Delicious mutant foods: Mutagenesis and the genetic modification controversy

Visit the website of Wasatch Organics and you can find one of many people’s favorite fruits: scrumptious looking Ruby Red grapefruits, plump and juicy. Or sidle over to Australia’s Whisk and Pin gourmet food emporium and pick up some organic Ruby Red grapefruit marmalade.

Just as nature intended!

Or not.

To the foodie, what could be better than “natural” ripe Ruby Red grapefruit? Free from the alleged dangers of pesticides or genetic modification, organic Ruby Reds should represent one of the last havens of natural food, completely unaltered by man.

image37217Think again. Ruby Red grapefruits, along with 3,000 other crop varieties consumed by millions every day, were actually created through mutation breeding, also known as mutagenesis. Plants were exposed to atomic radiation, thousands of genes scrambled in laboratory experiments that took years.

In the last 60 years, mutation breeding has produced a sizable fraction of the world’s crops. Varieties of wheat, including almost all of the most popular varieties used to make top-grade Italian pasta, vegetables, fruit, rice, herbs and cotton have been altered or enhanced with gamma rays, and often separately or additionally soaked in toxic chemicals, in the hopes of producing new desirable, traits. Now these varieties are marketed as conventional and organic foods, and are unlabelled.

Mutations, or physical changes in an organisms DNA, are the basis for all biological variation throughout evolutionary time. DNA changes are caused by mistakes during replication, damage from cosmic or terrestrial radiation, or other natural forces, and they can manifest in new traits, like changes in appearance or taste. Mutations can then be selected by nature or by humans to create a new plant species or a new variation on an existing one.

One of the biggest obstacles to creating crop varieties is that conventional plant breeders can only develop new traits from traits that appear naturally. How can they create the new colors, flavors or disease resistance that makes a crop a commercial success if they can’t just “breed it in” from another species?

In the late 1940s, plant breeders addressed this problem by using one of the newest tools of the day: atomic radiation. In an effort to find peaceful uses for atomic energy, scientists discovered that exposing plants to different types of radiation damages the plant’s DNA and causes new mutations. The radiation allows them to generate random mutations at a faster rate, which means a higher likelihood of finding a new useful trait.

According to the federal government’s Mutant Variety Database, thousands of new varieties have been created through mutation breeding, either by radiation like gamma rays, thermal neutrons, X-rays or by exposure to certain chemicals.

When grapefruits were first grown in the U.S., they were not used for agriculture or even considered a commodity. One American gardening journal from the late 1800s even referred to the fruit as “thick-skinned and worthless.”

In the case of our Ruby Red grapefruit, mutation breeding, honed in years of laboratory experimentation, helped recover a fading trait that once made the grapefruit a commercial success. The fleshy inside of grapefruit only appeared white or slightly pink until 1929, when farmers in Texas discovered a pink grapefruit tree that produced a fruit with ruby red flesh.

After years of breeding new plants from this tree, the fruit it produced lost its bright red fruit color, 18lrme4yylk2xjpgand faded back to the original pink. Scientists irradiated the tree with thermal neutrons and eventually created a mutation that produced a darker, more vibrant fruit color with almost no seeds. The “Star Ruby” and the “Rio Red” were introduced in 1971 and 1985 respectively, and these two mutant varieties now make up 75 percent of Texas’s grapefruit crop.

Mutation breeding has also been used to combat destructive plant diseases. The leading variety of Japanese pears, known as “Nijisseiki,” would have been lost decades ago without mutation breeding techniques. This variety, which made up 28 percent of Japan’s pear crop in 1990, is extremely susceptible to black spot disease. In 1962, rows of Nijisseiki were exposed to gamma rays in the hopes that a mutation would produce a cultivar that still had Nijisseki’s high-quality traits, only with enhanced disease resistance. In 1981, after almost 20 years of irradiation, a plant finally appeared without symptoms even after being exposed to the disease. The new variety, “Gold Nijisseiki”, was released in 1991 and is considered a monumental achievement of mutagenesis.

Crops produced through mutation breeding have been sold in supermarkets for decades with no label or widespread common knowledge about their genetic alterations. These varieties can even be labeled organic as long as they are grown meeting other production requirements. They are not required to undergo any testing, and mutation breeding may still require years of continued crossing to separate preferred traits from undesirable ones

Although it is considered old technology, mutation breeding is experiencing a re-emergence in popularity thanks to new techniques known as “tilling,” which allow researchers to rapidly identify mutations in specific genes. Many food scientists are also frustrated at the restrictions imposed on a far more precise method of breeding—using genetic engineering—in part because of outcries from organic activists who readily embrace the random impact of radiation and chemical mutagenesis. Mutagenesis is now being used widely as an alternative because a gene can still be disrupted with mutation, but new varieties developed through this process have no regulatory barriers. The arduous approval process for transgenic crops in the EU has left crop improvement companies returning to mutation breeding and tilling to find mutations in desired genes.

Today the genetic improvement of crop plants has been steeped in controversy and misinformation. But surprisingly, mutation breeding, which is arguably the most radical and least understood form of genetic improvement, has safely produced new plant varieties that offer new traits to consumers for over half a century.

Amanda Kastrinos is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida studying soil and water science. She writes on genetic applications in agriculture. Follow her on twitter @MandiLKastrinos.

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141 thoughts on “Delicious mutant foods: Mutagenesis and the genetic modification controversy”

  1. Yes, good piece.

    Another resource:

    The Mutant Variety Database is held by
    the joint FAO/IAEA Programme.

    Registration is apparently volontary.
    It is no doubt very far from reality. The breeder of a variety that
    has been produced through or from a mutation may register it… if he
    knows about the database. The odds that the breeder who uses that
    variety to produce another one may not check whether the mutation has
    been carried forward and may not care about registration. This is
    more so after several generations.

