1. Standard memberDeepThought
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    There was an article on the BBC website [1] saying that there is conclusive evidence that neo-nicotinoids are responsible, or at least partly responsible, for declining bee numbers. The seeds come coated with the insecticide, which is a bonus for farmers as it saves them spraying. The problem is that the insecticide is systemic in the plant, so in crops like rape if a bee collects pollen it then it will get some of the insecticide. Neo-nicotinoids are under a two year moratorium in the EU due to this, the National Farmer's Union opposes this saying that the results are all in laboratory settings and so the science is flawed. One of the insecticide manufacturers has funded their own research which says neo-nicotinoids do not affect bees - although there is an obvious risk of bias there.

    If bee numbers collapse then we are in real trouble, as flowering plants would follow and we'd be looking at ecological catastrophe.

    The E.U.'s move is precautionary, it was not made on complete evidence. This statement makes the claim that there is sufficient evidence to extend the ban indefinitely.

    Insecticides a plant produces via genetic modification would also be systemic. This means that the insecticide would be in the human food chain and may have adverse effects for bees. So here's an argument for being wary about GM crops.

    [1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27980344
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    24 Jun '14 17:51
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    So here's an argument for being wary about GM crops.
    Almost all plants have natural insecticides. Something being a GM crop doesn't automatically make it have insecticides, nor does it make those insecticides dangerous. The GM label is a misleading classification system - used primarily for political reasons.
    It is far better to be wary of all crops, GM or not, and deal with them on a case by case basis, instead of creating catch all labels and fear mongering.

    As for bees, there are many reasons for their decline including possibly the reason you cite, but it is far from being the only reason. And yes, we should do something about the bees.
    They won't however disappear overnight.
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    24 Jun '14 18:576 edits
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    There was an article on the BBC website [1] saying that there is conclusive evidence that neo-nicotinoids are responsible, or at least partly responsible, for declining bee numbers. The seeds come coated with the insecticide, which is a bonus for farmers as it saves them spraying. The problem is that the insecticide is systemic in the plant, so in crop ...[text shortened]... ent for being wary about GM crops.

    [1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27980344
    If bee numbers collapse then we are in real trouble, as flowering plants would follow and we'd be looking at ecological catastrophe.

    Actually, although that would be tragic, I don't see how we could be in too much trouble! The importance of bees are often massively exaggerated to the extent that I have once heard the ludicrous claim that, if all the bees disappeared, we would be all dead within 6 months -from starvation!
    Well, that is just bollocks! For starters, many crops including many of the most important, don't require bees to produce a crop but only the seed for the next crop. These include all the cereal crops and sweet corn because they are all wind pollinated, NOT insect pollinated. Also, some of the remaining important crops don't require any pollination to produce a crop. Examples; leaks, onions and carrot crops and some species of marrow. in the case of potatoes, contrary to some claims I have heard that don't understand these things, polination is not required to produce the spuds! because they don't come from the flowers! And, as for those crops that do need pollinating, often they don't need bees because hoverflies and butteries and certain other insects would pollinate them. Example of that include sunflowers. As for those that really DO need bees, I know this would be expensive in terms of labour costs but, as a last resort, they can be hand pollinated! If you think that is ridiculous, think again! because I have seen it done with tomato crops and I used to do it myself! And, surely, if people are faced with agonizing hunger if they don't hand pollinate and if some farmers are faced with financial loss if they don't employ the many people needed to hand pollinate their crops, you can bet that people will be employ to hand pollinate regardless of the cost because people surely could not be THAT stupid as to not do so!

    In short, if all the bees disappeared, we would simply just adapt to that and survive. It would still be a bad and costly problem -but not a fatal one for humanity.
  4. Standard memberDeepThought
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    24 Jun '14 19:45
    Originally posted by humy
    If bee numbers collapse then we are in real trouble, as flowering plants would follow and we'd be looking at ecological catastrophe.

