bother you - at all??

digit(ID/WA)December 15, 2007

Some of the last of the seed catalogs are showing up now altho yes, there will be many more. It is snowing hard and I've spent a couple hours looking at the latest. One thing about having a large veggie garden and selling some produce is that I order enuf seed that the wholesale companies have some appeal.

Some catalogs look a bit like they were hammered out on a typewriter by a guy at a couple of grain silos along a railroad siding. Others have some glossy pages and brilliant photo's. The photo's are probably from the BIG suppliers like Seminis or Sakata. Those outfits are where your other catalog companies are buying their seed to mailorder but there are quite a few commercial varieties which never make it into a Burpee or Parks catalog.

The wholesalers give me the chance to buy seed at say, 50 lbs for sweet corn or 15,000 cucumber seeds. Or Hey, 5 lbs of broccoli raab, huh!? huh!? nah . . .

One thing I could do, with a commitment to a "stewardship agreement," is to purchase GMO seed. A lot of the hype has been pulled back on this seed but, make no mistake, the big farms are planting it. They know the drill (so to speak) and appreciate the opportunity to buy "attribute insect protection" of a Bt corn, for instance.

I grow the garden veggies using organic practices and can't really think of a good reason not to. The GMO debate may be over in American agriculture even if these food crops aren't going to some parts of the world.

We've allowed this to happen here. I have little doubt that our commodity field corn and soybean crops are primarily GMO varieties. That means our livestock and the meat in our supermarkets are products of bio-engineering. And, it means that darn near all of our processed foods have GMO ingredients.

It wouldn't be at all difficult for me to send off $200, plow a couple acres in the Spring and raise GMO sweet corn. That corn could go to the farmers' market and be sold without any special notice to the customers. Does any of this bother you??


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david52 Zone 6

This is one of these huge changes that, somehow, just kinda slipped in under the radar of almost all of us.

"In 2007, US farmers again increased the amount of genetically modified plants seeded on the fields. For soy and cotton, GM varieties have become widely accepted and provide approximately 90 percent of the agricultural production. The greatest expansion has been observed for maize: compared with 2006, the proportion of GM cultivations in the vegetation period this year has increased from 61 to 73 percent."

Which means your commercially raised chickens / pork / beef all are up to their ears in GM stuff, as well as corn chips, cooking oil, and so on. I've linked to a EEC site that is kind of fun to kick around, see what is going on all around the world, re gm foods.

But your point, I think, is really scary. Any guy with $200 can buy GM seed, plant it anywhere, and no body really gives a hoot anymore.

Here is a link that might be useful: eec link on gm food production

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 1:10PM
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Well, Steve, it does bother me. No, you don't bother me but GMO stuff does. I honestly take every effort, and wind up spending many, many pennies, on foods that state they are specifically NON-GMO.
I know that in America one does not have to state if a product contains GMOs, but I think they still require that in Europe...not sure, that was a few years ago. Here, it seems, the only way to know if one is buying GMOs or not is to only buy that which specifically states it is without GMOs.
This is an exhausting and expensive way to go as a consumer and it does not always work. I prefer it, though. What really scares me is that each and every monsanto or joe gardener can be contaminating all the Non-GMO crops out there. So, even though I specifically bust my tush to avoid it, I probably eat it all the time by way of pollenation.
I know there is a lot of disagreement out there, and many good arguments for both ways, but, to me, I don't like GMOs. I do, however, think we are stuck with them...

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 2:51PM
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In 2004, the percentage of genetically engineered soybean varieties accounted for 85 percent of all soybeans planted in the US. The percentage of GM corn rose to 45 percent and cotton went to 76 percent of the total. (The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology)

Thanks J for not admitting that I'm a bother. But, David, if you think that what I proposed regarding a few truckloads of sweet corn is scary . . . consider this:

For 10 bucks I can plant a few rows of genetically modified Summer squash and I need sign nothing with regards to someone's convoluted notion of "stewardship."

