Talking Biotech: Podcast with Kevin Folta

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Talking Biotech: University of Florida’s Jude Grosser fights citrus greening with non-GMO solution

| June 20, 2016 |

If there was anyone that could be dubbed a science wizard, it might be Dr. Jude Grosser of the University of Florida. Dr. Grosser has made a career of edgy innovation, creating new solutions that define the forefront of genetic improvements in citrus.  He has mastered unconventional techniques that produce new variants of trees (both their scions and rootstocks) that bring improved production quality to Florida’s fresh fruit and orange juice industries. Currently he is a key strategist in the fight to save Florida citrus, where some of his solutions are being tested, and don’t face the regulatory impediments of “GMO” citrus trees.

Dr. Grosser’s Website

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  • People would “fear” biotech much less if those advocating it were remotely responsible, sensitive, and non-selfishly behaving.

    • John Hanson

      What exactly is irresponsible about looking for a solution to hualongbing? Was the research done by University of Hawaii to create the ringspot-resistant papaya selfish?

      • It is extremely irresponsible to pretend that the large majority of GMO’s sold have not either made crops glyphosate resistant, or contain in-the plant Bt. The huge amount of glyphasate and Roundup applied has likely had very severe impacts on the biosphere. In-the-plant Bt has been used in ignorance of the coming pest resistance.

        Meanwhile, the brilliant and noble bio-tech industry blocks the labeling of their products, widely desired, with there unholy BIG BUCKS–condeming people to ignorance.

        Myself, I do believe genetic engineering can have a place in a responsible food production system.

        Unfortunately, the companies using it have shown themselves primarily interested in reaping big bucks. Which is not at all surprising, considering that in our sickly distorted system of laws, corporations are required to have earning a profit for their shareholders as their primary mission. (I can not overemphasize the stupidity and cupidity of that arrangement.)

        • John Hanson

          The problem is not biotech. The problem is capitalism.

          It doesn’t matter how crops are changed. The Lenape potato was a poisonous product of selective breeding. Any technology can be used for harm or for good.

          I find the whole fight over labeling to be a red herring. Capitalists backing the organic industry are duking it out over $ with the capitalists backing the conventional biotech industry. This whole thing is a war over our money.

          Claims that labeling somehow promotes “choice” are simply disingenous: the only way we would get choice is if all companies were required to have full disclosure of all ingredients and processes in products, much like the way open-source software works.

          • I disagree with much of this. You know, GMO’s cause much much faster, deeper change than selective breeding. This difference makes a difference!

            Labeling is no red herring! Rich people think they have the right to make massive changes in everyone’s world for the sake of them individually making profit, not only without asking people, without even telling people! It is sick–the usurpation of power by the rich–extremely negative for the biosphere. The industry fights labeling for one reason–people might well reject GMO’s to a large extent, if they could–and they know it. So the G.E. Industry’s tyranny in this matter is damnable–and they deserve nothing but our condemnation and obstruction–because of their reprehensible selfishness.

            G.E. is a much bigger concern than most things–it is essentially different. People do not want to give a small group control over life and death–which the GMO industry is claiming for themselves!

            You mentioned good things G.E. might do. Well, perhaps it could. But not in the hands of selfish, oblivious companies–like Monsanto has many times proven itself to be!

            Irresponsible biotech and irresponsible capitalism are both big problems.

          • John Hanson

            This is one of the worst arguments I’ve heard so far.

            Mandatory labeling of GM foods directly resulted in a decrease of choice after implementation in Europe. Voluntary labeling standards increase choice. This should be a no-brainer.

            Second, prices will rise due to labeling. This is not going to help the poor or working class, whose budgets are already stretched thin. Their main concern is simply surviving. You won’t see many poor or working class families protesting genetically modified foods: they’re too busy struggling to care about what is, in essence, a privileged white person problem.

            So go ahead, frame the conversation as the People vs. the Rich. It’s not. This whole debate is really centered in the upper strata of the bourgeois.

            Genetic engineering has nothing to do with life or death. It’s scientific progress at work: a much faster and more specific way to make the same changes that could be obtained with selective breeding or hybridization. Transgenic modification isn’t new to nature, either: look at the genes that were inserted into the sweet potato via agrobacterium thousands of years ago.

            Of course I’m concerned with the possibilities of misuse and greed. But it’s no different from any other technology in that sense: just look at the way Facebook greedily hoards your personal data for who knows what purpose.

            Finally, you should take a look at the biggest leaders in the organic industry. Whole Foods Market, in particular, has an appalling record when it comes to labor abuses.

