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We're eating poison

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 2:08am

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,002 posts

Knight

I have the rest of the letter if you're interested.

Sure

I work with someone who cut wheat from her diet completely and she lost quite a bit of weight. She claims she can think more clearly and has more energy as well. This, I can accept, but she claims that it has to do with wheat being the product of GMO's, and Monsanto. She doesn't really have an explanation as to "why" GMO's are bad, just that they're "unnatural". She explained that the wheat we have today is much taller than it used to be, which I retorted isn't evidence that the wheat is worse for us.

That hasn't necessarily to do with GMOs. I read articles about a doctor who urges all his patients to cut out wheat completely, and reports apparently great results. I'm not saying wheat is bad, but as adressed in the letter above, the wheat we eat is far from the original plant and seems to have not only positive influences on our physiology. I think your friend could still eat some of the more ancestral forms of grains still on the market, maybe in specialised shops, without much problems as long as she ignores the highly modified modern wheat.

 

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 3:58am

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,673 posts

Knight

but she claims that it has to do with wheat being the product of GMO's, and Monsanto.

Wheat is just one example of many foods we have altered through artificial selection. Oranges, bananas, broccoli, (...It's almost 4a.m. and more examples are slipping my mind right now.) are all examples of this same genetic modification Dawkins is mentioning. What we call GMOs is simply us controlling the mutation itself, rather than the selection of a mutation.

Sure

Here's the whole letter.

"…Sir, I think you may have an exaggerated idea of the natural-ness of ‘traditional’ or ‘organic’ agriculture. Agriculture has always been unnatural. Our species began to depart from our natural hunter-gatherer lifestyle as recently as 10,000 years ago " too short to measure on the evolutionary timescale.

Wheat, be it ever so wholemeal and stoneground, is not a natural food for Homo sapiens. Nor is milk, except for children. Almost every morsel of our food is genetically modified " admittedly by artificial selection not artificial mutation, but the end result is the same. A wheat grain is a genetically modified grass seed, just as a pekinese is a genetically modified wolf. Playing God? We’ve been playing God for centuries!

The large, anonymous crowds in which we now teem began with the agricultural revolution, and without agriculture we could survive in only a tiny fraction of our current numbers. Our high population is an agricultural (and technological and medical) artifact. It is far more unnatural than the population-limiting methods condemned as unnatural by the Pope. Like it or not, we are stuck with agriculture, and agriculture " all agriculture " is unnatural. We sold that pass 10,000 years ago.

Does that mean there’s nothing to choose between different kinds of agriculture when it comes to sustainable planetary welfare? Certainly not. Some are much more damaging than others, but it’s no use appealing to ‘nature’, or to ‘instinct’ in order to decide which ones. You have to study the evidence, soberly and reasonably " scientifically. Slashing and burning (incidentally, no agricultural system is closer to being ‘traditional’) destroys our ancient forests. Overgrazing (again, widely practised by ‘traditional’ cultures) causes soil erosion and turns fertile pasture into desert. Moving to our own modern tribe, monoculture, fed by powdered fertilisers and poisons, is bad for the future; indiscriminate use of antibiotics to promote livestock growth is worse.

Incidentally, one worrying aspect of the hysterical opposition to the possible risks from GM crops is that it diverts attention from definite dangers which are already well understood but largely ignored. The evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria is something that a Darwinian might have foreseen from the day antibiotics were discovered. Unfortunately the warning voices have been rather quiet, and now they are drowned by the baying cacophony: ‘GM GM GM GM GM GM!’

Moreover if, as I expect, the dire prophecies of GM doom fail to materialise, the feeling of let-down may spill over into complacency about real risks. Has it occurred to you that our present GM brouhaha may be a terrible case of crying wolf?

Even if agriculture could be natural, and even if we could develop some sort of instinctive rapport with the ways of nature, would nature be a good role model? Here, we must think carefully. There really is a sense in which ecosystems are balanced and harmonious, with some of their constituent species becoming mutually dependent. This is one reason the corporate thuggery that is destroying the rainforests is so criminal.