And, J, there's probably no garden plant quite like squash for spreading its pollen around. That is, if there's bees enuf to do it.

Are we aware that these commonly available genetically modified plants crossed the line quite some time ago from commodity grain and fiber crops to fresh vegetables?

Anybody's digitS'

Here is a link that might be useful: The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 3:27PM
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berrytea4me(Z5 CO)

It bugs the heck out me too. Not just this but all the crud going on in our food supplies.

My twins are special needs having neurological delays and hyperactivity. These symptoms are related to Autism Spectrum Disorders- I'm still trying to get a dx so they may actually be on the spectrum. Centers for Disease Control reported this summer that dx of ASD's have increased from ~1/600 children a few years ago to 1/100 now and its still believed to be highly under diagnosed. Many people suspect contamination of our food supplies may be causing this but no proof yet.

Anyway, about a year ago I started seeing increased symptoms in one of them after eating certain foods. Through experimentation I learned DS is "sensitive" (they don't like to use the term allergic unless it produces a histimine or rash type reaction) to red food coloring and nitrates. I eventually found it was ALL nitrates including Thiamine Mononitrate which is a "vitamin" they put into enriched wheat & rice. I kid you not, give him a few noodles made from enriched wheat and the kid is up all night w/maybe 2 hours of sleep in 24.

Well, start reading labels to see what you are eating and what a shocker! I had no idea that the chemical content was this bad! You think you're getting mashed potatoes but you're lucky if potatoes is even an ingredient! I've never been big on organics and such until this experience. Now I read labels on everything and if the label doesn't have enough info for me to tell if it's safe, then I look for a different brand.

Now if you can't even tell if the seed was safe- then what?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 9:52PM
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Oh, BerryTea!! I haven't even read your whole post yet, but I wanted to type this out right quick. One of the things I have been hearing lately is that young children who watch TV are more prone to show signs of ASD. I'm not sure about who did the study but the info came from my boyfriend and he normally does not spout "common knowledge", he often has a study to refer to. I do think it was just a "variable" that showed up, but, hey, everything helps.

I am sorry that your children are going through this and I hope and pray it only gets better and easier for you all.

I fully agree, all that packaged food that they sell as one thing often contains more of other ingredients before you even see the "potatoes" on the list!! I also have noticed that so many of the high-priced "natural" markets contain a sh*tload of non-organics, yes, they charge a lot but it come from another country and they used pesticides, too!

Read your labels and ask lots of questions, even at the farmers' markets :)

Personally, I have been making my own "everything"...we are about to take the plunge into making our own bread and tortillas, but not yet...too much work already! At least I know what ingredients are going into my meals.

I'm all riled up in case you did not notice :)

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 11:28PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi guys,

Im just home overnite and catching up here (not a whole lot to catch up on!), and I might be weighing in on the wrong side of this issue for many of you, but I want to respond to this one (and I wonÂt even be around for 3 or 4 days to participate in any ensuing discussion!)

While not in the "sophisticated" sense that food is genetically modified nowadays, human beings have been eating genetically modified food for thousands of years. Everytime someone found a particular plant that produced better or in some way had better characteristics than the other ones, and isolated it and used seed from that "improved" plant to improve their crop, they were using genetically modified seed and plants. It was just done in a more "natural" way. So in a sense, if "modern" human beings are just using the science we now have to select the "superior" plants, weÂre just speeding up the process. Everytime you grow a virus resistant, or wilt resistant, or mildew resistant plant, itÂs a result of genetic modificationÂnatural or "human speeded up." And would any of you really want to go back to using all plantsÂflowers and veggiesÂthat donÂt have any disease or fungus resistance? And crops that are genetically modified to produce larger crops (something else thatÂs been used by farmers for hundreds of years by now), are certainly a good thing when there are so many people in so many countries in the world that live in famine conditions or are starving for other reasons. Most genetic modification, up until recent times at least, has led to improvements that most of us are happy for.

