Links 8/26/14

Links for you. Science:

Let’s Not Talk About Sex
What Makes People Look Like Their Pets? The eyes are a window to the ego.
The Problem with G.M.O. Labels
African elephant numbers collapsing: Long-awaited study suggests that many of the continent’s elephant populations could be wiped out in ten years.

Other:

Uber’s New Delivery Service Only Caters To D.C’s White Neighborhoods
Why it’s so hard to find a cheap apartment in Washington, D.C. (remarkably, there’s no discussion about how some people are able to pay those high amounts; landlords charge high rents because there are people who can afford to pay them)
Poll: 70 percent of Americans want the government to quit trying to restrict abortion. Despite heated political rhetoric, most Americans have nuanced views on abortion and believe it’s a personal thing
A Psychological Speed Limit: How the Power of Suggestion Can Slow Speeding Drivers
Conservatives Are Furious That Liberals Are Trying to Register Ferguson Residents to Vote
“I was going to gay bars, having affairs”: George Takei on the torments of life in the closet
America’s Progress on Street Safety Is Pathetic
IT ONLY TAKES A MOMENT. (it’s pretty clear that conservatives view Ferguson not as a protest, but black hatred. Missing the damn point, they are)
Paul Ryan thinks it’s the police’s job to shoot unarmed teens (ditto)
Startups Anonymous: How Anonymity Can Save a Founder’s Life
Comment sections are on their way out
Why Did the Core Have a Bad Year?

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5 Responses to Links 8/26/14

  1. Michael Spector’s been on a roll, hasn’t he? Wrote a pissed off comment on Facebook about the Seeds of Doubt article just now. Didn’t realize he’s written a second article!

    AAaaaanyways…I doubt the Problem With G.M.O. labeling will work out all that well in propaganda terms. At the end of the day, companies have to inspire confidence in their products. That means catering to consumer needs and wants, and directly satisfying consumer fears. Deliberately confusing transgenic and hybrid crops will not, in the long run, inspire confidence–regardless of how safe transgenic crops can be. Not to mention all of the religious or otherwise personal reasons some people might want to avoid transgenic foods. Can you imagine the issues surrounding dietary religious laws? I mean, did it *ever* matter whether casing for bullets used pig or cow grease, practically? Would the English have saved a lot of lives if the native religious customs were accepted as being meaningful and sensible stuff like labeling which casing had cow and which had pig for their troops to use?

    Look–there is a huge need for transgenic crops, for many very, very obvious reasons. However, most of the money goes towards transgenic crops that have dubious value, because these crops are part of a corporate verticalization effort, or part of a means around trade barriers, etc, etc, etc. Many of them are not tested properly, and others entangle us into broad trade disputes that hurt farmers who do not use transgenic crops–such as China’s blocking US corn for fear that some of it is an “unapproved” strain. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/17/chinas-ban-on-gmo-corn-costs-us-up-to-2-9-billion-grain-association-says/ Of course, the ban isn’t particularly reasonable. Meanwhile, there is vast need for grains and pulses that keep better in storage, for example. Vast needs for disease resistant banannas, coconuts, wheat, etc. Lots of different things–but money isn’t really funding economically viable projects along these lines. They are almost always funding projects that better allow rent-seeking behavior for big agri-corps.

  2. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says:

    The Problem with G.M.O. Labels
    “He knows because genetically modified apples don’t exist,” I said. “There are none in the orchards and none in the stores.”

    Arctic Apples

    We are currently marketing and selling trees in the U.S., and plan to do the same in Canada soon, pending the CFIA regulatory decision. Once we complete the government review processes, we will bring Arctic apples to stores and restaurants near you as soon as we can.

  3. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says:

    Darius Wilkins: Look–… or part of a means around trade barriers, etc, etc, etc. Many of them are not tested properly…

    I agree with some of your statements, but you have a great many claims all jumbled together.

    Could you please supply one example of a transgenic crop designed to circumvent trade barriers?

    Could you please supply one example of a transgenic crop currently available on the market that you feel was not tested properly?

    • The crops themselves are not designed to circumvent trade barriers (at local or governmental layers). Most agricultural trade barriers are meant to protect privileged domestic companies or empowered rural constituencies at a government layer. Other barriers are local customs and ecologies. At the government layer, most of the issues are surrounding IP and rent extraction to international entities. At the local layer, it’s about invalidating local expertise and control with implanting a corporate ecology wholesale without much modification. One must remember, and I think far, far, too many people do not understand all that well, is that genetic engineering is extremely difficult to do well. We’ve been working on this sort of thing in medicine since the first age of biotech in the mid-90s. And with medicine, there are pretty rigorous standards of evaluation available, and institutional actors that are willing to use them. Commodity crops are something entirely different–and GMOs, if we were being rigorous about it, needs to compete with all the other means of solving problems that they were made to solve. Roundup ready crops and potentially similar herbicide tolerant transgenic crops are more of a means of ignoring certain realities about the long term viability of capital-intensive corporate agriculture and monoculture. Insecticidal/fungicidal transgenic crops have to compete with all of the various techniques for controlling pests, organic and not. They also are a pollution risk through pollen and expression in wild plants. In a sense, the basic issue is that most of the transgenic products we have today are spectacularly crude and would not past muster with the FDA if they were medicines–and we have regulatory issues with a nest of regulations with both the FDA and USDA involved. Without IP laws and a lot of economic muscle, many transgenics wouldn’t even be especially profitable (I suspect).

      As far as testing, first allow me to remind you of the Olestra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olestra) incident. Imagine if the argument that natural ingredients are no less dangerous than artificial ingredients were accepted wrt to Olestra. This wouldn’t be a surprise–it’s all chemistry! Would you think it would have gained greater acceptance as a “diet” fat? Probably not, as the decline in margarine shows. Why? New evidence like the whole transfat revelations probably would be part of it, but also that people decided that if you want to eat right, you eat veggies, not potato chips. So what value, ultimately, would Olestra have had? And is it particularly germane that it had a label for five years of widespread production? Olestra simply wasn’t what consumers particularly wanted or valued. If it was, no amount of warning labels would ever stop people. Absinthe is still drunk. Guns are still hoarded, and people still box. Now, for a specific example of a poorly tested current transgenic crop, I’ll have to decline, mostly because obvious examples of poorly tested crops are eventually withdrawn from the market, like in the classic case of Flavr Savr tomatoes. I consider that example important because there is a *lot* that determines what is a worthwhile genetic product. You can express the trait and still wind up with a poor product in other respects. I do expect that many transgenic products will eventually get withdrawn because they don’t really make much social or economic sense, because ultimately, they were made for rent-seeking purposes instead of much harder to achieve valuable transgenics.

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