    It is in fact quite possible that the
    majority of modern varieties have artificial mutants in their
    ancestry in some species.

    The upshot is that organic devotees who
    are dead set against GMOs, construed as including the plants produced
    through devillish methods, must do one simple thing: stop eating.

    • even funnier, ALL crops and farm animals are the result of selective breeding and cross breeding.
      The only thing new is that we can now speed up that process from taking decades to produce a new variety to a few years, and with a greater chance of success.

  2. How can anyone think random methods such as mutagenesis, cross-breeding, and grafting are inherently better than genetic engineering? THEY’RE NOT! You don’t know what you’ll get with these blind methods! With GE, you do! Why is this so hard to understand? Why fire a rifle blindfolded and at risk of hurting or killing someone when you can take the blindfold off and know what you’re shooting?

    • I have nothing against genetic engineering itself, and everything against patenting varieties, creating monocultures and suing farmers. If a monoculture ever becomes a staple food then its consumers are sitting on a timebomb,

      • We have had plant patent protection in the U.S. since 1930. The only farmers getting sued are the ones replicating a patented crop intentionally. Guess what? They deserve to get sued.

        Creating monocultures? Any organized field crop is a temporary monoculture.

        And crops grown in organized rows like corn and soybeans are indeed staple crops.

        Timebomb? Sorry, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • Besides for the fact that we are not sure Genetically Engineered crops are really safe, when we compare statistics of increase in commercial use and increase in health concerns of the people. So you think its okay for farmers to not be able to use the seeds from harvest to regrow their crops if they bought genetically engineered seeds, because they signed a agreement with the biogenetic companies that sell the seeds? When before it was okay to use your seeds from your harvest?

          • Farmers do not reuse seeds, because of degradation from one generation of saved seeds to the next. And seeds have been patented since 1930. It is not a GE issue.
            Safety? How safe is “really” safe? This safe enough? A long list of preeminent health organizations have reviewed the safety data on biotech and confirmed: biotech foods safe. A few of the biggies? The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences (US), the Royal Society of Medicine (UK), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the European Commission, the Union of German Academics of Sciences and Humanities, the French Academy of Science, and Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.

          • Although I’m not experienced in this area of knowledge, I am one of those directly affected by genetic mutations in food. I and most of my family could eat wheat and gluten without any adverse effects, but only recently have we been forced to change out diets and remain wary about everything we eat, because the food has been genetically altered to the point that our bodies no longer recognize it as food. I understand that our bodies are no doubt more sensitive to these changes than others, but that doesn’t change the matter that these foods no longer count as food. We could be eating dirt for all it matters.

          • Are you sure it’s not toxicity from the aluminum in the tin foil hats? You’re not wearing the foil directly against the hair and scalp are you? Try a liner made of all-natural organic hemp. That should do the trick and then your symptoms will only be, like mellowness and like a raging appetite, man…

          • Anyone who thinks making fun of someone’s worry’s by calling them crazy, clearly hasn’t had as many intelligent conversations that they think they have, and probably feel the research they did was adiquate. and I’m not picking on you, I’m pointing out a flaw you have but haven’t noticed it (matter of fact it’s not ur fault it’s what we have been conditioned to do), this is the damn food we eat and feed our children sick elderly and loved ones. If we were told actual truths, people wouldn’t unknown ly get caught up in back and forth tit for tats, while really believing they are having proactive conversations, the people who are getting caught up in these arguments usually consider themselves smart and a informed person… Again conditioned, they,be turned the we can’t hide the truth no more do instead of facing it we,LL get them to forget about all the evil we do and they will argue amongst themselves…. And I’m crazy on the real, please it’s really insulting when people who seek knowledge like urself can be dismissed by a mental illness. That’s another Epiphany I had they try to dismiss us also cus a crazy mind is a all seeing mind, a mind that digs deep into themselves and the world around them., Again so we can’t be heard and you,s don’t get the opportunity to hear and digest the thoughts for yourself and come up with ur own conclusions of what us crazy are thinking… Honestly humbly and very honored by the fact people always believe me no matter how outlandish, I’m to serious and concerned for others to waste my breath or their time on say a day I’m being paranoid etc etc….. I love all, we are all one, let’s all help each other be wakened, let’s be kind and understanding especially to ourselves, I’m finally trying to do that last one for myself…. We all matter, cus we are matter,lol get it… On that truth shit….

          • Interesting. Your disclaimer gives you a one-time pass, when you admit you’re not experienced in this area. Let me ask — can you be specific about what “genetic mutations” you believe are causing adverse effects? What specific foods? What have you changed from, and what are you now eating? When you say “these foods no longer count as foods,” can you be specific about what you referring to? And, um, you don’t read Food Babe, do you?

          • Dark, are you somehow implying, erroneously, that you are eating GE wheat, and that GE wheat is giving you gluten problems? There is no GE wheat on the market. Let me repeat that: There is no GE wheat on the market. And, just for fun, I will say it again: There is NO GE WHEAT on the market. Got it?

          • GMO is about taking one gene most often from another plant, and putting it into you crop of interest, multiple genes are already be changed through breading and other practices, the idea that the careful selection of one gene is some how going to change the food into something complete different and yet the changing of multiple genes through cruder methods has no affect just doesn’t make any sense.

          • Reading your comment just made me recognize a problem. Most of the anti-gmo crowd think the genes are coming from “another PLANET” not just “another plant”.

          • Farmers seem to think so, since they choose to buy those seeds that are patent protected, while many unpatented (or expired) varieties exist.

        • Bananas being a classic example of a monoculture that could be wiped out–the same clone is being grown en masse everywhere. If a banana disease came along, it would be a widespread catastrophic crop failure. Although because most people can live without bananas, the people hurt would mostly be farmers.

          If many farmers all grow the same clone or pure strain, it IS dangerous. Of course a single field is a localized monoculture, but if MANY farmers are all growing Monsanto’s latest patented strain, then you have a significant risk.