So, on the whole, I donÂt have a problem with genetically modified food. But I admit, I really donÂt know enough about how they do it these days, to make an informed decision if itÂs gone beyond the pale! And I definitely do have a problem with all the chemicals that are used these daysÂI grew up in the days of DDT! Need I say more! And I donÂt know what the h___ to think of genetic modification of animals! DonÂt even want to go there right now!

And, when it comes to what I call Plastic Food, I stay 99% away from the stuff. And for me, plastic food includes almost anything in the processed, ready-to-eat department. And I even include things like margarine. Anything that has an ingredient list with more than a handful of things is out for me. I figure if I have to spend five minutes reading a list trying to figure out whatÂs in it (and canÂt pronounce half the words!), I donÂt want to put it in my body. I first became aware of fake food many, many years ago when I bought some toaster waffles, and, after I got them home, I looked at the ingredients list, and the "blueberry" waffles didnÂt have even one real blueberry in them. Now I make almost everything from scratchÂI buy it in the LARGE sizeÂand at least I know whatÂs in the food IÂm eating (assuming flour is whatÂs in the flour bag, that is). I must say, tho, sometimes when IÂm at the food store I wonder how long itÂll be possible to buy scratch! It sure seems like thereÂs more and more and more of the ready-to-eat stuff, and IÂm starting to wonder if anybody will even remember how to do anymore than heat their food in a few more years! Is cookingÂwith recipes and scratchÂgoing the way of the dodo bird!

Gotta go! Have to get ready to leave again!

Debate on,

    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 12:19AM
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david52 Zone 6

For all intents and purposes, Elvis has left the theater, the GM horse left the barn. Here is how they do it. :

"There are two popular methods for creating GM crops; both create mutations. The first method uses Agrobacteriumbacteria that contain circular pieces of DNA called plasmids. One section of this plasmid is designed to create tumors. Under normal conditions, Agrobacterium infects a plant by inserting that tumor-creating portion into the plants DNA. Genetic engineers, however, replace the tumor-creating section of the plasmid with one or more genes. They then use the altered Agrobacterium to infect a plants DNA with those foreign genes.
The second method of gene insertion uses a gene gun. Scientists coat thousands of particles of tungsten or gold with gene sequences and then shoot these into thousands of plant cells. Years ago, the sequences that were shot into cells usually included both the genes that were intended for transfer (gene cassette) as well as extraneous DNA from the plasmid used in the creation and propagation of the cassettes in bacteria. This is true for most GM foods currently on the market. These days, many scientists take the added step of eliminating the extraneous, mostly bacterial DNA and coat the particles just with the cassette."
All well and good, the problem comes with what happens with this stuff out in the 'real world' soup of bacteria, pollen, viruses, and what makes up the living world around us, where all kinds of genetic transfer goes on, all the time, much of which is poorly understood. Already, they're finding the 'Roundup Ready' gene is getting out into the weed population, (google 'super weeds') and everyone has heard the stories from Canada about Monsanto suing farmers who save seed that has some of their genetic material, and thats likely just the beginning.

My guess is that this will be similar to DDT, where everything seems to be ok, but then later on, we find out that it does something we never even imagined. I can see, for example, the Bt crops doing a number on some larval stage of something, which wipes out most of something else, which was an integral part of a much bigger web.

I have no problem with GM crops, (and GM animals, for that matter) grown in strict isolation, for stuff - there are some advanced experiments with producing ingredients for pharmaceuticals with some crops, but they keep their plants in caves.

Anyway, once again, this is the world we live in, like it or not.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 9:52AM
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I've looked briefly at the link information and will weigh-in a little later on the issue of safety. Weigh-in is too strong of a word.