On the other hand, we must beware of a very common misunderstanding of Darwinism. Tennyson was writing before Darwin but he got it right. Nature really is red in tooth and claw. Much as we might like to believe otherwise, natural selection, working within each species, does not favour long-term stewardship. It favours short-term gain. Loggers, whalers, and other profiteers who squander the future for present greed, are only doing what all wild creatures have done for three billion years.

No wonder T.H. Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog, founded his ethics on a repudiation of Darwinism. Not a repudiation of Darwinism as science, of course, for you cannot repudiate truth. But the very fact that Darwinism is true makes it even more important for us to fight against the naturally selfish and exploitative tendencies of nature. We can do it. Probably no other species of animal or plant can. We can do it because our brains (admittedly given to us by natural selection for reasons of short-term Darwinian gain) are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences. Natural selection is like a robot that can only climb uphill, even if this leaves it stuck on top of a measly hillock. There is no mechanism for going downhill, for crossing the valley to the lower slopes of the high mountain on the other side. There is no natural foresight, no mechanism for warning that present selfish gains are leading to species extinction " and indeed, 99 per cent of all species that have ever lived are extinct.

The human brain, probably uniquely in the whole of evolutionary history, can see across the valley and can plot a course away from extinction and towards distant uplands. Long-term planning " and hence the very possibility of stewardship " is something utterly new on the planet, even alien. It exists only in human brains. The future is a new invention in evolution. It is precious. And fragile. We must use all our scientific artifice to protect it.

It may sound paradoxical, but if we want to sustain the planet into the future, the first thing we must do is stop taking advice from nature. Nature is a short-term Darwinian profiteer. Darwin himself said it: ‘What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horridly cruel works of nature.’

Of course that’s bleak, but there’s no law saying the truth has to be cheerful; no point shooting the messenger " science " and no sense in preferring an alternative world view just because it feels more comfortable. In any case, science isn’t all bleak. Nor, by the way, is science an arrogant know-all. Any scientist worthy of the name will warm to your quotation from Socrates: ‘Wisdom is knowing that you don’t know.’ What else drives us to find out?

Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. What if someone says, “Well, that’s not how I choose to think about water”? All we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn’t share those values, the conversation is over. If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?" - Richard Dawkins

 

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 4:59am

MacII

MacII

1,369 posts

This looks to be the even fuller letter ;)

Environment -- GM
The Prince and the great debate

Don't turn your back on science
An open letter from biologist Richard Dawkins to Prince Charles

Richard Dawkins
The Observer, Sunday 21 May 2000

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2000/may/21/gm.food1

 

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 5:04am

MacII

MacII

1,369 posts

ps So that final paragraph about the water analogy doesn't appear to feature in the original; rather, a web search suggests it's attributed to Sam Harris.

 

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 5:29am

MacII

MacII

1,369 posts

Then pps, as you can see Dawkins in the actual closing lines recommends this book to prince Charles: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan (1995). (Sagan some of us may know as the host of the 1980 TV series Cosmos, among other things.)

Hadn't heard of it before, but seems like a worthwhile read, indeed, and perhaps a fitting present to friends and acquaintances. In this day and age when, one sometimes feels, more than ever the world seems to be sorely lacking in "critical or skeptical thinking": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Demon-Haunted_World .

 

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 6:36am

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,673 posts

Knight

This looks to be the even fuller letter ;)

Didn't know there was even more, thanks.