          One of the worst things about genetic modification is the invention of terminator genes which make it impossible to propagate the patented strain. That’s really signing up the human race for an uncomfortable level of corporate control and dependence.

      • I’m interested in hearing more detail about your concern is about “monoculture”. Would you consider the rotation of corn and soy to be monoculture, or are you referring to something more complex? Is your concern philosophical or agricultural?

        Perhaps you are unaware that 50% of the world’s protein intake comes from wheat consumption, or that millions (billions?) consume rice as a staple. Do you have an alternative to offer the world?

        To me, the important issue is how we can satisfy the current and future demand for food that is sustainable for another century, and beyond. Depending on the crop, and the available agricultural inputs, monoculture may be the ideal solution, or a really bad idea.

        • Hello Peter, I agree with the general idea of your statement, but not with the particulars: According to my knowledge, that’s 50% of world *energy* intake that comes from *cereals* (well mostly rice and wheat so your point stand but you need to be correct).

          • Hi Samuel — If my memory serves me correctly, in 2007 total world PROTEIN consumption from wheat was 12% greater than from maize, and even more than from rice. This is a reflection of the substantially higher protein content of wheat than in other grains. These numbers include grains both for human and farm animal consumption.

        • Monocultures for me are genetic identities with specific immune systems that pathogens can evolve to defeat, and which lack genetic diversity to overcome them. Sure, farming reduces genetic diversity, but growing GM crops tends to eliminate it completely.

          • That’s not true at all. Traits can be induced into any variety. If anything genetic engineering increase genetic diversity by creating additional genotypes.

            Tendencies towards widespread adoption of any single variety is a meta problem that arises at the intersection of farm economics and advances in plant breeding. As plant breeders create better and better varieties there is a tendency for farmers to want the crops with the best Agronomic traits, which tend to be these newer more developed crops.
            It’s not a flaw limited to genetic engineering though.

            The kind of monocultures you’re talking about are present in crops like bananas, where out of hundreds of local and regional varieties the vast majority of banana production is concentrated in a single variety. This has caused the banana industry numerous issues arising from pathogens wiping out a nearly genetically identical crop for atleast a hundred years. Ironically enough, because bananas don’t typically reproduce sexually (they have an odd number of chromosomes, triploidy) it’s very hard to breed new stable varieties of banana and genetic engineering could actually be a way to conserve all the favourable traits in existent banana varieties while adding genes to increase resistance to pathogens.

          • That would be OK with me if the banana genome was open source and anyone could create new banana varieties. But currently only Monsanto et al can do it, and guess what, they don’t care at all about biodiversity or famines, they want to sell you as much Golden Rice as they can, and they absolutely won’t let you cross-breed it with local varieties (which would increase biodiversity) or even save your seeds.

          • Again Chris your making assumptions that aren’t true. Monsanto isn’t making Golden Rice, its a project headed by an NGO called IRRI, which is part of a network of plant research centers called CGIAR. Also golden rice will be free to any farmer who makes under I think 10,000 dollars.

            There are a couple projects eith banana, one is resistance xanthomonas wilt which is also not being developed by Monsanto.

          • Golden rice was bred in India in I believe it was the 1960s as an answer to the country’s long standing famines.
            It’s higher yield than the varieties they grew before, hardier, requires less fertiliser, less water.
            It fed a nation, ensured India was not reliant on foreign food aide any longer.
            And that’s why the do gooders are opposed to it. It ensures that countries that use it aren’t dependent on foreign aide, “aide” that comes with strings attached, normally requirements that set percentages of the female population are sterilised (and yes, that’s a continuation of the 1930s eugenics policies of the US and UK governments among others, intent on destroying the populations of non-white countries that were considered subhuman).

            IOW opposition to golden rice is born out of a desire to exterminate the populations of other countries, which if you’d voice it openly would get you screamed at (and rightly so) for being a racist…

          • While I think you’re motivation is in the right place, I think there are some errors in facts.

            But I do agree somewhat. There likely is a faction of environmentalists that are decidedly misanthropic and who advocate for radical population reduction. It all ties back to Malthus and a perversion of ecocentric thinking that marginalizes and separates humanity from the natural world in a misguided attempt to save Nature from us.

          • For the majority of the general membership, yes, they’re just misguided fools.
            The leadership however, especially of the larger, more influential groups, are hardcore malthusians and eugenicists.

            Ironically, at the very same time that they’re also extremely homocentric in their thinking that mankind has the ability to outdo nature, their goddess, when it comes to causing harm to mankind.
            Exemplified by an NGC “documentary” I saw yesterday where after half a dozen scenarios were shown in which mankind could be destroyed by nature, the narration concluded that because none of those had happened yet it was certain that the only thing that can destroy us is human action (while showing classic images of “global warming”, nuclear testing, chemical spills, etc. half blurry in the background). Masterful piece of propaganda, and created as an educational piece for schoolchildren, as became clear in the credits…

          • There’s a project to create a GE version of a banana used in a lot of third world counties ude as a staple crop. A lot of these counties have high mortality rates due to vitiamine A deficiency and so the banana is engineered to be high I vitiamine A. It has nothing to do with Monsanto, it’s funded by African governments with some charity support. An anti-GE group have opposed the banana and publicly said they don’t want the benefits of this banana becoming a PR win for GE.

          • Yeah I’ve been following that trial for a while now with some eagerness. You catch the latest SGU too? Such a great podcast.

            I’ld also check out talking Biotech, it’s Dr. Foltas podcast. It’s also pretty great.

          • Monsanto has nothing to do with golden rice
            these are the 2 inventors, Ingo Potrykus, Professor emeritus of the Institute for Plant Sciences of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH, Zurich), and Professor Peter Beyer, of the Centre for Applied Biosciences, University of Freiburg, Germany(

          • Not even close to correct.

