Neil deGrasse Tyson defends pro stance on GMOs following video

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This brief clip of me was posted by somebody:

Everything I said is factual. So there’s nothing to disagree with other than whether you should actually “chill out” as I requested of the viewer in my last two words of the clip. Had I given a full talk on this subject, or if GMOs were the subject of a sit-down interview, then I would have raised many nuanced points, regarding labeling, patenting, agribusiness, monopolies, etc. I’ve noticed that almost all objections to my comments center on these other issues.  I offer my views on these nuanced issues here, if anybody is interested:

Labeling: Since practically all food has been genetically altered from nature, if you wanted labeling I suppose you could demand it, but then it should be for all such foods. Perhaps there could be two different designations: GMO-Agriculture GMO-Laboratory.

Monopolies are generally bad things in a free market. To the extent that the production of GMOs are a monopoly, the government should do all it can to spread the baseline of this industry. (My favorite monopoly joke ever, told by Stephen Wright: “I think it’s wrong that the game Monopoly is sold by only one company”)

If your objection to GMOs is the morality of selling non-prerennial seed stocks, then focus on that. If your objection to GMOs is the monopolistic conduct of agribusiness, then focus on that. But to paint the entire concept of GMO with these particular issues is to blind yourself to the underlying truth of what humans have been doing — and will continue to do — to nature so that it best serves our survival. That’s what all organisms do when they can, or would do, if they could. Those that didn’t, have gone extinct.

In life, be cautious of how broad is the brush with which you paint the views of those you don’t agree with.

Read the full, original article: Anatomy of a GMO commentary

  • Ryan

    So, my parents started raising Heritage Chickens on their new farmland. They do it because heritage chickens are some of the most genetically diverse chickens around, whereas factory chicken breeds have a very limited genetic range. Which we’ve selectively bred for mass production.

    The advantage of the heritage chicken is that they are far less likely to be all susceptible to one disease greatly reducing the kind of safety costs you would need to invest in them.

    Some of them also produce green eggs! While I think that is cool, others would think the egg is rotten or something.

  • Curt

    Thank you for stating the truth! Amen!

  • Come on, the response is either a joke or Niel doesn’t understand the difference between breeding and direct genetic manipulation. Well he is not a biologist after all…

    Breeding can only amplify or subdue what is already in the genetic code of that animal/plant. GMO take genetic material from different species or even phyla and artificially introduces them into the DNA material of a species. No amount of breeding could produce glow in the dark mice but we have transplanted phosphorescence genes from plankton to create GMO glow in the dark mice…

    Breeding is to GMO what exercise and grooming is to plastic surgery — I can work out and groom all I want but it will only improve what I already have on the other hand a few sessions with a plastic sergon would make me unrecognizable…

    I don’t object to GMOs as a scientific endeavour and when well tested to their labeled introduction into the marketplace but his statement that breeding and GMO is equivalent is plain wrong.

    • Sterling Ericsson

      You clearly don’t understand genetics at all. Any gene can be formed through random mutation, especially with the method of radiation mutation that’s been in use since the 1930s.

      • Any gene can be mutated not formed… and how does that make wrong what I said about the difference between breeding and direct gene manipulation or cross species or even cross kingdom transplants?

        Random mutations by radiation are mutations of existing genes in that particular DNA and although I guess mathematically it would be possible to get survivable glow in the dark mice by bombarding mice embryos with radiation it would take a hell of a long time. GMO glow in the dark mice are produced by splicing a gene from plankton (different kingdom) into the DNA of a mouse embryo… you really don’t see the difference?

        Tuning your Mustang to make it go faster vs strapping on a F16 jet engine — see the difference? I can more or less predict what tuning will do but the first time you want to test the Mustang with an F16 engine you do it far away from the public… get it?

        • hyperzombie

          you really don’t see the difference?

          The only difference in the above example is time, so once again, There really is no difference.

          • Now I see you not only don’t understand genetics you don’t understand biology and evolution…

            Compared to a cephalopod eyes our vertebrate eyes are inferior if just for the fact that we have a blind spot due to the way the nerves in our eyes evolved and cephalopods don’t — no amount of time or breeding will give us a squid eye simply because the path we took to get our eyeball has already been traveled. You can’t unevolve what you already got, there is no going back in evolution. Same with glow in the dark mice… you can only get them through splicing.