 

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 5:24pm

Getoffmydangle

Getoffmydangle

148 posts

Thanks Mage and Macil.  Thats a good read. 
I like that it mentions the development of agriculture ~10,000 years ago.  I think that stuff is very interesting.   I heard from some author (i can't remember who, so this is basically hearsay) that with the change in their diet that accompanied agriculture, those humans grew less, were weaker, and were generally less robust.  (if true) This would be related to the loss of animal protein from hunting.  Therefore, they had to adapt and domesticate animals as they completed the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmers, which they did ~9000 years ago.  At some point after that, members of our species evolved to be able to digest milk.  This is evolution in the purest sense of the word, because those who could digest milk survived and reproduced, ahead of (or killing) those who did not.  And doesn't the fact that we evolved to eat dairy and agricultural foods, kind of make it "natural?"  And This is a cool article that talks about the high frequency of lactose intolerance among the hunter-gatherers, who were then replaced by farming groups.   *side note, I'm obviously not a biologist, so I'm using the words 'natural' and 'unnatural' as referring to a continuum, where it seems like Dawkins might be using it dichotomously.   So if i'm wrong about that ....   :() sue me

5,000-10,000 years may be short in evolutionary terms, but those dietary changes took place then, and were relatively constant for the rest of our history until about 50 years ago.  Our diet has changed more over the last 50 years than it did in those previous 12,000 years, or probably our entire history.  The pace of that change, and what it has changed into is orders of magnitudes higher than anything before.  So to me, that comparison is interesting, but not terribly meaningful. 

The current manner of production, growth, addition of chemicals and toxins, transportation, processing, and preparation of our food now is all very unnatural.  50 years ago, most of the stuff we (US population) eats did not exist.   The bread, milk, butter, pasta, all the snack/junk foods (obviously) and (the processed, aka 'deli') meat would by law, not have been allowed to labeled as such.  I would all have to be called "imitation ___".   As you can tell, I am complete agreement with Dawkins about all those dangers he mentioned in industrialized agriculture and livestock.  But I disagree about the "crying wolf, complacency point."   I think real leadership (he wrote this letter to the prince) has to, at times, ignore the cries of the people (~50% of whom have average or less-than average intelligence) and do what is right.   The burden of proof lies with those who develop and sell GMOs, not people like me, you , or any other non-scientific agency.  And I don't think they have yet met that burden, plus all that other supervillany, lex luthor type crap that they are doing.   

It may sound paradoxical, but if we want to sustain the planet into the future, the first thing we must do is stop taking advice from nature.

That just seems silly.  He distinguishes our brains as one of the most unique things in history and then tells us to completely ignore an entire planet's worth of natural evidence? 
furthermore, this thing he said seems to contradict his paradoxical advice. 

There really is a sense in which ecosystems are balanced and harmonious, with some of their constituent species becoming mutually dependent.

Why wouldn't we try to emulate that?  An example is trying to emulate the natural impact grazing animals have on grasslands to reduce/reverse desertification. 

Much as we might like to believe otherwise, natural selection, working within each species, does not favour long-term stewardship. It favours short-term gain. Loggers, whalers, and other profiteers who squander the future for present greed, are only doing what all wild creatures have done for three billion years.

In regard to within-species natural selection (short term gain at the expense of the future), his point is very well taken.  If we as a species don't use our brains that we uniquely evolved to be able to predict the future and mentalize others, to start doing some of that long-term stewardship, we will naturally select ourselves into the bin with those other 99% of species.

 

Posted Jul 12, '13 at 5:43pm

Getoffmydangle

Getoffmydangle

148 posts

The current manner of production, growth, addition of chemicals and toxins, transportation, processing, and preparation of our food now is all very unnatural.

I wanted to clarify my meaning a little bit here.    1st, meaning "unnatural" as in "how far removed for the natural process" it is.  I also intend 'natural' to mean 'sustainable, and in congruence within the ecosystem.   So the current methods are unsustainable in that they won't be able to continue on this course forever.  Industrialized farming is losing more and more topsoil, using more and more/stronger and stronger herbacides, pestacides, antibiotics, and chemical fertilizers, killing off other living things in their ecosystem up and down the foodchain, from microorganisms to apex predators, increasing monoculture, killing off the pollinators, etc.  The bee problem is so bad they are trying to develop robotic pollinators.   (sarcasm alert:)   I guess robotic bees would be sustainable if you think about it.

