Is cross-breeding even comparable to genetically modified?

mike758March 25, 2014

My math teacher often goes on off topic rants about completely random stuff ranging from the best place to eat to politics. Of course he thinks he knows everything; he has one of those "I'm better than everybody" attitudes, but he's a good guy though. Half the time he usually had a good point, and the other half of the time he doesn't know what he's even talking about.

One of his latest rants was insulting people against genetically modified food. He says food has been genetically modified for thousands of years and most the food we eat now is genetically modified, so he doesn't get the argument against it. I believe he was talking about food that's cross-bred (or cross-pollinated, I don't know the correct term), because he brought up how Fuji apples are genetically modified and how most of our dogs are genetically modified. I know those were created by crossing two different apples/dogs, which may fit the description of genetically modified, but I don't even know.

But first of all, I want to know if cross-breeding (or cross pollinated, again I don't know which is correct) is even considered genetically modified? I also want to know if you can even compare that to our Monsanto GMOs, because he was basically saying that's all it is. I personally believe he was wrong but I want to clarify.

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pnbrown

Ask him about chimeric genes.

He is correct that much of the process of so-called "gmo" breeding is cross-breeding techniques that have been used for centuries.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:17PM
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nc_crn

That's a "technically correct" argument, but it doesn't get to the real issue most anti-GMO people have with GMO...even if some of the issues those people have with GMO are thought to be silly or overblown in proportion by some.

Long story short, we've been genetically modifying everything under the sun since the early days of selective breeding agriculture, but we haven't been inserting genetic material that would be impossible via traditional breeding.

Now...whether people should even care this is being done is another issue, too. Some people believe it's no big deal and some do.

I think it's absolute ignorance to lump all GMO in the same basket...to compare a papaya with a dead protein coat disease resistance acting like a natural vaccine to a soybean which can resist the negative aspects of uptaking a herbicide...well, that isn't even comparable even if both would most likely not happen without human genetic insertion interference. There's also GMO blood products, food enzymes, and vitamins produced by GMO bacteria which isn't even in the same realm of concern as either of the other 2 examples listed above for a variety of reasons and proven practice (from purity, to quality, to safety).

Just like too many people anti-GMO who lump all GMO into one basket...there's a segment of GMO supporters that lump all genetic diversity and tinkering into one basket. Both sides of these "basket lumpers" are missing the nuances of the issue at hand and their viewpoints are leaning a bit to the extremist side of things.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:25PM
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eibren(z6PA)

However, there are some new gene transmission techniques which can introduce individual genes of another species into a plant or animal. One technique uses a virus as a carrier to accomplish this.

IMO the main danger is the creation of new strains of food that humans are not biologically adapted to consume, which could cause increases in allergic symptoms and maybe immune reactions of various other kinds, such as arthritic symptoms.

A certain amount of this sort of thing may have been happening randomly over the course of Earth history. If you consider that mosquitos are essentially live injection needles that are able to carry some viruses, you can see that the planet has its own ways of moving genes around that go beyond the usual reproductive reordering of genes. (Google "meiosis" if you haven't studied that yet).

What concerns me is that inadvertent introduction of a foreign gene into an organism probably didn't happen as often and as bizarrely through such natural means as those used in the bio lab by scientists intending to kill or repel insects, etc. Some are beginning to suspect that the honeybee colony collapse disorder that has been going on is in part the result of gmo crops that were created in labs to repel or sicken insects.

Additionally, evolution may be hastened beyond the ability of other organisms on the planet, including humans, to keep up. Historically, if a traditional food crop evolved in a way that made it unfit to eat, the process was accidental and gradual,giving humans who fed on it time to adapt by evolving humans that could tolerate the changes. The humans that did not tolerate the changes well would be less likely to reproduce, etc.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:50PM
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gardengal48

Unfortunately it is too late to change perceptions now that the "horror" of GMO's is so profoundly set but there is a big difference between genetically modified plants - which can and do happen naturally and have been doing so for thousands of years, not to mention manmade hybrids from the last couple of centuries - and genetically engineered plants, which are altered at the cellular level by man and are relatively recent on the scene.