          • hyperzombie

            We may not be able to get a squid eye but we could get a facsimile with conventional breeding. We may not be able to have no blind spot, but a way smaller one would be easy. Also you can Devolve.

          • “We may not be able to get a squid eye…” — thank you, the rest is nonsensical. That is the difference between breeding and GMO. We could theoretically replace our complex system of related and cooperating genes with that of a cephalopod and become a GMO human with squid vision but because of how complex gene interrelations are I’m confident this would not go over without some major unexpected and unintended consequences.

            Is the difference any clearer for you now?

            Just like you can’t step into the same river twice you can’t unevolve. Devolution is a Human construct because we can’t help ourselves from attributing our anthropomorphic notions of directional “progress” to evolution.

          • hyperzombie

            That is just a bunch of nonsense, you can step in the same river many times

          • Think about it before you respond… because a river is constantly changing it is never the same river each time you step into it… same with evolution.

          • hyperzombie

            because a river is constantly changing it is never the same river each time you step into it.

            It is always the same river, just because it changed a bit doesn’t make it a different river.

          • “…just because it changed a bit…” — if it changed how can it be the same? Logic — learn about it.

          • hyperzombie

            What you don’t understand is that Nature doesn’t give a crap about anything, Nature just is. Having squid eyes or glow in the dark cats is not unnatural.

          • How would you have a clue what Nature gives a crap about when you don’t understand basic concepts like “You can’t step into the same river twice…”

        • hyperzombie

          Kingdoms and species are a Human construct not a natural one.

          • No point in going further… your ignorance is a hindrance to rational discussion.

            “…Human construct…” — no s**t Sherlock, you mean just like language, syntax, grammar and clarification for better pattern recognition, etc, etc etc… wow.

    • copperfoxf5

      Uh. Here are some examples of genetic modification in agriculture.

      Hybridization: The modern strawberry is the result of an intentional cross between two species, Fragaria chiloensis and Fragaria virginiana performed in the 1700’s. The resultant species of strawberry, Fragaria × ananassa (the “x” is used in nomenclature indicating that the species is a hybrid), is much larger than either of the original species and is more fertile. Another example is the tangelo, which is a hybrid cross between a mandarin orange grapefruit or pummelo, first crossed in 1897. Does not have to be regulated.

      Allopolyploidy: One of the classic examples of this is Raphanobrassica, which is a species that was the result of a cross between Brassica oleracea (cabbage) and Raphanus sativus (radish) first performed in 1928. Most of the F1 hybrids were sterile due to failure of chromosome paring during meiosis, but some seeds through what might be considered normal evolutionary mechanisms presented with meiotic “errors” allowing them to double their chromosome set. They have 36 chromosomes (cabbages and radishes have 18 chromosomes each, so do the math) and are a fertile, viable species. Want other examples of allopolyploidy? Hmm. There’s wheat, which is the result of a cross between Aegilops tauschii (diploid) and Triticum turgidum (tetraploid) resulting in Triticum aestivum (hexaploid). That happened approximately 8000 years ago. Also, not regulated.

      Mutagenesis: This is when ionizing radiation or the use of a chemical agent causes change in the genetic material. It’s a common tool in genetic research in general because spontaneous mutation is relatively infrequent and gene mutation provides a means of identifying and isolating genes required for specific biological processes. An example of mutagenesis in agriculture is the Rio Star grapefruit. How fortunate for organic farmers that the USDA National Organic Program Policy Memorandum dated Feb 1, 2013 states, ” Mutagenesis (treatment of plants with radiation or chemicals to induce random mutation) is considered part of traditional breeding programs,” and hence is not considered to be a GMO. My favorite part of that sentence is in the parenthetical (….. induce RANDOM mutation). And there are so many organic food distributors that sell Rio Star grapefruit. Do I need to tell you it’s not regulated. Well, “It’s not regulated.”