            Any organized field crop is a temporary monoculture.

            My great grandfather was using draft horses to plant corn in rows at the dawn of the 20th century.

            Biotech traits increase our ability to grow corn and soybeans with more genetic diversity, not less.

          • I’m not talking about one field, I’m talking about across the entire world. If 0.3% of sweetcorn fields get wiped out by a pest, because there’s 300 varieties, it’s a disaster for those individual farmers but not for the world. If 8% of them get wiped out because there’s only 12 varieties, it’s a world famine. Genetic diversity is already disappearing in every crop, and GM patents will make it worse.

          • that is great, I mean not great for us, but great visual aid to show a valuable statistic to aid our reasoning, which ever way it sway…

          • Very interesting graphic I’m actually going to save it and check out the source. Old varieties are a great source of genes, but if they are so wonderful and in demand, farmers would grow them. A couple years ago, my wife wanted to plant an heirloom tomato variety in our garden. The tomatoes had tough skin, did not ripen evenly, and split at maturity. We canned them but did not plant them the next year.

          • I am guessing that you have never looked at a seed catalogue in the last 40 years. There is far, far more selection than ever. Go to the local farm supply store and check it out for yourself..

          • Wow, I have never seen a diagram that has been more wrong. I went to the National Center for Genetic Preservation to check out these numbers, Here is what I found.

            Beets, the Graph claims that they have 17, but they have 2469 varieties

            Corn, the Graph claims that they have 12, but they have 30640 varieties

            Lettuce, the Graph claims that they have 36, but they have 2812 varieties

            Mellon, the Graph claims that they have 27, but they have 5372 varieties

            Peas the Graph claims that they have 25, but they have 7091 varieties

            They have over 450,000 distinct germplasms in storage.

            You can find all the data from here.


          • Aren’t a lot of those figures including Genetically Engineered or GMO produce that is banned in many other countries?

          • Ah, those pesky little details—otherwise known as facts.
            Almost all the crops in the graphic involve plants which have NOT been genetically engineered. Perhaps I’m getting old, but it’s a sad state of affairs when pretty pictures are a substitute for actual thoughts.

          • How many of those are genetically engineered produce though? By GE I mean parts of the DNA code from one or more species (plant, animal, bacteria even pharmaceutical including vaccines which may be dead or weakened but alive DNA from viruses) added to another organism to create a whole new organism, that we consume on a daily basis. According to a recent USDA report around 90% of our corn, soy and cotton, for example, in the USA is GE! And how do we know its not having a harmful effect, look at the rise in health concern statistics of our county vs that of non GE counties…

          • We have been eating GMO for over 20 years now, WTF. There is no such thing as foreign DNA, everything is related. You eat billions of bacteria and viruses every day, why would the DMA be deadly.

          • All GE crops are exhaustively tested.

            BTW, hope you’re not diabetic, most insulin is now produced by bacteria with a gene for human insulin. Much more sanitary than extracting it from pancreas od animals.

          • And you’re wrong. No surprise there.
            In agriculture a monoculture is a field growing during one cycle only a single species.
            That nice lawn you have in front of your house that you make sure never has any weeds in it is an extreme example of a monoculture for example.
            So is any modern farm field since the invention of mechanised harvesting equipment (which doesn’t operate efficiently if there is for example wheat and melons in the same field, which used to be normal in the past).

          • Golden rice is a rice trait, it could be backcrossed into any of these 40,000 rice varieties.
            All GMOs are just traits, not varieties, There are only 2 GMO bt cottons, but those 2 are in over 2000 varieties of cotton plants.
            P.S. There will never be another potato famine, if the GMO blight resistant potato gets approval. Hope this calms your fears.

          • Hi Hyperzombie.

            A question out of the blue. Are crops originally bred via chemical or radiation mutagenesis allowed to be sold as “organic” in the US (if they meet all other organic requirements)?

          • Absolutely. The popular organic “Calrose” rice is a good example. Ironically, organic labeling does not require the the producers disclose the levels of arsenic in such products.

            [Sorry to jump onto your thread, HZ.]

          • All crop and animal breeding methods with the exception of GMO are allowed in Organic worldwide.

            Clones, yes. ( including animal clones)
            Mutagenics, yes (Chemical and radiation)
            Wide crosses, yes
            forced polyploids, yes
            I think even zinc finger nuclease is permitted

            I dont get why GMOs are not allowed, they can be raised organically as well….

          • Thanks HZ. And thanks to you too Peter.

            Anyone have an example of a crop derived through radiation mutagenesis that is currently sold with organic accreditation?

          • Here is the mutant database that lists all the registered mutants.

            Mutagenic breeding does not create new crops, it just introduces new traits into existing crops.
            Many popular varieties of tomatoes, apples, pears, rice, barley, wheat, and even peppermint are radiation mutants.
            Mutagenics is particularly useful at creating varieties that grow well in areas that the plant normally doesn’t do well. For example wheat in Bangladesh, or Pears in Canada.

          • I had come across the database previously but was having trouble relocating it. So this information is very timely. Thanks.

            There is a black hole of official guidance regarding how varieties with traits derived through mutagenesis (and other techniques) qualify or not as organic. The USDA clearly disqualifies traits inserted via genetic engineering but just doesn’t say much about other techniques. Because of this I think that many people are under the impression that mutagen derived traits cannot be used in organic production. Clearly this is what Kanawai Mamalahoe believes and say what you want about him I think he is familiar with farming and organic regulations.

          • There is no way that any organization could ban mutants in any crop production method, that cat was out of the bag 50 years ago.

            There are so many varieties that have been backcrossed and crossed with mutants that there is no way to track them all. Plus registration of mutant crops is volentary, there are lots that are not registered especially chemical mutants.

            Here is an Organic seedless mini watermelon for sale. Seedless = chemically induced forced polyploid. Mini=radiation induced trait (most likely) Yellow=wide cross or radiation induced trait.