On the entire issue - certainly a little knowledge is a dangerous thing but unquestioning acceptance must be far more dangerous behavior. A continuing conversation about issues as fundamental as food safety makes an enormous amount of sense. To get to that question on the production of food in America, we need to consider what it is the food producers are up to and how society is regulating their activities. It seems fairly apparent to me that whatever can happen under the cover of darkness is the best situation for many in the food industry.

Let me just return for a moment on how far the GM horse is out of the barn - to use David's analogy. When one looks at what is required to grow GM crops - it is essentially make the seed purchase and grow 'em. While many of us were all twitterpated about StarLink corn (remember that?), the process of American ag converting to a GM model was fully underway. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.

So, what would I need to do to grow GM zucchini? I'd send off my $10 and then plant the seed after it arrived in the mail. The stewardship agreement for corn is, no doubt, the industries' proposal so as to avoid more serious regulation. Here's what I need to agree to do:

1. Kill pests for which the crop has no transgenic protection.
2. Scout for pests that the transgenic protection should kill and report any unexpected crop damage from them.
3. Mow, plow or disc the field after harvest.
4. Do not plant the GM crop in the same field in back to back growing seasons.

Got it? Rotate my crops and report resistant pest damage by telephone.

. . . truffles of truth created, as ancients surmised, during storm, in the instant of lightning blast. . . ~ Thomas Pynchon
Each will have his personal Rocket. ~ Thomas Pynchon

    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 1:36PM
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David, it is interesting that the insertion of new genetic material "mess up" sections of the plants DNA near the insertion site - insertion mutation. Other mutations occurring elsewhere in the organism - adds to the scariness of the approach. However, the deliberate creation of mutants has been a means of generating new varieties for many, many years. It was more of an "accidental" process thru the use of chemicals or radiation to disrupt the DNA. (This is not Skybirds natural process.) Would generating mutations deliberately be "safer" or what??

The problem for me, as for most people, is the unknown part of the engineering. And, I've known enuf of these scientists to question their comprehensive understanding, as well. I believe an awful lot of folks spend a great deal of energy trying to make sure that others don't realize how narrow their knowledge is. We no longer have renaissance men and women. The age when that was possible has long passed. We are all just peering thru keyholes - it's just that we are standing closer or farther from the doors.

Skybird, I'm willing to grant the GMO proponents some of the crop benefits noted on that site - the possibility of enhanced taste, increased nutrients, yields, etc. I think that it is telling, however, that they put the term "friendly" herbicides and insecticides in parentheses. What are we supposed to make of that - that they really don't know whether they are "friendly" or not?

But, here's where I'm conflicted - I really do have some idea about what is sprayed on our crops and it ain't good. No one sprays something for the pleasure of the pests - aromatherapy or a gentle cleansing of the aphids. No, we are trying to kill 'em and that means we are using a toxin. And, don't try to give me that c**p about it being very, very specific to the pest! And, since we aren't aphids . . . blah, blah, blah. I used to hear that back in Skybird's time about the d**n DDT. Then we had insecticides that we used regularly in the greenhouse pulled right out from under us by the EPA! And, NO I don't place all my trust in our gov'ment regulators to protect me. For one thing, different gov'ments allow different chemicals and the US sure isn't on the forefront a willingness to error on the side of caution. Not when $$ is involved.

Growing GMO's would result in less pesticide use . . . wonderful. I think.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 7:59PM
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I forgot to add one BIG thing that bothers me about GMOs...
Proprietary seeds and the cross pollination with non-GMO gardens and therefore ownership of any seeds produced as a result of said pollination.
If that big monsanto company had not made such a fuss about owning the seeds someone else grew (you know, the one in which the bugs and such carried in pollen from monsanto's crops to some poor hapless victim's crops then they sued the farmer and won), then I might be open to learning more. But, big companies scare me, or at least the big ones who sue innocent people scare me.

