a particular protein that has shown to be harmless to humans, then check the plant to determine if any other proteins are being produced, and find there are none that differ from the unmodified plants, what would make it of more concern than the unmodified plants we are already eating?

          Scientists have to talk in qualified terms to be accurate and precise. We generally don't say anything in absolute terms, because there is always some uncertainty. Activists jump on that like the character in Dumb and Dumber. If a scientist were to say "we know with 99.9999999% certainty, that this could not happen" (we don't actually say it that way), the response from the activists is "so you're saying there's a chance!" If you ever listen to David Suzuki or Jeffrey Smith (I'm not recommending you do) notice that they take every possible problem that has been suggested for biotechnology and present it as an absolute certainty. Scientists have developed procedures to reduce the possibility of those dangers from happening, which were often low risk in the first place. Or the activists say "we just don't know", while ignoring all the data that shows there is no difference in the safety of conventional and modified foods. If an activist says "we don't have data showing that they are 100% safe," they are setting a standard that science has never been able to prove, even for organic and conventional foods.

    • says

      Katie
      The Brazil nut story is a perfect example of how the present system to testing GMO's before they are marketed works to prevent allergenic problems. That particular GM crop never came to market becuase the testing showed a potential allergenic reaction. When that result was found the GM crop was dropped from commercialization potential. No GM protein has ever matched any of the 1000 odd known allergenic proteins in data bases. (one of the testing requirements). No allergenic reaction has ever been documented against any GM food after 3 trillion meals containing GM ingredients.

      • says

        Thanks for the clarification. I did read more & find that this morning. But it still intrigues me. I know there are lots of other possible reasons for the drastic increase in childhood allergies over the last 2 decades, but I can't help but to keep GMOs in my bank of possibilities. Especially when one of the big allergens we hear about is soy.
        My recent post Its the Splits

        • Jessika stringer says

          I believe they have a list of proteins that are known allergens that they must avoid. However no food is 100% safe, if we required that then practically everything would be off our shelves, kwifruit, wheat, eggs etc etc. allergies have increased. In countries without GMO too. Often people assume they have an allergy to something ( ie gluten where 1% of the population is affected) however you will get many more saying they are, psychosomatic in other words. From one nurse to another Sarah, great job! Oh http://www.nature.com/news/specials/gmcrops/index…. There you go Katie. I also recommend Mendel in my Kitchen by Nancy Fedoroff!

    • says

      Hi Katie, My name is Jon Entine, and I am director of the independent non-profit university based Genetic Literacy Project (www.geneticliteracyproject.org). I understand your concerns about allergies and health concerns. Actually transgenic foods are much safer and better tested than many organic and conventional foods. I addressed these very concerns in an article last week in Slate: http://tinyurl.com/mrv42g2. It might come as a surprise to you, but almost NONE of the vegetables and fruits you eat are the way that "God planted them." The grains and fruits and vegetables have all been genetically modified over the years. Thousands of new varieties have been created using gamma rays and dousing them with chemicals (like Ruby Red grapefruit? Created in a lab using radiation mutagenesis). I hope you will read up on this and consider rethinking your position. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions: jonentine@geneticliteracyproject.org.

      My recent post Elle’s botched response to previously botched anti-GMO story

    • Ellen McCormick says

      You're asking all the right questions and I'd go to the Institute for Responsible Technology for many of the answers to your questions. Jeffrey Smith has done all the research for the last 12 years on the subject and has complied an impressive website, non-GMO shopping list, letters from the scientists who told the government "not" to let these foods into the system before they were tested further. I have been studying this for years as well and have heard just about everyting from both sides and I've made my decision. I will not eat them and am involved in getting them labeled so we know where they are in our food system. We do know that 75-85% of processed foods have them in it inclduing baby formula. My state is introducing a baby formula bill this year and we passed labeling in general this yearas well. Good luck with your research. Your skepticism is sending you on the right path in my opinion.

  29. says

    I think you've summarized the issue well. Personally, I think GMO's have been overhyped in the past as the way to solve all of agriculture's problems. They aren't, but they are a useful tool that helps feed many people and could potentially help feed many more if ignorance and paranoi didn't limit their use. There is precious little evidence to suggest any health or environmental risk in using them. I think this is why most GMO opponents end their arguments with "Just wait 20 years and see what happens." Well I've been waiting ever since 1972, when the first recombinant DNA experiments were conducted, to see the catostrophic consequence of our messing with DNA . I'm still waiting.