            If you believe that KM knows anything about farming, you have much to learn my friend. Have a great day.

          • As always there is tons out there that I don’t know. So it true that I have a lot to learn … and that is delightful!

            One of the most valuable things I ever learned I got from my PhD supervisor, an internationally recognized scientist, many years ago. His slogan was always “I’m not stupid I’m just ignorant. So teach me.” I wish more people had this attitude.

          • I wish more people had this attitude.”

            I do as well.

            I wish more people did not view science and especially evidence with ideological blinders on.

            It really scares the crap out of me that so many believe in internet memes and feel good platitudes, yet ignore all the evidence. This may be the downfall of our society.

          • I suspect that people always believed in memes and ignored evidence but we just didn’t know about it. The internet just brings them front and centre with disturbing clarity.

          • I’m late in finding this discussion, but got to say that Hyerzombie, peter, agscienceliterate, and Samuel L have done a great job defending science, modern ag, and rational thinking.

          • You think that KW is not involved with farming papayas? I get the impression that that is genuine.

          • I agree with JRS below. Whenever you ask a specific farming related question, he avoids the question or copies and pastes some mumbo jumbo that makes no sense to a farmer. I have to admit that I know very little about papaya farming (no papayas in Canada yet), but in many respects farming is farming. He should know the basics.

            JRS thinks that he may have a beehive, I doubt that. I had beehives when I was in Highschool, so it is a bit harder to fool me.

            To be fair, I think he may work in the Agricultural industry, but not as a farmer.

          • I’ve found the same thing with respect to biology. Avoids questions or uses cut and paste from the internet. I get the feeling he has been around a research lab but not at the level of a PhD candidate.

            This is a pattern.

          • There’s no need to bad these mutant crops.

            All we need is to do is Label Them. We have a right to know.

          • Sure, found it on the internet. There are a bunch more, just do a photo search for atomic seeds.

          • I love how their website declares that,

            “Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science.”

            But their site focuses on lifestyle, morality and prohibitions. I couldn’t find any evidence of innovation or science.

          • “Organic” science, so funny.

            They most likely did not cite any Organic science because all the Alchemy papers are written in latin.

          • I think KM is using some sleight of hand when discussing irradiation, either intentionally or not. Food that has been irradiated to kill food borne pathogens cannot be sold as organic. Food whose parental lines have been bred with radiation to induce mutations can be sold as organic.

          • That is exactly the issue. I get the sense that as a starting point KW genuinely assumes that organic products must not be generated via physical or chemical mutagenesis. I think the sleight of hand will emerge as he comes to realize that this isn’t so.

          • Food that has been irradiated to kill food borne pathogens cannot be sold as organic. “

            What? But that is the food that needs to be irradiated.

            Another crazy Organic rule.

            Other nutty Organic rules.

            Cant use antibiotics on animals, but you can use them on fruit.

            Chickens are not chickens till they are 2 days old.

            Give antibiotics to a dairy cow and its milk is Organic, but the cow isn’t. (Canada and UK)

          • He is vaguely familiar, but stumbles badly when attempting specific discussions. You will find that he avoids any “hands-on” discussion about farming methods–it is apparent to me that his real-tractor seat time is limited. There is nothing in his comments to suggest that he has ever personally done it, or personally made the operational decisions that must be made at the operational level.

            On the positive side, I do believe he really does have a beehive, though. However, since I know little about bee keeping, it would be relatively easy to fool me on that one.

          • Amazing. I had assumed that the flummery was restricted to certain claims like the advanced degree in molecular biology..

          • So, what year did the organic flakes and nuts decide that modern-toxic agriculture began?
            A fun sci-fi movie: Put all of them in a time machine and send them back to see how wonderful it was.

          • Obviously you believe that it is better to have children suffer blindness due to vitamin deficiency than use technology to prevent it.

      • Those issue are completely irrelevant to GMOs, mono-cultures and a legitimate concern that happens anyway, its already the norm. If farmers were free to replant seeds from there previous crops that they bought, then the companies that develop them would have charge more for the initial sale which would mean farmers would have to invest more into the initial purchase and essentially trapping them into the use of that crop for multiple season before they would see a return on there initial investment. Hows is that better for farmers?

          • I didn’t say they did, my point was if seed were sold that were replanted it would cost farmers more for the initial purchase, how would that benefit the farmers, how did you mis that. I also said nothing against GE, I said that the issues the post I was responding to raised had nothing to do with GE, and happen any way, again how did you miss that.

          • Sometimes it’s hard to keep allies and adversaries straight when you spend too long on a comment thread. haha

          • He wasn’t disagreeing. He was making a different (fiscal) argument in favor of copyrighted seeds. Not sure what you thought he was saying.

      • Bananas: Cavandish accounts for nearly all the export crop and they are endangered by the spreading Black Sigatoka fungus. They, in turn, replaced the much more flavorful Gros Michel variety which was almost wiped out by Panama Disease in the 1950s.

    • Have you had a fishberry? Altering the Genetic code of one species with another species, such as a fish and a strawberry, may seem harmless, like eating fish and strawberries at the same time; but its not the same thing, we absorb that altered gene code into our DNA and that sort of stuff may be what causes many of the health concerns we face today. There is also gene stacking, where multiple combinations take place. Bacteria DNA is also combined in these sequences. There is many reasonable concerns, such as how bacteria transmits diseases easier than humans, and if we absorb these unnatural DNA code chains, it may effect how well our immune system works. There isn’t a history of safety testing, but innocent until guilty- with no contenders to challenge what is happening. The USDA says the USA people want this, I don’t want this and don’t know anyone that does and most people here don’t even know it is and has been happening.