"In 1998 Monsanto's patented seeds infected and pollenated farmland, established for forty years, owned by Percy Schmeiser. Monsanto Canada sued the seventy year old farmer for 'stealing' their patented seeds. This high profile case, Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser, went to the Supreme Court level. Monsanto sued an independent farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for patent infringement for growing genetically modified Roundup resistant canola. The 1998 case was portrayed in the media as a classic David and Goliath confrontation. This cross pollination destroyed Schmeiser's forty years worth of carefully grown fields. In March of 2001, Supreme Court Judge W. Andrew MacKay ruled that Schmeiser had violated Monsanto's genetically engineered patent. "This is very good news for us, Mr. Schmeiser had infringed on our patent." said Monsanto's Trish Jordan. This court ruling gives Monsanto a "license to pollute," an incentive to spread their genetically altered seeds. They can win money from neighboring farmers through lawsuits, and use this pollen pollution to destroy surrounding competitors."

    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 9:11PM
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I see on the net that the South African farmers are complaining about Monsanto's new Round-up ready alfalfa.

Seems that if you buy the seed you must also purchase the Round-up herbicide. Since these are both Monsanto products - the company make money both ways.

Soon our livestock, and us by extension as omnivores, will live our lives from cradle to grave in a genetically modified world. But here again, as a person wary of pesticides, I'm conflicted.

There is a very real problem with using manure from cattle pastured on herbicide treated fields. A few herbicides remain effective "weed" killers after they've passed thru a cow's digestive track. So, the gardener is at risk of applying an herbicide to the garden inadvertently.

Okay . . . . so what's the answer to all this crap??

I'm with the rest of you - I'm going to look more closely at the ingredients and buy simpler foods at the supermarket. I'll buy organic as often as I can feel that food is affordable. But, I've got a real good personal solution - - I'll grow more of my own food! (And, I'll grow at least some of my soil amendments, as well.)


    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 12:46PM
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stevation(z5a Utah)


My assistant at work has an autistic son, and when he was three, he almost couldn't even speak. Just a few words. And he didn't interact much with people, including his sisters and brother. Along the way, she found out he had gluten sensitivity and also a problem with milk proteins (can't remember what they're called, but it's not the milk sugars like lactose). She's been giving him a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, and now he's four years old and speaks quite a bit while also interacting with people and behaving much better. She says it's made a world of difference for him. He's still autistic and is expected to be in special education classes when he starts public school, but he's doing quite well in preschool now and is a much higher-functioning kid because of the diet modification.

She believes we'll eventually find cures for autism and it won't be thought of as a permanent disability someday. She's probably going to start her own nonprofit one of these days and leave our office. She's creating a lending library of resources for parents right now. If you were interested in talking to her about diet modification and other issues, I could get you in touch.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 1:55PM
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david52 Zone 6

Why would anyone need to use roundup on an alfalfa field? Thats a big crop around here, and I don't see too many guys out spraying weeds.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 2:01PM
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David, old alfalfa fields are recognized by the amount of grass in them - dandelions, too.

There are some large fields that I drive past regularly. The plants in one field had gotten up about 6 inches this Spring when suddenly they turned yellow. I thought that the field had been sprayed prior to plowing down but after about 4 weeks, the alfalfa had pretty much regained its former state - sans grass.

I don't know what was sprayed on the field but it was obviously very hard on the alfalfa even if it didn't kill the plants. The farm will probably get a few more years production from that field.

A Roundup-resistance crop would be a good thing for some farmers since most all weeds could be killed throughout the field. As best as I can understand, Roundup isn't an especially persistent herbicide and I guess it isn't very expensive.