 

Posted Jul 13, '13 at 11:50am

NoNameC68

NoNameC68

5,069 posts

Knight

Wheat is just one example of many foods we have altered through artificial selection. Oranges, bananas, broccoli, (...It's almost 4a.m. and more examples are slipping my mind right now.) are all examples of this same genetic modification Dawkins is mentioning. What we call GMOs is simply us controlling the mutation itself, rather than the selection of a mutation.

The topic ended up changed before I could get that far with her. : (

That hasn't necessarily to do with GMOs. I read articles about a doctor who urges all his patients to cut out wheat completely, and reports apparently great results. I'm not saying wheat is bad, but as adressed in the letter above, the wheat we eat is far from the original plant and seems to have not only positive influences on our physiology. I think your friend could still eat some of the more ancestral forms of grains still on the market, maybe in specialised shops, without much problems as long as she ignores the highly modified modern wheat.

How does the wheat of today compare to wheat from 50 years ago? 100 years ago? 1,000 years ago? 5,000? 10,000? My co-worker argued that the wheat of today is different than that grown 50-100 years ago. She does address wheat allergies, but it seemed she flip flopped between everyone having wheat allergies to some people having wheat allergies (I believe she was trying to argue that everyone has allergies to wheat, some people worse than others). Of course, having "allergies" or any form of negative effect is normal for just about everything.

I like that it mentions the development of agriculture ~10,000 years ago.  I think that stuff is very interesting.   I heard from some author (i can't remember who, so this is basically hearsay) that with the change in their diet that accompanied agriculture, those humans grew less, were weaker, and were generally less robust.  (if true) This would be related to the loss of animal protein from hunting.  Therefore, they had to adapt and domesticate animals as they completed the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmers, which they did ~9000 years ago.  At some point after that, members of our species evolved to be able to digest milk.  This is evolution in the purest sense of the word, because those who could digest milk survived and reproduced, ahead of (or killing) those who did not.  And doesn't the fact that we evolved to eat dairy and agricultural foods, kind of make it "natural?"  And This is a cool article that talks about the high frequency of lactose intolerance among the hunter-gatherers, who were then replaced by farming groups.   *side note, I'm obviously not a biologist, so I'm using the words 'natural' and 'unnatural' as referring to a continuum, where it seems like Dawkins might be using it dichotomously.   So if i'm wrong about that ....   :()

Well said, I'll have to take a look at those articles when I'm not nose deep in Fire Emblem.

sue me

I hope you're loaded with cash. : )

Seems pretty bogus to me. Single atrands don't just "fuse" with other strands. They have to be uncoiled, seperated, translated, transcribed, etc, etc. assuming, that a human RNA sequence exists that is reversely paralled to the GMO, and assuming that all the amino acids in the GMO strand can be found in the human nucleus, and assuming that such a b*stard RNA protein actually has an affect on anything...

Eventually I'll relearn everything I can about DNA and RNA. I just need to stop being lazy. (This is why I asked here, so you could all do my homework for me. : D )

 

Posted Jul 16, '13 at 2:09am

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,002 posts

Knight

How does the wheat of today compare to wheat from 50 years ago? 100 years ago? 1,000 years ago? 5,000? 10,000?

I don't remember exactly, but well, the wheat has been continuously selected for best yield possible.. resulting in numerous polyploidy or something. Which might not be the best digestible thing to us.. I don't know, I'm no nutritionalist nor geneticist or physiologist, so I can't make a clear statement, but it's something like that.

Of course, having "allergies" or any form of negative effect is normal for just about everything.

In this case 'allergy' doesn't seem to match, really. It's not like people get an immunitary reaction after eating wheat. It just doesn't seem to be the ebst thing for our body, as is eating all the sugar we're eating..

... and on that last topic, I can't resist to post this, er, educational video in relation to the threads topic :D

Animaniacs - Be Careful What You Eat

 
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