      • They do not take half fish and half strawberries, they take one gene from fish and put it into strawberries, if it’s OK when consumed in the fish why is it bad when consumed in the strawberries. Most of the genes in fish and strawberries are the same as they are for all planets and animals, genes change in other ways as well why is the carefully selection of one gene they have been studying more dangerous than the blind cross breeding of plants just to see what happens or the random changing of many genes through radiation or chemicals better.

          • Well we do absorb DNA from the stuff we eat, it has nothing to do with GMO, people think of our genes as being these pristine pure stores of information, but biology is a mess.

  3. Thanks for an interesting and informative article. I agree with much of what’s here. While I appreciate the results-based approach, but disagree that selective breeding and Genetic Engineering are somehow equivalent in anything but a biological sense; the results are the same, but the processes are completely different.

    What worries me about the GMO/not-GMO debate isn’t whether or not GMOs are “safe”, but what kinds of commercial rights and economic leverage we give to corporations to manage the development of, and profit from. genetically modified organisms. The market forces are behind the push to widespread use of GM technology see a growth industry and long-term profits. How do we ensure that we recognize and account for the consequences of widespread use of these products?

    What kind of legal framework and backstops do we need to address unintended side effects, or even anti-social use of this technology? Especially in a political environment where “regulation” is a dirty word.

    • Good point. Consider: if we changed to eliminate the over regulation of GM crops that ends up leading to 7-10 years and $150 million per new GMO we’d have more public investments and more entrepreneurial companies pushing innovation. We need more AwuaBountys and Arctic Apples.

      • AquaBounty and Arctic Apples.

        We do need far more, and I want glow in the dark Alfalfa to plant just on the edges of my fields, making it easier to harvest in the dark, but mostly because it would look cool and creep out the hippie neighbors.

    • uh, did you read the same article i did? Modifying thousands of genes over time through various toxic chemicals and radiation is “not dangerous” at all (and not knowing what these changes does)

      but turning off a gene or adding a minor gene (that in the original organism does nothing major) to a vegetable or fruit is?

      i don’t understand the logic behind this type of thinking

      GMO , change on or two genes or adding 1 or 2 genes, and thoroughly test for almost 2 decades


      Mutation breeding that affects thousands of genes at one time, and no testing to see if the resulting product is safe

  4. As a proud anti-gmoer I will respond by saying mutation breeding has been around for years and years and is quite effective at selecting the best qualities of a plant and breeding it with other plants with ideal qualities so that desired outcomes are met. This is why many growers save seeds from only the best plants in the crop. You could also use the argument that selective or mutation breeding is how we get a cute labradoodle when breeding certain dogs! But, that is not the issue that concerns me with GMOs. What concerns me is the use of glyphosate and pesticides and gene altering of a plant in its DNA so that the way it grows is purposefully resistant to Roundup and other weed killers. I am not a scitentist, but there are plenty out there who can explain in more complex terms the damage GMO crops have on the environment and food that we consume. Look at WHO’s IARC report on the carcinogenic probabilities of glyphosate, which is now in the air and food and lawns we live in and eat everyday. I’m not sure why people feel the need to blindly accept what is presented in front of them. Why don’t you look closer at reality folks? Unfortunately, life is not that simple. Its not always what it seems. And in the case of industrial farming methods, there’s more to it than blind faith.

    • Since you state that you are a farmer, you would know that if glyphosate and its similar chemistries such as glufosinate were no longer used as a herbicide then other, perhaps more problematic herbicides would be used in its place. The regulatory agencies around the world have studied the trade-offs, and have overwhelmingly concluded that the risks to humans and to the environment are lower with the glyphosate/glufosinate technology than with the others. I trust the scientists who have studied these relative risks.

      My family and I want more transgenics in our food supplies, not less. Whereas we come from a background that affords us good insight into what is safe vs. what is not, the information base that we operate from is not secret. It’s freely available on the internet, for all the world to see. You just need to look for it. It’s not sexy, and it won’t sell any zippidy-do-dah “organic” bullcrap such as that circus clown Dr. Oz is involved with. It’s just plain good science. It feeds us, clothes us, keeps our standard of living out of the gutter where 90% of the rest of the world’s population lives.

      • Great points, but I disagree about how easy it is to get objective information. The Internet is flooded with pseudoscience and quackery, making it very hard for someone new to the topic to become informed. For understandable reasons “scary” is always more arresting than “boring”.

    • proud anti-gmo “farmer” :
      You DO know, don’t you, that mutation breeding moves hundreds or thousands of genes around, with unclear consequences. And that this technology is not regulated at all.

      And you DO know, don’t you, that genetic engineering moves ONE gene around, with very clear effects. And that this technology is the most studied and regulated in the world.

      And yet you seem to blindly ignore this odd dichotomy in your thinking.


  5. Not all GMO is bad. The problem with the bad GMO is that it destroys the plants ability to make seed thus making us Dependant on Monsanto’s or another 3rd party for seeds. He who controls the food controls the masses. It is a National and worldwide security risk to have one company monopolize on this.. The other problem is that some GMO’s allow more pesticide use that the plants absorb and thus we eat. Not to mention this creates super bugs and harms pollinators such as the monarch and the bee’s. Obviously this is not good when Monsanto’s is talking about creating genetically modified flying ants to become our new pollinators and even in some countries bees are beginning to no longer go after nectar and are instead using fungus to feed their larvae. Otherwise..GMO is not all that bad.. keep the seed and get rid of the BT roundup. A lot of plants have modified themselves naturally to deter pests.. How come Monsanto’s doesn’t work on that instead of working on a plants resistance to harmful chemicals. People need to wake up to what kind of future Monsanto’s is creating. A future where nothing produces seed in which super bugs will decimate any organic crop accept for the continuously increased BT use on the gmo crops. A future where no one can grow their own food because nothing has seed.. A future in which in order to survive everyone will have to go through Monsanto’s.