      Finally, Transgenics. The demon, wretched, unnatural, unholy abomination that has been released upon this world!!!! Agrobacterium are given a modified plasmid vector containing a small, known, specific gene sequence, and is used for transformation into plant cells!!! Oh the humanity!!! How dare you use such a gene-specific technique!!!! Don’t you know that you’re supposed to randomly cross hundreds to thousands of genes and pray to God that you get a desirable biological trait!!!! Don’t you know that you’re supposed to generate an entirely new species, not the same species that produces a single novel protein!!!! HOW DARE YOU!!! (Upturned shaking fist) DAMN YOU!!! DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!!! OBVIOUSLY, such a questionable technique has to be regulated and meet the strictest safety criteria in the food industry. Because………….. REASONS!!!

      Is that what you’re telling us?

      I’m a biochemistry graduate. And you? And before you tell me that biochemists don’t know genetics, “Central Dogma.” The only difference between biochemists, molecular biologists, and geneticists is the angle they take to it. And I’d bet good money that you have no clue what I even mean when I say, “Central Dogma.” I’d bet just as much money that you don’t know what “DNA” is an abbreviation for, or even what the 4 bases of DNA are. Or what GFP is. Hint: It makes for irony given your previous comment.

      Now let’s review Dr. Tyson’s comment and see just which part is inaccurate.

      “I’m amazed how much objection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public. It smacks the fear factor that exists at every new emergent science, where people don’t fully understand it, or don’t fully know or embrace its consequences, so therefore reject it.”

      Yeah. That’s happening.

      “What most people don’t know, but they should, is that practically every food you buy in a store, for consumption by humans, is genetically modified food.”

      Check, and check. That’s an accurate statement too. What I don’t understand is the lay person’s discrimination with transgenic modification as compared with other genetic modifications that have happened both naturally and by selective pressures in traditional agricultural practice. Does one form of genetic modification have a greater impact than another? Hell yes! Put a wild strawberry side by side with a store bought strawberry, and then put a conventional ear of corn next to a GE ear of corn. And maybe you’ll see my perspective. Forced breeding methods used in the past have a much more drastic end effect than the introduction of a single gene or two in transgenics. When I’ve performed transformations for genes encoding human retinoid x receptor and human retinoic acid receptor into e. coli (yes, you read that right), I’m not making a whole new species. It’s not a new human-bacteria species. It’s still e. coil. It just expresses a human protein that it has no use for, that I will harvest for the material for my research. When I performed a transformation so that e. coli expresses a mutant variant of bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor, it’s not a new cow-bacteria species. It’s still e. coil, and I’m doing the same thing. Would it happen in nature on its own? No. All things considered, is it benign compared to what occurs in naturally and by selective breeding methods? Yes.

      “So we are creating and modifying the biology of the world to serve our needs. I don’t have a problem with that because we’ve been doing that for tens of thousands of years.”

      Yeah. That sounds about right too. And genetic engineers aren’t even making that big a changes really. It’s pretty subtle when compared to the rest of human cultivation of crops since the dawn of humanity.

      And before you say, “But we don’t fully comprehend the consequences or possible detrimental effects that this will have on humans and the environment,” you need to rephrase that to say, “But I (see how I did that there) don’t understand the consequences blah, blah, blah…..” Scientists know full well what they’re doing. It’s why other scientists from (yes, tacky, I’m gonna use caps locks to say this) EVERY MAJOR AGRICULTURAL AND HUMAN HEALTH AGENCY IN THE WORLD has supported and contributes to the over 2000 articles confirming the safety of GMO foods. And why the hell should food manufacturers have to label a product as being GMO when you have no clue how it was made or how it differs nutritionally when compared with conventional food (p.s. it doesn’t).

      And a final sidebar: If I had to make an analogy, I would compare GMOs to a new hybrid vehicle (no pun intended), conventional crops to a 1997 Toyota Corolla, and organic farming to a 1972 Ford F-150 that gets 7 miles to the gallon. But I’ve gone on long enough. I don’t care to get into another topic tread. I will make no further comment because this one was long winded enough.

      • Wow, now there’s an over the top rant… pity your conclusion is wrong.