    • says

      I agree with you, and I know Jay does too. A mixture of many types of farming and products is needed for sustainable agriculture, I believe. Unfortunately in this social media world we live in, the hype and paranoia, as you correctly put it – has taken over. And yes – one of the arguments I always hear is that there's no "long term" studies. Trillions of meals and decades of GMOs in our food….I think I'm convinced ;)
      My recent post GM Foods &amp; GMOs: What I’ve Learned

    • E McCormick says

      There is far more evidence not to use them than there is that they are safe. There is no study that says these are safe! 93 scientists recently came out to say that these foods cannot be called safe and no one has said they are safe except the chemical companies who are genetically modifiying the the DNA with out of species DNA from a virus, a pig, a human, an insect, etc., etc. When the long term studies have been done independently and we can actually see that they are safe, then I would say go ahead. But to date, the studies that have been done abroad do not indicate anything safe about them. The statistics on the health of this country ever since they were introduced into our food system indicates we have a huge problem, never mind the allergy increases in our children. I am an example of what 20 years does to you after bad science has been used. I won't go into it here but I do not eat anything that isn't organic or grass fed. Today, the news has stated that a new study has proven that organic milk is better than regular (conventional milk from corn fed cows). I'm delighted that they are going to the trouble now of proving what we've been telling them for years!! Good luck making your decisions.

  30. Chelsea Head says

    I found your lost post very interesting. While I will be completely honest with you, I had never heard of GMO's… lol This post pretty much went in over my head, but I plan to read more into it and read some of your references that you linked to. :)

    • Eomccormick says

      I hope you'll be a little more thorough than Sarah. Mark Lynas, whom she quotes, doesn't know what he's talking about and is being paid by the chemical industry. The pesticide that is used on GMO crops to grow them is by itself enough of a reason not to eat them. Round-up (the main ingredient is glyphosate and a by-product of agent orange) is the pesticide used more and more because they now can't control the weeds that have become impervious to the weed killer they use. The plant absorbs the pesticide, then you absorb the pesticide when you eat the plant in whatever form it might be in – corn syrup, soy products, soda, ketchup (sugar beets), etc., etc. It's a complicated story and GMOs have never been proven to be safe.The new science that's coming out is actually making it quite obvious that these foods are the reason for the decline in this country's health since 1996 when they were introduced into our food supply against the voices of the USDA scientists who said they shouldn't release them and that they would be problematic especially for allergic reactions and tumors, etc. I could go on for hours but I've been studying this for 12 years and there is not way this women should be professing that GMOs are in any way safe. They are not going to feed the world, 20% of farmers are now fed up and are going back to non-GMO seeds and agriculure. There is no increase in yeild, they are not drought resistant, and they are destroying the native species around the world. It's truly a devastating story. I would definitely not listen to this woman at all. Her farmer husband is obviously a GMO farmer.

  31. Ben S says

    Great article Sarah. You do a wonderful job ‘bridging the gap’ between the science and those other ‘mommy bloggers’ just trying to keep their families healthy!
    I feel so many people think a peer-reviewed article will be too hard to understand so never read them and end up swayed by memes and outrageous pictures all over the internet.
    I hope to can be an arrow to point them all in the right direction!

  32. vegwell says

    Great overview, very thorough yet clear and operating from a basic, but knowledgeable viewpoint. One other small point about some of these "peer reviewed" studies such as those offered by Carman and Steneff. Their articles are published in "open-source", on-line journals that require the authors to PAY for publication. As you say, Sarah, under those conditions, their peer review process is dodgy. The reviewer may be very qualified…in another field…so they have Ph.D.s , and are maybe on a faculty somewhere. But in order to do peer review, a reviewer has to truly be a peer…ie with specific expertise in the area of study.

  33. seborgarsen says

    Excellent post. It's nice to see some rationality on this issue. Cue the enemies of reason, logic and science 3, 2, 1…

  34. ALK says

    Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough comments. It is very refreshing to see a rational approach to this discussion. Keep up the good work!

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