    • Arum, The process of genetic engineering does not “destroy the plants ability to make seed.” Genetically modified plants seed just as any other. No one is “dependent” on seeds from Monsanto or any other company. Monsanto sells less than 5% of the worldwide seeds–and any farmer who wants to buy seeds from the rest of the 95% of the market can do so. No GMO crop “allows more pesticide use”. The toxic level of pesticides has gone down with the use of GMO crops. Some GMO crops, such as Bt crops, have resulted in a 95% reduction or more in the use of chemical insecticides. Monsanto is not creating GM flying ants.There is no such thing as Bt roundup–you are confusing two completely separate products. I think perhaps you might be better served by doing a bit more research on some of your claims.

  6. This article is attacking the consumers like they KNOWINGLY consume this fruit as if there isnt an organic label… This is actually a big concern of mines. Companies labeling organic although it isnt. True organic eaters would boycott this product in a heart beat. And this is exactly why ALL products need to be properly labeled

  7. I would of liked to of had a choice to eat natural food or the various kinds of genetic engineered ones that are now almost the only choice. We really don’t know what genetically engineered produce will do to us or our children that are still developing/naturally morphing into adults. The governmental consensus says these are innocent until proven guilty, some sources say biogenetic companies have no restraint. I’ve read USDA, EPA and FDA reports as well as other biology sources, and it really boils down to we, as in American’s are the unwitting test subjects because around 90% of our corn, soy, cotton and so forth is and has been genetically engineered commercially for many years, that started in the late 70’s and has been rising and cross pollinating with natural fields across the country and even Mexico and Canada!!! And look at our statistics rise in birth defects physically and psychologically, health concerns, early death rates, obesity, ect… At the same time these things may be unrelated, but even if they are, there is the potential for advancements that are beyond science fiction, cures for just about anything and the ability to combine just about anything, lets not forget about living forever through clones, or even for near immediate repair; these are also all off shoots of the GNOME project, and or the fuel behind it, other than power and money. The thing that bothers me the most is we may not know what we are doing, or be able to fix the problems we may be causing.

    • Joshua, you do have a choice. You can eat organic or “non-gmo certified” if you wish to avoid GE foods. However, not sure what you mean by “natural” food … are you okay with organic foods (and other non-GE foods) that have been developed through mutagenesis? (irradiated with radiation, or genetic changes through chemical baths) With mutagenesis there are thousands of random genes affected, with unsure outcomes, and no oversight. With genetic engineering, one gene is modified, with known outcomes, and decades of oversight.
      You are correct that the many health issues you mention are not related to GE foods. In fact, if one wants to draw a correlation line, the line on a chart showing the increase in reported cases of autism over the past decades matches almost exactly the chart showing the increase in growth and consumption of organic food. A good example why correlation does not equal causation.
      Cross-pollinating with “natural” fields …. there are no naturally-occurring soybeans, corn, or sugar beets that GE crops can cross-pollinate with.

  8. Oh HELL NO! Do I want my food radiated so that some apple can be more red? This is pure evil! The reason there is not outcry is NOT because we APPROVE! Its because we had no idea! Most fruit bought in the grocery store tastes nothing like home grown. Apples look real pretty, all red and shiny (coated in disgusting wax) but they taste like a piece of wood. Science needs to STOP! Not only are they making our food tasteless, they don’t have any real idea what they are doing to the natural DNA. This author is nuts if she thinks the general public is aware of this AND approves of it. Where does she live, the land of OZ?

    • Nancy I think you might rethink some of your opposition to what you derisively call “science.” First, we have more diverse varieties of incredibly tasty apples in stores today than we ever have had. That’s because of science–the ability to prevent debilitating diseases in groves and preserve the apples enough through modern storage techniques so they can be distributed to stores. There are some not to tasty apples, but no one forces you or anyone else to buy them. So clearly, “science” is not the issue here. Without “science”, you would none of the tasty foods, organic and conventional, that you eat. Organic and conventional farmers widely and extensively use chemicals, for instances, to repel pests. Without such pest prevention scientific applications, you would tasteless canned products rather than the fresh produce and other foods we have today. Non one likes the misapplication of science, but the fact is that we have a tremendous variety of healthy food available to us in wealthy countries like the US and throughout Europe–unprecedented in the history of the world. Year round foods. Without science, you’d be eating the horrible, tasteless foods available to 98% of the world’s population as recently as 150 years ago. So…perhaps you might consider rethinking your rejectionist views of science.

    • Nancy, apples are not radiated to make them redder. Foods are irradiated to prevent disease. Radiation has been used to create mutations so new varieties of foods can be developed. For example, Ruby Red Grapefruits and durum what, used in premium pasta–both sold as organics–were created through radiation. Approximately 3000 plants, crops and foods have been developed since the 1930s using radiation. None is labeled, many are sold as organics. This process is far less safe in relative terms than any gene manipulation used to make GMO crops–but it is safe. It is unregulated and no labels are required. So your beef on this might be with your local organic certification agency.

      • Exactly! Although I would have made the distinction between irradiation used for treating foods during production and irradiation used for mutagenesis more distinct for Nancy Nelson’s benefit.

        Do you know whether irradiation mutagenesis has been either specifically allowed or disallowed as a technique for breeding foods that can be certified organic in the US?

        In a pamphlet prepared by the USDA NOP …

        … it mentions in the very first paragraph that ” Synthetic fertilizers,
        sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” for organic foods. This almost seems as if it is banning irradiation mutagenesis although I think they really mean only irradiation of foods during production or packaging. Do you know of a clearer official statement as to whether radiation mutagenesis is banned for organic purposes?

    • Nancy, you are already eating irradiated organic food in many instances, through mutagenesis (which moves many genes in a manner than is unpredictable in outcome, and which is not tested and not regulated). Ruby red grapefruit is one of thousands of examples.
      “Science needs to stop” -? I think not.