        Hybridization, allopolyploidy, mutagenesis can and do happen naturally, i.e. without human intervention. Breeding is just an accelerated for of natural selection — all these processes have been used by humans to produce better agricultural products, well in most cases they are better. We know that even transgenesis does sometimes occur in nature because viruses can introduce random exogenous material into organisms.

        Intentional genetic engineering, the production of GM organisms is a phase shift so if you want to stick with your transportation analogy everything before GMO is like walking, horse riding, ox and wagon, etc. GMO on the other hand is the introduction/invention of the combustion engine — a whole different animal ;-)

        • copperfoxf5

          Again, your field of expertise? I’m fairly certain that unless you ALSO have graduate and postgraduate education in a field of bioscience, that compared to me you’re a lay person. You didn’t get the point that unless you’re a geneticist (clearly, you aren’t), your presumption that there is a significant difference to assume that a novel and unique species results from transgenic mutation because of expressing a single protein, regardless of the species of origin of that protein, is ridiculous.

          P.S. A shift mutation (don’t know what the hell “phase shift” is supposed to mean. Probably just you trying to sound smart) in genetics refers to the addition or deletion of a base pair that disrupts the normal reading frame of mRNA, typically resulting in a non-functional protein.

          Fortunately, you have proven the point I was subtly making: You’re obviously not an expert, yet you’re claiming expertise beyond that which someone who it educated in the subject has. It doesn’t matter WHO makes a comment, Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Marc Van Montagu, concerning GMOs. You’ve already, without any real knowledge base on the subject, have come to sweeping conclusions. You won’t listen because you’ve a assumed a baseless superiority over someone with an education in this field.

          Unless I’m wrong and you ARE a geneticist……. In which case I would love if you explained to me how BL21-Gold E. coil expressing hRXR is a different species than BL21-Gold when it’s bought from the vendor.

          • Arguments from authority especially claimed authority are no arguments at all, especially on the internet.

            phase shift — is any change that occurs in the phase of one quantity, or in the phase difference between two or more quantities. The change from liquid water into ice (solid water) is a phase shift.

            “…your presumption that there is a significant difference to assume that a
            novel and unique species results from transgenic mutation…” — for a postgraduate education your comprehension skills are very low. I never said that. I said breeding is as different from gene splicing as say water is from ice…

            Ask Neil or Marc what they think about arguments from authority…

          • Guest

            Just took that pic for you buddy. My undergraduate degree. And that’s a textbook from my graduate Genetics course.

            “Arguments from authority especially claimed authority are no arguments at all, especially on the internet.” Ironic that you’re the one saying that. And I’m sure that if Neil deGrasse Tyson asked Marc Van Montagu about genetics, he would take his word for it, and vice verse if Van Montagu aked Tyson about astrophysics.

            “Pity your conclusion is wrong.” What conclusion did I make that was wrong?

          • Yes you have proven you are a buffoon, thank you.

            If you were a real scientist you would realize scientist are far more curious, far more questioning and far less trusting than that.

            “What conclusion did I make that was wrong?” — that my comment was against genetic research or the regulated introduction of GMO products. Lack of comprehension skills, a propensity to jump to conclusions and a tendency for self absorbed rants — our education system has failed you.

        • habsolute

          Breeding is not an “accelerated form of natural selection”. 100% wrong. It’s artificial selection by definition. I’m a biologist. I win, right? (Since that was so critical a factor to comment.)

          You are conflating the dangerous and abominable farming practices that are pervasive in the industrialized food factory with making allelic changes that could just as easily occur through mating. Like NDT pointed out — you don’t realize that the very foods you’re criticizing are made through the same process (fundamentally) than the ones you think are natural.

          It’s easy to slip into topics like gene transfer and super resistant crops — but that’s a very separate topic than questioning the health concern/safety of GMOs you have the option of eating. (And, again, mainly the ones you thought were brought into existence through natural farming…which is, again, genetic modification towards a desired product.)

          • “I’m a biologist. I win, right?” — what is that about?