    Actually, although that would be tragic, I don't see how we could be in too much trouble! The importance of bees are often massively exaggerated to the extent that I have once heard the ludicrous claim that, ...[text shortened]... that and survive. It would still be a bad and costly problem -but not a fatal one for humanity.
    It's not enough to pollinate crops, if we are to retain reasonable levels of biodiversity we would have to ensure the pollination of wild species as well. To get next years crop of potatoes you would need seeds from somewhere, so that would require hand-pollination. Doing a little hand pollination in a greenhouse is easy enough, an entire field would be incredibly hard work, but we'd have to pollinate everything, it's just not possible. That would leave ecological systems would collapsing around us.

    It's worth having a look at the Wikipedia page on Pollinator decline, which is suitably non-hysterical. This is copy and pasted from there:
    In 2000, Drs. Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone of Cornell University, attempted to quantify the effects of just one pollinator, the Western honey bee, on only US food crops. Their calculations came up with a figure of US $14.6 billion in food crop value.
    To get an idea of how seriously even Thatcher's government took this the Bees Act 1980 makes the Prevention of Terrorism Act look like a model of libertarianism.

    As an aside, I don't know if it was him, but I have seen the claim about us becoming extinct if the bee did attributed to Einstein. I don't remember anything about six months. It would take a few years.
  5. Standard memberDeepThought
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    24 Jun '14 19:53
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Almost all plants have natural insecticides. Something being a GM crop doesn't automatically make it have insecticides, nor does it make those insecticides dangerous. The GM label is a misleading classification system - used primarily for political reasons.
    It is far better to be wary of all crops, GM or not, and deal with them on a case by case basis, i ...[text shortened]... reason. And yes, we should do something about the bees.
    They won't however disappear overnight.
    I agree that GM crops should be considered on a case by case basis. But if they are modified to produce their own insecticides then the insecticide will be systemic; which means that it needs to be non-toxic to humans as well as pollinators.

    Incidentally, just so I don't appear as a complete Luddite an application of Genetic Modification I thoroughly approve of is the modification of yeast to produce insulin. It fulfils my two basic criteria: Containment and necessity. It's basically a brewing process, so containment is part of the process, and there is a clear need for insulin.

    I'm not against genetic modification every time, but there is a thing called the law of unintended consequences...
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    24 Jun '14 20:47
    Time to find a Plan Bee?
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    24 Jun '14 21:019 edits
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    It's not enough to pollinate crops, if we are to retain reasonable levels of biodiversity we would have to ensure the pollination of wild species as well. To get next years crop of potatoes you would need seeds from somewhere, so that would require hand-pollination. Doing a little hand pollination in a greenhouse is easy enough, an entire field would b ...[text shortened]... attributed to Einstein. I don't remember anything about six months. It would take a few years.
    To get next years crop of potatoes you would need seeds from somewhere , so that would require hand-pollination

    actually no! Potatoes are nearly always propagated by their spuds, NOT their seeds! ( Although those spuds are still often called “seed potatoes” ) .
    This is because it is a lot slower growing potatoes from their seeds -takes a lot longer for them to become established.
    Doing a little hand pollination in a greenhouse is easy enough, an entire field would be incredibly hard work, but we'd have to pollinate everything, it's just not possible.

    Nonsense! WHY is it not possible! As I have seen with my own eyes, it is often done on a vast scale in tomato greenhouses so if it is possible to do it in fields of greenhouse tomatoes, why not fields of outdoor crops? It would be expensive in labour but, looking at the positive side of that, it creates employment!
    Although I have not seen this, I have heard of large orchards being sometimes pollinated by hand
    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/pollinate-apples-hand-home-orchard-37642.html
    "...Fewer honeybees means a decreased apple production for both commercial growers and home orchardists. Hand pollination is a time-consuming but effective means of ensuring fruit growth for limited numbers of trees, although some commercial growers in Asia use it.
    .."
    -proof that it IS possible, just costs.