  9. Oh I am SURE farmers want to commit patent infringement ON PURPOSE! Those Monstersanto seeds are SO WONDERFUL What farmer wouldn’t want to get seeds that do not generate year after year? Everyone wants that right? (sarcasm) Pesticide resistant, (not really, since they have created superweeds and super bugs so now they need MORE pesticide, not less). Farmers do NOT WANT anything to do with Monstersanto seeds! WHY the hell would they??? Please give one rational reason a farmer would intentionally take a seed that is essentially worthless? Just because the paid off courts rule for Monstersanto doesn’t cut it for me. If Monstersanto sent its little gestapo force to MY FARM, rest assured, they would never be heard from again. We are making Monstersanto cut jobs, lose stock value, etc….with our buying power, pretty soon its time will be over. Monstersanto needs to GO!

    • Nancy, I don’t think you understand patents on seeds. They were introduced around 1930. Almost all organic seeds are patented. Farmers can buy non patented seeds but they are generally underperforming…yielding 50-70% of patented seeds. Africans and Asians often use non patented seeds, which is a key reason their yields are so disastrously low. This has nothing do to with Monsanto of course, which “controls” less than 5% of the world seed population. And I don’t think that tiny Monsanto– 2/3 the size of Starbucks and about the same revenue size as Whole Foods–had the ability to buy off the Supreme Courts of the US, Canada and Europe, all of which have reaffirmed not only the legal need but the societal benefits of seed patenting. Again, a farmer can buy non patented seeds if they want to, but very few have done so for decades, because the marginal added costs results in a seed that grows true–the benefits of increased yields and lower chemical inputs linked to modern seeds is a huge benefit…economically and sustainably. So perhaps you might want to do a bit of research in this area.

    • Nancy, you really need to educate yourself about farming. Talk to a farmer. Just a few rational points:
      1) Farmers choose GE seeds and pay more for them, because they get higher yields with less (unsustainable) damage to soils, air, and water, and less tractor fuel. Monsanto is not the only seed company, and Monsanto also sells conventional and organic seeds. Did you know that
      2) Superweeds? Superbugs? That can occur with bad farm management with any type of seeds. Not a GE issue. By the way, GE farmers do not want improperly controlled weeds from an organic neighbor in their own crop. And organic neighbors have said many times that GE traits for insect resistance help their own organic crop.
      3) “Seeds that do not generate”. — what do you mean by that? The old wive’s tale that GE seeds are “sterile”? (If they were sterile, duhhh, then there wouldn’t be this concern about cross-contamination.)
      Talk to a farmer. Call your local farm bureau. Educate yourself.

  10. Really? That list of medical society’s you named is a complete joke. Do some history research. The AMA was bought and paid for by the Rockefellers around the turn of the century. Real medicine, natural medicine was drummed out of this country for the benefit of big pharm and chronic illness. Its about money, not health. Its about keeping the rich getting richer, not curing disease. If our American medical system was really concerned, there would be a cure for cancer, and its NOT surgery, chemo or radiation. That is a pile of dung. But it sure makes a hell of a lot of money, doesn’t it? And guess what? Chemo is the only prescription that actually offers kick backs to physicians. How nice.
    GMO’s are nothing but poison. Our Government Agencies The Federal Department of A holes, the United States Department of A holes, and on and on, are just former lobbyists and CEO’s of monstersanto, so nothing is ever done for the safety of the American People.

    • Hmm…so 270 global science organizations are a “joke”? The World Health Organization? National Academy of Sciences? German Academies of Science? European Commission? French Academy? Belgium Academy? Royal Academy? All jokes? There is not one–zero–independent science agency that has issued a statement suggesting GM crops are unsafe. I think you might be on the wrong side of this issue, Nancy. You appear to be a bit of a conspiratorial junkie.

    • My, my. With so many conspiracy theories, there is no use to try to use reason with you. Your mind is quite thoroughly made up, and shut tighter than a hog’s ass at fly time. Oh, well. Perhaps Food Boob’s site would be a better place to leave your totally unsupported rants.

  11. This is a joke of a site. Monstersanto backed all the way and you “scientists” are nothing but paid shills. I know the truth and I do NOT eat GMO toxic food. I grow my own and I will NEVER support the anti-science, anti -health, pro death giant that is monstersanto. Every article on this site is pure monstersanto based. Pretty good try for the masses though.

    • Nancy, that is wonderful that you think you “know the truth.” So does the Food Babe, and she does indeed get millions from her fearmongering and affiliate sales. Now that, I call shilling. I know it is very, very hard, when your mind is so thoroughly made up, to even begin to consider a wee possibility that many scientists, farmers, and rational people support GE technology, without being paid to do so. You don’t have to support science; that is your choice. The world is going ahead without you. Monsanto and other seed companies, by the way, are doing quite well on their own and do not to pay shills to post. Odd, Nancy … You previously said “Science has to STOP!” [sic], and yet, you are claiming that this site is anti-science, which should, logically, then be right up your alley. I think you really don’t know what you think, except that you loathe one specific seed company, and do not seem to care much about learning about farming, ag biotechnology, and science. That, too, is your choice. You have the choice to eat whatever you want, and so do I. Many people choose to educate themselves about a topic, and others choose to stay fixed in their rigid belief system because it is too mentally hard to jump the fence of dogma to think for themselves. Thank you, though, for thinking that posts like mine are so brilliant and insightful that we should be paid to post our opinions.

  12. With no testing, no oversight, and no regulation. Yum. Still, the organic anti-GE activists have no problem with that, and instead rail against the most heavily-tested food on the market (GE). They will never eat crow and admit that, but they eat and vomit hypocrisy every day.

  13. Why don’t people who oppose transgenic crops consider plants that get irradiated to change their genetics for desirable traits “genetically modified”? Why are their genes not modified by the radiation? I think we know why. And we also know that opponents of genetic engineering are too dishonest to admit it.

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