            Wolves went through natural selection (at least at first) and speciated into domesticated dogs over thousands of years. Dmitri Belyaev through selective breeding created the domesticated sliver fox in about 10 years. In both cases the same already present genes in both the wolf and fox DNA were amplified. If there were natural pressures for large sweet red apples or long stem roses they would easily exist in nature because breeding works with the genes that are already there. No amount of time and breeding would produce transgenic glow in the dark mice — am I not correct?

            I do realize that all our farmed food is genetically engineered through breeding, hybridization and ever radiation. I never said I was scared of GMO research or even GMO products if they are vetted to my satisfaction. Yes there are huge problems with the way the food industry produces much of our food and personally I try to avoid it as much as possible.

            But, there is a huge difference between breeding, hybridization, etc and GMOs. Yes it’s still all genetics but just like there is a huge shift when we moved from muscle powered land transportation to mechanical powered transportation the change was monumental — its moving goods and people around but surely you will acknowledge a big difference? It’s like if Neil said that he didn’t think there was a major change/shift in astronomy after the invention of the telescope, or that computers are just a minor change from the abacus and the slide rule, etc.

            I’m surprised how rabid you and copperfox are about this. You don’t even bother to try to understand what is being said. Like junkyard dogs you perceive any incursion as an attack on something fundamental. Neil trivialized the huge distinction between breeding which has been going on for thousands of years and GM which dates back maybe 50 years and he did the public and genetic engineering a disservice by giving more ammunition to the people who really do want to stop the research and by encouraging the corporations who are already abusing the technology.

          • copperfoxf5

            Another quote from Marc Van Montagu:

            “For us, our planet is one large natural genetic pool where all living organisms continually activate and deactivate genomes in response to perceived environmental stresses…… So, for a scientist in genetics, the act of splicing to generate a transgenic organism is a modest step when compared to the genomic changes induced by all the ‘crosses’ and breeding events used in agriculture ….. it was a surprise for many scientists to discover that public opinion did not ‘buy into’ this line of thought.”

            So is a World Food Prize laureate also trivializing genetic modification methods? If the answer is, “Yes,” than I suggest that you question to yourself why it’s so easy for him to do so.

          • Yeah… and he has a vested interest in doing so — GMOs are his life’s work and he obviously wants them as the preferred if not the sole solution to our food problems.

            You really have a thing for authority, don’t you? So here you go:
            “The fact that humans can ‘engineer’ a gene from a species of one kingdom to produce a species of another has fuelled imaginations and
            frightened the public… Proving that GM Crops
            are safe is not easy….Science can certify the existence of danger, but not its absence.” — Dr. Marc Van Montagu, Chairman of the Ghent University Institute of Plant Biotechnology

            Remember at some point there was also great enthusiasm among scientists and corporations about thalidomide and DDT…

          • copperfoxf5

          • copperfoxf5

            First you say NDT comments are a joke because he doesn’t understand genetics, and he’s not a biologist. Then, when a pioneer makes what’s basically the same statement, you question the legitimacy because he has, “….. a vested interest.

            “……that my comment was against genetic research or the regulated introduction of GMO products.”

            P.S. The conclusion that I made earlier is that as opposed to scientists trivializing different methods of genetic modification that you’re making it more complicated than it really is. That’s WHY i cited different examples of genetic modification.

          • Yes we already established that the man has an agenda… what now?

          • copperfoxf5

            And Neil deGrasse Tyson must have an agenda too. And obviously, me, and Marc Van Montagu, and every agriculture scientist, and every plant geneticist. So, since EVERY scientist in agriculture and genetics MUST have a vested interest when they say that transgenomic methods of modification aren’t that big a deal compared with traditional methods, clearly, the only scientific opinion anyone can trust is yours….. Because since you don’t have a vested interest, seeing as how you’re not a scientist, surely your word is the only accurate and valid word here. Congratulations. You win.

          • So there is no descent among scientists about GMOs? — shocking news…

          • copperfoxf5

            You know why it’s called a, “consensus,” right? I thought you were a scientist. Or “reproducibility?” So, for instance, the over 2000 articles on GMO food safety…… Reproducible results from peers leading to a consensus…… Versus a few articles saying that they aren’t safe, mostly written by the same author. I wonder if you understand the concept that there is no such thing as, “The one article that disproves them all,” in science.