Organic insecticides aren't very persistent either. I once asked a organic orchardist how he was able to keep the worms out of his cherries. He said he just had to spray and spray and spray. Hey, good news!! (Keep in mind that he was talking to his neighbor at the farmers' market and not to one of his customers . . . )

We just aren't going to limit these things as long as we've got 100's of acres of the same crop and people whose entire livelihood depends on that one crop. Just as how can we possibly expect to have antibiotic-free livestock when they are crowded together in the 1,000's.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 6:20PM
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david52 Zone 6

Around here, they used to have some alfalfa pellet processing plant that exported to Japan or something, and they were amazingly stringent on weed / grass content. That place went out of business. Now, most of the alfalfa gets baled up in those 1 ton forklift sizes and is trucked down to Texas and New Mexico for dairy, and they don't seem that particular.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 6:50PM
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berrytea4me(Z5 CO)

jclepine, steve,

it is very common for kids on the spectrum or w/related disorders to be addicted to video/tv, however, newer studies have disproved the idea that tv causes the disorder. In fact, I can see with my son that the input from tv actually calms him. It's one of the few things that he can hyper-focus on enough to shut out background distractions when he's overstimmulated. That's where the addicition comes in.

As I have learned about these disorders I've come to realize that I have it, so do my siblings, their children, my dad and at least one of his 3 brothers had symptoms of it and so did my grandmother. When my dad was growing up TV had not even been invented so it could not have caused his symptoms of this, however, as an adult he was totally addicted to tv.

Fortunately everyone in my family is very high-functioning (no significant speech delay's and very high iq's for example) so we've all turned out just fine even w/o knowing we had a "disorder" or getting any treatments for it. My kids are the first to be recognized by the "professionals". I don't believe there is a "cure" for the genetic part of this, however, there are environmental triggers that worsen the symptoms. Those often come in the form of un-natural food additives. I've read a lot about the "gluten free, cassein free" (GFCF) diet and improvements that some families see using that. It's pretty drastic to take all wheat, most grains, and all milk products out of our diet. There are other effects of that -vitamin/mineral deficiencies- and I believe it should be avoided unless there is clear evidence that these sensitivities truly exist for the individual. In fact, now that I know my son is sensitive to thiamine mononitrate, I suspect many kids who see success on GFCF diet may do fine on whole organic wheat that is not enriched. There are no accurate tests for any of these sensitivities. It's not scientific, and a lot is instinct based on observations only. Many times our sensitivities are "hidden" until we eliminate it from our diet for a while and then reintroduce. For example, I never had any signs of allergy to nitrates but I've kept them out of my diet as a side effect of my kid's diet. The other day I ate some beef jerky that was cured w/sodium nitrate and suffered 2 days of incurable headache. Sodium nitrate (salt peter) has been used to cure meat for centuries so it could have triggered symptoms in my family members for generations.

I was mercury poisoned as a toddler (drank 1/2 baby food jar of liquid mercury) and my sister and brother also played with it (dad was a metalurgist & brought it home from work) so that may have been a factor. Also, since we were never chelated it's possible that the mercury still in my body & sister's body added to the symptoms we see in our children due to prenatal exposure- this could explain why my brother's kids have fewer symptoms.

But all that aside- back to the topic of this thread- I work in a science field too and I have to agree that today everyone works in their own "silo" as a specialist w/little to no knowledge about related fields of study. This narrow view is scary due to all the interaction information that is missed. No matter what they say as a marketing ploy, big corporations are not concerned about the environment or the greater good- the executives are measured on the bottom line and so if you follow the money you'll see what they care about. I say that as an insider to a large corporation (different industry). Food additives and genetic alterations come into our food chain because they are believed to increase the bottom line. Studies about their effects are sidestepped because they take away from the bottom line. If the consumer continues to build a market for naturals and organics at least some smaller businesses will step in to make it available to the niche market.

I'm with digit, I'll grow as much of my own food as possible, make my own fertilizers/ammendments and, and buy organic where it's affordable. I make lots of "convenience foods" from scratch to accomodate my busy schedule & the kid's special diet. Those skills aren't hard to learn. I've started saving veggie seed this year so I won't have to buy seed that I don't know where it came from.


    Bookmark   December 24, 2007 at 1:45PM
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