Your math instructor was completely accurate in stating that GMO's are pretty much harmless but GMO's are NOT the same as GEO's and few of the general public are educated enough to know and make the distinction. And the jury is still out on how "bad" GEO's really are - in some cases they are a huge boon to agriculture/horticulture. Fine Gardening magazine had a very interesting article on just this topic and the distinctions between naturally occurring GMO's and manmade GEO's couple of issues back, maybe February 2014.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 7:55PM
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mike758

I'm actually really glad I brought this up, I actually learned a few things. I am (or was) one of those people that threw the blank statement out there are being against GMO's. What I really researched and I'm against is genetically altering food to withstand more pesticides. But if I just say I'm anti-GMO, I'm pretty much saying I am against all food I guess

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 9:47PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Genetic modification of plants has been done for eons, naturally, the same way we are genetically modified versions of our parents. What are called Genetically Modified plants that have genes that would not be a part of the plant without the help of outside agents are really Genetically Engineered and are not the same thing.
In theory these inserted genes were not supposed to cross through the normal pollen exchange but have. No one knows what, if any, adverse affect Genetic Engineering has, or will, be done to humans since no studies have been done to find that out.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 10:26AM
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lazy_gardens

I think I understand this now:

The gene that produces Vitamin A is OK in corn but it becomes evil and dangerous if we move it to rice.

The gene for making caffeine in coffee beans is shut off by a radiation-induced mutation ... that's OK. If the same gene is knocked out in a lab to suppress caffeine production, that's evil and dangerous.

It's OK to eat papayas infected with the papaya ringspot virus, but when a gene from that virus is inserted into the papaya genome it becomes evil and dangerous.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 11:47AM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

@ nc-crn 7b "[b]ut we haven't been inserting genetic material that would be impossible via traditional breeding." You sure about that?' Nevermind, Lazygardens beat me to it. I was going to mention the much prized virus caused variegation in the color of leaves and blossoms too.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:05PM
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nc_crn

I'm keeping it rather general, yet realistic.

Generally, what's being incorporated into an engineered GMO is a lab-constructed forced mutation delivered by a virus/bacteria/fungi/etc. (mostly virus)...a good number of them coming from different types of organisms outside of a traditional breeding class even under the most ideal circumstances (many absolutely impossible). While a plant may naturally be able to evolve a similar mechanism, this is much faster and more precise with (unlike what some alarmists want to believe) a whole lot more quality control and known mechanism interaction over a chance mutation.

Sure, we could take a field of corn, grow 100 acres...spray glyphosate, take the strongest/most resistant, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat...and a -very- long time later we'd have a naturally resistant glyphosate corn, but we'd lose control of the traits being mixed unless the chance mutation was highly stable sexually...as well as leaving to random chance the technology of stacking existing traits with newly developed traits.

While creating a GMO anything isn't as easy as "shoot it with some DNA and we're done"...it's a huge shortcut compared to counting on nature to evolve itself through it's own pathways. Plus you can stack desired traits into your breeding program a lot easier.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Wed, Mar 26, 14 at 17:34

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 5:18PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

lazygardens, you still do not get it.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 6:15AM
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pnbrown

Nc, just so that the laypeople among us, like me, can get a handle on the scope of the various types of so-called "gmo" crops out there:

Is it fair to say that, for example, bt-corn is as different from round-up ready soya as a circular saw is from a clothes-washing machine (in terms of the engineering), or is it more like a circular saw to a blanket?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 7:27AM
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nc_crn

BT corn expresses BT pesticide (BT bacteria) in all it's tissues...not as much in the corn kernels, itself, but it's still there.

RU-R soy (or corn, etc) expresses a naturally occuring bacterial resistance to RU. It is also present in all it's tissues...not as much in the seed/kernels, but still present and a bit more than the BT. The resistance to RU was naturally sourced (then isolated/synthesized) from a bacteria that was naturally (evolutionarily) resistant to RU.

There's a bit more concern from most about humans eating residual RU more than residual BT. In the amounts of residue found in GM food, the BT is considered extremely harmless to non-target hosts. Even though RU is considered safe in the amounts found in residues (and in the case of stuff like processed sugar cane, practically non-existent after processing) some people have concerns about ingesting it.

I'd draw a more easily defined line at comparing "apples to oranges" to a crop like GM papaya which has a dead protein coat of a ringspot virus preventing a "live" ringspot virus from infecting the crop. A person could eat a totally infested ringspot virus papaya and be fine because humans don't care about that infection. The risk level here is barely debatable (if at all).