            The USDA, FDA, CDC, WHO, OECD, the The Australia/New Zealand Food Authority, UK Food Standards Agency, the Association of German Agricultural Analytic and Research Institutes, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Scientific Advisory Panel, the British Crop Protection Panel, Health Canada, the Europe Novel Food Task Force, the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee, the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment, the Nordic Working Group on Food Toxicology and Risk Assessment, the American Association for the Advancement on Science, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Science, England’s Royal Society of Medicine, the American Council on Science, the American Dietetic Association, the American Society of Plant Sciences, the International Seed Foundation, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, the Crop Science Society of America, the International Society of African Scientists, the Federation of Animal Sciences Societies, the Society of Toxicology, the French Academy of Science, the Union of German Academics, the International Council for Science, and the various academic scholars of the world have all agreed that GMOs are safe and show equivalency to traditional non-GM crops. But what does any of that matter to you. “They must have an agenda too,” right?

          • habsolute

            Earlier you said that Neil “is not a biologist after all”. Specious argument to discredit him, so I was being facetious, turning that argument on you, given I am a molecular biologist and geneticist. Obviously it doesn’t matter what you are, it’s how well you can discuss the matter. Facts are facts.

            Your argument about wolves vs. (large) red apples: Yes, it is true that an observed effect of natural selection can be replicated by breeding, though I imagine that specific silver fox breed was not genetically identical to the wild version. (You said wolves into domesticated dogs in general, not wolves into the domesticated silver fox.) The point is that nature did not select for whatever characteristics Belyaev amplified. Domestication, certainly, as the civilizations of man came into being. But on the specific genome of that silver fox, no, it did not occur naturally. I looked it up — he made a wild species more dog-like, so in fact, they were not domesticated naturally (i.e., do not have a wild counterpart.)

            Tyson argues not that natural pressure would produce the apples and long stem roses, rather that we’ve been doing it for eons, with no ill effects, hence considered natural (even …*sigh*…”organic”), therefore we should apply the same logic to lab-based GMOs. His point was in fact exactly that: that you will NOT find the wild counterparts to these things. So, and this is crucial, you can have genes that are naturally present that NEVER undergo mutation or cross-over through mating in nature. Doesn’t mean that nature will eventually select for the big red apple. If the selection pressure isn’t there…it won’t happen. It required artificial selection/selective breeding to create them.

            I highly doubt, as do you, that a GFP-mouse would arise through natural selection. What does this have to do with GMOs in the context of the discussion? (And there is a specific one, that being the ones we buy and eat…not transgenic animals used for experimental purposes.) Methinks an unintended straw man.

            You are now arguing that the rate of change in a technology makes it inherently dangerous. So a rickshaw is superior to (or safer than) a Civic? Neil is commenting on the nature of the technology. So, transportation = transportation. Computing devices = computing devices. He’s saying that they are the same thing that has existed without prior questioning, or rather modern acceptance of a previously new technology (so the irony is deep here). As he says, we are always afraid of a new (form) of technology because we don’t know a lot about it. These discussions are voluble, I think, and I’m glad that you’re at least raising more cogent points of debate than the average critic. I would ask you to cite the genetic change(s) in a given GMO that is available at your local grocery. Let’s use that as a benchmark of deviation from ‘naturally occurring genes’.

            Rabbid? This is my second post and I was refuting what I found was a misunderstanding on your part. Is it perhaps the case that you didn’t understand what NDT was saying? You are sensationalizing and misconstruing something that, like ‘vaccines’, is a ridiculous claim that has gathered steam due to an abdication of scientific reasoning and understand exactly what IS going on.

            Any company can abuse any technology. So irrelevant. I guess we should stop any advancements in anything, lest they be co-opted by inherently profit-driven corporations. Thankfully, in this case, it’s (GMOs for consumption) quiiiiite benign given, again the context. And the point is still true, that whatever is currently perceived as natural, has been artificially created by those that understood that genetic traits can be concentrated to create an organism that does not naturally occur.