    But, if what you mean by “everything” includes wild plants, most species of wild plants actually don't rely totally on specifically bee pollination. There is wind pollination and there is also hoverfly and butterfly pollination etc.
    And, in the case of ferns, mosses, lichens, grasses, and conifers, they would be TOTALLY unaffected! Not a lot would happen to, for example, conifer forests! at least not so both the conifers and the whole forest would die.

    That would leave ecological systems would collapsing around us.

    not really -see previous statement. SOME species would go extinct but, collapsing of whole ecological systems? -very unlikely to happen to most of them! Most would be altered with some reduction in biodiversity, not collapsed.
    I don't remember anything about six months. It would take a few years.

    NO! It would never happen! (for the reasons I already explained )
  8. Standard memberDeepThought
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    24 Jun '14 22:33
    Originally posted by humy
    To get next years crop of potatoes you would need seeds from somewhere , so that would require hand-pollination

    actually no! Potatoes are nearly always propagated by their spuds, NOT their seeds! ( Although those spuds are still often called “seed potatoes” ) .
    This is because it is a lot slower growing potatoes from their seeds -takes a ...[text shortened]... take a few years. [/quote]
    NO! It would never happen! (for the reasons I already explained )
    Potatoes are nearly always propagated by their spuds, NOT their seeds!
    Some friends of mine grow potatoes in their back garden, I'm not suggesting this is a commercial operation, and were surprised when I told them that it was possible to do this.
    WHY is it not possible!
    Because we'd have to do all flowering crops and all wild flowering species. Including trees.
    ...there is also hoverfly and butterfly pollination etc.
    Bees have a number of properties which make them especially good pollinators, they naturally end up slightly charged so they collect more pollen.
    SOME species would go extinct but, collapsing of whole ecological systems?
    Well yes, I think you are underestimating how interdependent everything is.
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    24 Jun '14 23:08
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Potatoes are nearly always propagated by their spuds, NOT their seeds!Some friends of mine grow potatoes in their back garden, I'm not suggesting this is a commercial operation, and were surprised when I told them that it was possible to do this.WHY is it not possible!Because we'd have to do all flowering crops and all wild flowering ...[text shortened]... ological systems?[/i]Well yes, I think you are underestimating how interdependent everything is.
    And you are probably overestimating the same.

    I agree that a collapse in bee population would be a disaster, both financially and ecologically,
    and it should be avoided if it is at all possible.

    I also don't think that this makes a good general argument against GM crops.
  10. Standard memberDeepThought
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    25 Jun '14 00:56
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    And you are probably overestimating the same.

    I agree that a collapse in bee population would be a disaster, both financially and ecologically,
    and it should be avoided if it is at all possible.

    I also don't think that this makes a good general argument against GM crops.
    I also don't think that this makes a good general argument against GM crops.
    I wasn't making a general argument against them, but a specific caution. The general argument is why bother? I don't think we need GM to feed the world. I think that argument is put forward by biotech companies to make us believe that there is no alternative to buying their products. The niche GM technology should live in is stuff like the insulin production I mentioned earlier.
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    25 Jun '14 06:29
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Potatoes are nearly always propagated by their spuds, NOT their seeds!
    Some friends of mine grow potatoes in their back garden, I'm not suggesting this is a commercial operation, and were surprised when I told them that it was possible to do this.
    WHY is it not possible!
    Because we'd have to do all flowering crops [b]and
    al ...[text shortened]... ical systems?[/quote]Well yes, I think you are underestimating how interdependent everything is.[/b]
    [quote] SOME species would go extinct but, collapsing of whole ecological systems?