            Don’t pretend for a moment that organic lobbyists represent white knights and small farmers. In fact, they hire the same lobbyists (Podesta Group) that represent some of the biggest players in industry including Nestlé.

            Capitalism is basically greed incarnate. You don’t need to look any further to see how it relates to all the ills in modern society.

          • “Genetic engineering has nothing to do with life or death. It’s scientific progress at work”–engineering plants that employ broadly ecologically hurtful chemicals to cultivate them is not a scientific advance–it is more of the same–chemical ignorance–which is clearly a life and death matter.

          • John Hanson

            Yet again we get the idiotic conflation of genetic engineering with pesticide use.

            Genetic engineering is just a technology. Engineered pesticide resistance is an application of it, but it is far from the only application.

            Clearly no arguments will convince you otherwise, but I happen to agree with Ferris Jabr in this article that genetic modification could be a huge boon to organic farming, if we embraced the technology rather than rejecting it. What exactly would be wrong with organically grown Bt corn, when compared to organic corn manually sprayed with organic-approved Bt pesticide? Want to guess which one would have lower levels of pesticide residue?

            Stop scapegoating biotech for a problem that’s driven by capitalist industry and regulatory capture. Protest the broken system and not the symptoms of a broken system.

          • Garbage, Mr. Hanson. Very rich people and corporations are stuffing poorly conceived genetially engineered plants down people’s throats, and what you say here is, “genetic modification could be a huge boon to organic farming, if we embraced the technology rather than rejecting it.” Genetically engineered plants may possibly help–when they are designed by people with a deep understanding of agricultural ecology, and when they are designed carefully to add to the vitality of the biosphere–not to make profit for some deeply selfish corporation.

            Poorly conceived and designed genetically engineered plants–such as we have today–is a huge problem, which all of you go-go-gmo people are exacerbating.

          • John Hanson

            Again, you’re attacking the symptom, not the problem. All the problems you describe are failures of capitalism and its neoliberal cheerleaders.

            I’m glad you agree that GE “may possibly help” when designed by people with a deep understanding of agricultural ecology, to add vitality. That’s basically exactly what happened in Hawaii with the papaya, and what they’ve been trying to do with golden rice. Neither of those projects were driven by profit, but rather to address a severe problem.

            Research should not be done for profit. It should be done for the common good. Bring back state funded research, end corporate research sponsorships, and make the results freely available to all.

          • This WOG is about Genetics, not capitalism. Genetic engineering today is a huge problem.

          • John Hanson

            How exactly is it a huge problem? None of the problems you’ve cited with it are specific to genetic engineering.

            This is a great example of how the left is self-defeating. Instead of focusing on reforming or dismantling capitalism, we get caught up in all these hot-button issues that take up time and effort while inviting dissent in the ranks.

            Focus on the biggest problem and the small ones will follow.

          • Creating plants which use increased amounts of broadly poisonous chemicals to cultivate them, and in-the-plant pesticides, are very much problems of genetic engineering.

          • JP

            Not at all. There are plenty of non-GE herbicide tolerant crops.

          • When there are non-GE plants which are grown using ecologically deleterious chemicals, that should be stopped. That does not change the fact that a high percentage of G.E. plants us broadly toxic chemicals in their cultivation, and that is a big problem.

            Or maybe you also recognize no problems with chemical agriculture. Empowering that level of ignorance with genetic engineering skills is a recipe for disaster.

          • Making vit. A available is not a hard thing–genetically engineering rice to make vit. A is like using a holwitzer to control rodents.

          • The go-go-gmo people tried to make G.E. look pro-social. Even though it is a project of selfish rulers.

          • The MainStreamMedia sure shut up quick when thousands of people died from a Genetic Engineering case gone awry–wouldn’t help their owners, at all.

          • Answered.

    • agscienceliterate

      Like keeping kids from going blind, and keeping mycotoxins out of corn, and developing non-carcinogenic potatoes, and giving farmers a better chance at being able to make a living feeding you? Like addressing the citrus greening virus killing the citrus markets in California and Florida? Like addressing Zika, which kills and maims children? Yeah, selfish bastards.
      Keep up your own fear, but don’t believe for a second that you have a right to infect others with it because of your own terror of scientific advances.
      Selfish bastards indeed.

    • SageThinker

      Such true words. When the defenders of the products are toxic themselves in their very words and treatment of others, it’s quite telling. It’s holographic.

      • Good to have you appear, Sage.

        • SageThinker

          Good to see your very grounded and deep thinking, as well.

      • Many of the go-go-GMOers I’ve encountered on this site are habitually toxic in their words–this is a strong sign that their entire movement is deeply corrupt.