            BTW, these industries are HIGHLY regulated, despite the common misconception that they’re not. I remember doing an undergraduate thesis on GMO regulations (in Canada) and man were they ever comprehensive.

            There are farrrrr worse uses of genetic modification than GMO foods.

          • copperfoxf5

            Bioscience high five motha’ fu#cker!!!!

          • habsolute

            Fist bump big bang explode!!!

          • “…Facts are facts…” — yep so at least here on the internet our arguments should be judged on merit not by the unprovable claim to authority backing it. My quip about Tyson not being a biologist was in lieu of an excuse since I really like and respect the guy.

            “…Rabbid…?” — well yeah since I was not attacking GMOs per se but stating that the process of breeding is as different from GMOs as exercise and grooming is to plastic surgery — yes both achieve similar results, both can have side effects but still not the same thing. You and copperfox5 got on my case as if I was attacking GMOs.

            “…Neil is commenting on the nature of the technology…” — yes and where breeding is a craft/art, genetic engineering is technology… both result in changed DNA but where engineering changes a single gene, breeding changes a whole set of interconnected genes. It is a common mistake especially in Western science to think of Nature as just another mechanical device with interchangeable gears. This attitude has already lead us astray before. So yes, I prefer more caution and regulation especially where industry is involved and short term profit the motivation.

            As for regulation one of the basic assumptions in American regulation is that “GM products are on a continuum with existing products and, therefore, existing statutes are sufficient to review the products.” — they are not. Just like liposuction is not on a continuum of exercise and a healthy diet.

  • Richard_Ha Ninty nine point nine percent of all the species that lived on the earth is now extinct. I interviewed Dr Shane Burgess, Dean College of Ag and Life Sciences at Univ. of AZ. I asked if humans have a chance. The answer was we do because we have a chance to use our large brains. Will we?

    • Jan M

      Good interviews with Dr. Burgess. As an alumni and a resident of Tucson, I’m proud of the work that the U of A Life Sciences Dept. is doing.

  • copperfoxf5

    Oh hell. Why not bring up molecular biologist Marc Van Montagu one more time?

    “As a plant scientist, neither I nor my fellow 2013 World Food Prize laureates, Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton and Dr. Robert T. Fraley, anticipated the resistance to genetic modification and biotechnology. After all, nearly everything humans have eaten though the millennia has been genetically altered by human intervention. Mankind has been breeding crops—and thereby genetically altering them—since the dawn of agriculture.”

    Hmm…… Who’s statement does this expert opinion sound remarkably similar to? Hmm….. I can’t put my finger on it…… Maybe…… an astrophysicist who’s received an incredible amount of criticism for not being an expert in genetics? The irony is that even if there was a vid with Marc Van Montagu making that statement he would be just as criticized using the same baseless opinions as Neil deGrasse Tyson, expert or not. Don’t you think there’s something inherently wrong with that?

  • Here is a logically sound counterargument that GMOs are not the same as selectively bred varieties: an open letter to Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  • James Robert Deal

    You are all missing a big point. The proven thing wrong with eating GMO crops treated with Roundup is that the Roundup is systemic, not a superficial applications like other pesticides and herbicides. When you eat Roundup ready GMOs, you are eating Roundup. The next issue is whether eating Roundup ready GMOs that are not treated with Roundup are also harmful. Of course most Roundup ready GMO crops are treated with Roundup, but you could grow them without applying Roundup. Is it the fact that the crops are GMO that is harmful in itself or the fact that Roundup is contained in the plant tissues? The issue is clearer with crops engineered to produce their own BT. There is BT in every bite. GMO is a scam to sell Roundup and corner the seed market. What about GMO papaya? Monsanto holds no patent on it. No one does. It is inoculated with the virus that was infecting it. Is GMO papaya harmful to health? Can there ever be a good GMO? Is the kind of GMO – simple inoculation with the virus that often afflicts the plant another category of GMO that might be acceptable? Actually, I am against the whole concept of manipulating genes.