Personally, there's not much GMO that I have a personal fear of, but even those with concerns I'd like to see them draw some lines (if they can) about what's "no" and what's "acceptable" to them.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Thu, Mar 27, 14 at 15:11

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:07PM
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pnbrown

Indeed, I am much more concerned about viruses that target humans than I am about possible unexpected issues around ingesting chimeric genes.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 6:10PM
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henry_kuska

The report cited in this link and the comments of the readers may be of interest to this thread.

http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58

Here is a link that might be useful: link for above

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:33PM
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nc_crn

Unfortunately, your linked "myths vs truths" pdf contains some of the author's opinions and myths rather than "truths" for some of those points.

The worst part is their assertion that "GM proponents" muddy the water to confuse and lie to people.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 5:45PM
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henry_kuska

The following was stated: "Unfortunately, your linked "myths vs truths" pdf contains some of the author's opinions and myths rather than "truths" for some of those points."

H.Kuska comment. The question in this thread is: "Is cross-breeding even comparable to genetically modified?"

The link I gave discusses this point with documentation. Can you challenge specific points on this question that they made which you feel are not accurate? If possible please document your information.

---------------------------------------------------------------
The following was stated: "The worst part is their assertion that "GM proponents" muddy the water to confuse and lie to people."

H.Kuska comment: A PDF search of the word muddy turned up 2 instances of use (both on page 10). The first is: "GM proponents often use the terminology relating to genetic modification incorrectly to blur the line between genetic modification and conventional breeding."
The second is: "GM proponentsâ misleading use of language may be due to unfamiliarity with the field - or may represent deliberate attempts to blur the lines between controversial and uncontroversial technologies in order to win public acceptance of GM."

The authors explained in the red outlined box why they felt that their "muddy" statements were justified. Personally, I feel that their first statement is not consistent with their second statement and I would recommend that it be removed if there are further revisions. I also suggest that the term "GM proponents' " in the second statement be replaced by "Some GM proponents' ".

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:41AM
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nc_crn

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:01AM
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Jonathan29

Now i am pretty Non-GMO my self but i know when not to blur the line on conventional breeding or hybrid seed and gmo seed. I didn't necessarily know this several months ago but i did as much research i could and learned what F1 means and so on. People often make a big fuss over hybrid seeds saying they are gmo's when they couldn't be further from the truth. Its just a problem that is born out of ignorance and the muddying the water sort of speak by the agrochemical industry to make gmo's more accepted. But in recent time much of that has back fired on them making people less expectant to the gmo foods or seed.

Here is a link that might be useful: TheItalian Garden

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:41AM
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nc_crn

Being in the "industry" that creates these GMOs, the worst enemy of the anti-GMO crowd is themselves unless you're talking about labeling or a few fringe issues that are mostly politically localized.

They create their own misconceptions and anti-science...spreading them all over the internet for people to pick up on.

If anyone believes they're going to get anywhere arguing 2,4-D is "Agent Orange" or that latching on to fringe studies that professionals and regulators toss aside after studying them...while others chalk it up to some conspiracy...then they're not going to get anywhere very quickly.

For every good anti-GMO activist/organization there's another 9-10 getting their word out in a quite confusing manner to their audience leading them to believe things like hybrids are GMO. It's not "big agribusiness" or the "government"...it's coming from within the anti-GMO community.

Some people don't know the difference or don't care to know what CMS breeding is vs. GMO breeding (which is where a lot of this hybrid = GMO comes from). Some people don't know the difference or don't care to know what a seed company is producing that's owned by a GMO producing parent vs. what other branches of the parent company is producing (which is where another chunk of this hybrid = GMO comes from...such as Monsanto owns Seminis therefore Seminis hybrid seed is GMO (which it isn't)).

Quite honestly, besides labeling and farming right issues, the "industry" is quite happy to stand back and let many anti-GMO activist organizations shoot themselves in the foot with their ill grasp of information only replying with a short press release (if they even bother). The anti-GMO movement mouth pieces are doing a horrible job talking to other scientists, government officials, regulators, and farmers on whole enough for it to not be a priority.

There's good voices out there...they're just not the most popular or the loudest...or the ones with the most scary infographics to post on Facebook.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 4:49AM
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pnbrown

I don't know what 'CMS' stands for but would care to know.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 7:36AM
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nc_crn

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

"Hybrid production requires a female plant in which no viable male gametes are borne. Emasculation is done to prevent a plant from producing pollen so that it serves only as a female parent. Another simple way to establish a female line for hybrid seed production is to identify or create a line that is unable to produce viable pollen. Since this male-sterile line cannot self-pollinate, seed formation is dependent upon pollen from the male line. Cytoplasmic male sterility is used in hybrid seed production. In this case, the sterility is transmitted only through the female and all progeny will be sterile.
...
These CMS lines must be maintained by repeated crossing to a sister line (known as the maintainer line) that is genetically identical except that it possesses normal cytoplasm and is therefore male-fertile. In cytoplasmic-genetic male sterility restoration of fertility is done using restorer lines carrying nuclear genes. The male-sterile line is maintained by crossing with a maintainer line carrying the same nuclear genome as the MS line but with normal fertile cytoplasm."

CMS plants create no viable male pollen which makes seed purity of hybrids close to 100% because of lessened chance of cross/self pollination from undesired sources. It also leads to far less manual labor emasculating (removing male flower parts) flowers in order to keep cross/self pollination from happening. It vastly speeds up the process and purity of hybrid seed while saving $$ on labor. It's a process that's been around since the 1800s and in greater use since the 1950s.

Basically you have a naturally occurring and isolated or mutagen created CMS. There is nothing remotely GMO about the process, but because some mutations are isolated or created in a "lab" it gets mistakenly (or purposely misleadingly) labeled GMO by some. If a mutagen agent is all that it takes for some to flip out over GMOs then there's a ton of flower growers out there growing their version of "GMOs" and I kinda wonder what they think of tissue culture propagation which is some rather mad scientist cell role reassigning stuff via chemical hormones/agents.

To add confusion to it, some organic seed proponents do not want non-naturally occurring CMS lines in organic seed or plant production. While this makes a bit more sense to me, I don't support it...and it still doesn't make it GMO (which, btw, many don't like this method don't claim to be GMO...they just don't see it as organic). There are groups who hold this view which make a sane argument about the issue and I understand where they're coming from about whether it should be organic or not...unfortunately some others misinterpret the argument into something blown out of proportion.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 2:39PM
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pnbrown

Thanks.

Clearly I know little about plant-breeding.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

There is a very good article that explains Genetic Modification and Genetic Engineering and the difference in the April, 2014 (Number 156) issue of Fine Gardening magazine.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 6:21AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Tell your teacher he is dead wrong. There is no method of cross breeding that can insert bacteria DNA into a vegetable plant like transgenic corn and cotton has. GMOs have other organism's genetic material placed into their genome and generally they aren't even other plants. GMO crops then are no longer technically corn or soy or sugar beets but mutants. Add to that the fact that instead of spraying pesticides on the plant we eat the pesticide as part of the DNA of the plant; and instead of spraying herbicide before and after a crop, we spray the herbicide directly on the crop and then eat it.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:04PM
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pnbrown

I believe it is fact that animals and plants carry DNA or RNA from bacteria and viruses.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 7:19AM
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    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 2:12PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

From the article written by Sandra Merrill that appeared in the April issue of Fine Gardening.
" "Genetic modification" is a broad term. A GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) is any living thing that has a different DNA - no matter how slight - from its parents. "

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:51AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

We should stick with the correct term transgenic.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:06PM
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pnbrown

Chimeric gene transfer, intentional.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 7:50AM
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JoppaRich(7b)

"There is no method of cross breeding that can insert bacteria DNA into a vegetable plant like transgenic corn and cotton has"

You've clearly never heard of retroviruses, which do exactly that.

"GMO crops then are no longer technically corn or soy or sugar beets but mutants"

Mutation is the single most important thing in evolution, and the adaptation of life (which is a two part process - mutation expands the genome, natural selection winnows it down to what is useful). It's not a bad thing.

Genetic Engineering is also DRASTICALLY more predictable than traditional crossbreeding. You want to pull the genes from a Geneva roostock that code for fireblight resistance and put it in a different apple? Trivial. You want to cross one of the geneva lines with a Braeburn apple and try to get an apple that tastes right and isn't very susceptible to fireblight? Almost impossible.

Predictability also leads to safety. You want to try and get a resistance gene from a wild solanum into a tomato? Easy with gene splicing. Via traditional breeding? You're very likely to end up with something that will kill you if you eat it.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 12:12PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The industry that practices Genetic Engineering has usurped the term Genetic Modification for just these reasons, it confuses people so they think what that industry is doing is the same thing as has been happening, naturally, for eons. The Food and Drug Administration has forgotten they are supposed to be a consumer protection agency not an industry protection agency.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 6:30AM
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JoppaRich(7b)

No, the Food and Drug administration just understands that it's job is not to pander to your insecurity.

There have been literally no peer reviewed studies showing any danger with GMO foods.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 9:47AM
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