    Well yes, I think you are underestimating how interdependent everything is. [/quote]
    So, for example, if all the bees died, and then a few flowering plants on the ground went extinct (eventually -for perennials such as bulbs, it would take a VERY long time if ever! Because they don't only propagate from seed! ) within a mountain conifer forest, all the conifer trees, despite not needing bees nor those few flowering plants, would eventually die? HOW? Exactly WHERE is the independence that would result in that? I mean, exact WHICH independence is relevant here?
  12. Cape Town
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    25 Jun '14 06:34
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    I agree that GM crops should be considered on a case by case basis. But if they are modified to produce their own insecticides then the insecticide will be systemic; which means that it needs to be non-toxic to humans as well as pollinators.
    As I already pointed out, most plants contain insecticides. I think that you will also find that GM crops that have insecticides have taken them from other plants. You clearly see something different about GM crops. What is it?

    I'm not against genetic modification every time, but there is a thing called the law of unintended consequences...
    I fully agree that genetic modification can be a major change and should be checked for safety more often than when doing genetic modification via breeding. But I disagree with the concept of putting all GM products in one basket. Many countries around the world want GM products banned or at least labelled as GM products regardless of the safety or anything else. Its a political thing.
    My sister, is a farmer and plays the same game with eggs. The farmers use various excuses to ensure that eggs cannot be imported legally from neighboring Zimbabwe - where it is cheaper to produce them.
  13. Cape Town
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    25 Jun '14 06:40
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    The general argument is why bother?
    Because, done right, GM crops can be extremely beneficial. What you seem to have totally ignored in all this, is that if the GM plant has a built in insecticide, then there is no need to spray the crops with insecticides, which is potentially far more damaging to both the environment and the consumer. You seem to be saying lets not have GM, and use DDT instead. Or are you saying that because of the well known side effects of DDT we should just stop using insecticides altogether - its just too risky, so why bother? If you are not making this argument, then why not?
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    25 Jun '14 06:421 edit
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    I also don't think that this makes a good general argument against GM crops.
    I wasn't making a general argument against them, but a specific caution. The general argument is why bother? I don't think we need GM to feed the world. I think that argument is put forward by biotech companies to make us believe that there is no alternative to ...[text shortened]... The niche GM technology should live in is stuff like the insulin production I mentioned earlier.
    The general argument is why bother? I don't think we need GM to feed the world

    That is an idiotic 'argument'; why “bother” to do something better or make something better if we don't “need” to? Does there have to be an essential “need” to do something better or make something better?
    If you had the choice of doing something either in a less good way or a better way, would you still choose to do something a less good way because “why bother”?
    GM has great potential to increase crop yields and make crops pest and disease resistant so make their yield more reliable while cut down on pesticide usage thus increasing sustainability and improving our food security which, incidentally, might reduce the risk of FAMINE in some parts of the world! -all by changing a few genes by a quicker more efficient method than the slow tedious selective breeding; THAT is why “bother”!
    If it wasn't worth the “bother”, I would guess plant breeders probably wouldn't keep trying to do it because it wouldn't be profitable so they would just all give up trying.
  15. Standard memberDeepThought
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    25 Jun '14 10:48
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Because, done right, GM crops can be extremely beneficial. What you seem to have totally ignored in all this, is that if the GM plant has a built in insecticide, then there is no need to spray the crops with insecticides, which is potentially far more damaging to both the environment and the consumer. You seem to be saying lets not have GM, and use DDT in ...[text shortened]... together - its just too risky, so why bother? If you are not making this argument, then why not?
    DDT is not the only spray. The thing with spraying is it is not there the whole time. So it can be omitted when the plant is actually flowering. My preferred approach would be to simply use biodiversity to control overall numbers of pests. Whether that will work everywhere in the world is another matter.

    The difficulty with using a natural insecticide from one plant in another is that insects evolve to avoid the plants that they can't eat. But if we put a gene from a non-flowering species into a flowering plant then the pollinators are not going to avoid it.

    Your sister has my sympathy. Free trade doesn't work for everyone. Why are eggs cheaper to produce in Zimbabwe?
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