  • That Food Man

    I have a lot of respect for this guy he’s astrophysics, I do disagree with you I’m writing an article on GMO’s and my opinions on why I don’t trust them, here’s a snippet that pertains to this article (its a draft and still needs grammar/punctuation/vocabulary revising)…

    GMO – genetically modified organism;
    “genetically modified organism (GMO)” means an organism, with the exception of human beings, in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination”[2]. – as defined by the European commision

    Hasn’t everything been
    genetically modified?

    To avoid confusion, when referring to GMO’s, it generally pertains to an organism be it animal or plant, that has been genetically engineered with modern gene splicing techniques. People often confuse and compare the term GMO with a lot of our current produce on the basis a lot of natural fruit and vegetables are also products of genetic modification and their point being that they too have had their genes altered so why all the hoopla over GMO’s when its no different to what we have all been consuming for years. But this is a common means of defence for many GMO advocates, but to use that as grounds for a valid argument clearly shows a lack of understanding in what obvious distinctions there are.

    It also very likely and possibly more probable in most cases that this argument may expose a biased diversion of the truth from those who want to promote it. Proclaiming modern genetically modified food is no different to the foods that have undergone genetic changes through natural breeding methods only
    serves to justify and down play the extent of modern
    genetic modification by blurring the specific distinctions between
    traditional breeding methods and modern biotechnology. However its
    important to distinguish between the two.

    breeding methods like selective breeding which was a term coined by
    Darwin as just another form artificial selection[7]. Selective
    breeding is responsible for the existence of most of our domesticated
    animals like cows, horses, dogs and cats, as well as some vegetables
    like some from the Brassica species and also some fruits like bananas for example. But these methods
    have been used for thousands of years and require little more then
    observational skills. In fact the practice has been around so long
    that selective breeding of wild plants began around 10,000
    years ago and the first selectively bred domesticated animal is said
    to be a descendant from its Gray Wolf ancestor dating 12,000 years
    old[8], a far cry from the modern methods of bioengineering only
    around half a century old. What
    makes this traditional form of “genetic modification” an area of
    no ethical concern for anyone is that the shuffling of genes through
    selective breeding are done between the same species or at least very
    closely related species and the methods and results are not beyond
    the scopes of natural possibilities. In other words selective
    breeding could very well occur within the realms of nature on its

    genetic modification however is different in that it involves
    techniques used to produce organisms with new genetic traits they
    could never possess without human intervention and modern
    biotechnology. It’s the use of biotechnology to “cross the species
    barrier” creating organisms that could never exist in nature[9].
    It’s the transfer of genes between completely non related, sexually
    incompatible species. Using the concept of horizontal gene transfer
    they are able to splice the genes from a donor organism and insert
    them genes into the genome of a target organism so that the target
    organism can express the desired traits of the donor that are not
    naturally theirs. There are many examples of genetically modified
    organisms that already exist including many foods that we may not
    even know we are consuming. In the US more than 80% of all soy, canola, cottonseed, corn is genetically modified and the
    problem lies the vast sources of hidden GMO’s predominantly in
    confectionary that requires no labeling due to no “scientific
    justification” but that’s another issue. A radical example of a GMO
    as a result of biotechnology would be the spider goat. A goat that
    produces web proteins in its milk due to spider genes embedded into
    its own genome to give it this trait. Biotechnology has also laid the
    path for many other bizarre products of genetic engineering, some of
    which just seem to be examples of our ever growing curiosity of what
    we can genetically manipulate, like glow in the dark cats[10].
    So although both traditional and modern biotechnology methods,
    loosely speaking, achieve similar goals, its inaccurate to proclaim
    they are the same thing, as the techniques, ethical and genetic
    implications involved vary greatly and its these significant
    differences that should explicitly separate the two. More accurately
    comparable to artificial selection would be natural selection as even
    inferred by Darwin himself[11], but even these two concepts which are
    much more closely related that both have the same outcomes, the
    driving forces behind them are still completely different therefore
    not exhaustively comparable[12].

  • Jeffrey Sullivan

    This summary cleverly but severely edits Neil’s comments to create the appearance of “pro” stance, when in fact he states that it’s immoral in some cases, and he does not express a stance regarding labeling at all, leaving the door open for labeling for “GMO-Laboratory” (which is separate from hybridized crops he describes in the video clip).

    Here’s his complete text: