19 votes

What common concern is really not a big deal?

Example: are GMOs really that bad? I'm not saying it is or it isn't, just giving an example.

I don't ask about common concerns that actually are a big deal because they are the vast majority.

32 comments

  1. [12]
    mtset
    Link
    GMOs are a super interesting case here, because the naked phrase - "genetically modified organism" - masks the real problem. So, on the on hand, of course GMOs are not a problem; everything we eat...

    GMOs are a super interesting case here, because the naked phrase - "genetically modified organism" - masks the real problem.

    So, on the on hand, of course GMOs are not a problem; everything we eat is genetically modified, just over longer timescales. Modifying genes with natural mutagens and then selectively breeding the resulting plants is not really different from mutating grains with nuclear bombs (as was done in the 1960s) or with CRISPR-Cas9 and then selectively breeding the results of that.

    However, the vast majority of successful GMOs used today are the worst kind of proprietary capitalist horrors - seeds that cannot produce viable offspring in the second generation, or patented plants, either one of which keeps farmers dependent on the large agrichemical companies in perpetuity. In addition, the business practices surrounding GMOs today largely promote long-term monocultures, which are dangerous for many reasons.

    28 votes
    1. [7]
      AnthonyB
      Link Parent
      Back in the late aughts, I was going to college in a very progressive/hippie town and had several classes and professors that focused a lot of our work on environmental issues. I myself got really...

      Back in the late aughts, I was going to college in a very progressive/hippie town and had several classes and professors that focused a lot of our work on environmental issues. I myself got really interested in those issues, and one day I went along with a roommate that was studying environmental science and horticulture to a small talk about organic farming practices and how they could help slow climate change. I was so excited because at that point I had always heard people say that GMOs and organic farming practices were mutually exclusive, but it never made much sense to me. Who said GMOs have to be doused in pesticides and herbicides? Why couldn't we modify plants to be more resilient to harsher climates but still use organic farming practices to avoid the things you mentioned in your last paragraph? Wouldn't that be our best bet?

      Before everything started, we went around the room introducing ourselves and explained why we were there. I mentioned GMOs and everyone chuckled like I was joking. After the initial lecture, there was a Q&A session, and I asked my questions. My God, you would have thought I stood up and said, "Monsanto rules!!" while tearing my shirt off to reveal a giant 'M' painted on my chest. The lecturer AND the audience gave me shit and went on about dangers and unintended consequences and all this other stuff that seemed to have completely missed my point. It was one of the most embarrassing and frustrating experiences I had ever had at that point.

      14 votes
      1. [5]
        Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        Thanks for sharing that experience. I agree with your thoughts, but I have never been in that situation myself. One note about organic farming: in the US, organic farming is almost a scam. The...

        Thanks for sharing that experience. I agree with your thoughts, but I have never been in that situation myself.

        One note about organic farming: in the US, organic farming is almost a scam. The rules still allow for spraying plenty of pesticides, you just have to use “organic” pesticides.

        I would suggest looking into sustainable agriculture. It is very common in the wine industry (at least in Sonoma county). It does not explicitly prohibit pesticides and other things. It requires that vineyards make and execute a plan to reduce and eliminate harmful farming practices. It is much more comprehensive than the organic rules. There are many organizations that will certify vineyards as sustainable, but many vineyards practice these rules without going through the certification process. These rules also typically require good working conditions for laborers like living wages, affordable housing, etc.

        Another interesting one is biodynamic farming. I won’t go too far into that. In short, it is what people who like organic farming think organic is.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          vord
          Link Parent
          Please do. I've always understood that non-bastardized organic farming was about cultivating a sustainable farm, leveraging living soil, using animals like chickens for bug control, etc.

          Another interesting one is biodynamic farming. I won’t go too far into that. In short, it is what people who like organic farming think organic is.

          Please do. I've always understood that non-bastardized organic farming was about cultivating a sustainable farm, leveraging living soil, using animals like chickens for bug control, etc.

          5 votes
          1. Weldawadyathink
            Link Parent
            I would love to, but I am not very familiar with it myself. At least not familiar enough to talk about it without making errors. Instead, Ill just leave a link to the wikipedia article....

            I would love to, but I am not very familiar with it myself. At least not familiar enough to talk about it without making errors.

            Instead, Ill just leave a link to the wikipedia article.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodynamic_agriculture

            Some interesting notes in that article: some people accuse it of being a pseudoscience, and that it resembles alchemy. From everything I have seen about it, and the people who practice it (mostly in Europe), they treat it as alchemy. I think it is a fair criticism. I would love to seem someone take a scientific look at the ideas in biodynamic farming and see what actually works and why. Despite that, it is so much more of a reasonable agricultural practice and selling point than FDA organic.

            Also, since I think that sustainable agriculture is more important than organic or biodynamic, ill drop some of those links too.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_agriculture
            https://sonomawinegrape.org/scw/sustainability/
            First link is the wikipedia article. Second is a website about sustainable agriculture in Sonoma County. As a resident, I am proud that 99% of vineyards in Sonoma County are sustainable. There is a bunch of other good information in their sustainability reports.

            4 votes
        2. [2]
          AnthonyB
          Link Parent
          I'm glad you brought that up because that's an important distinction and I need to remember to use the correct terminology. I still can't get over how the word 'organic' became a superficial...

          I'm glad you brought that up because that's an important distinction and I need to remember to use the correct terminology. I still can't get over how the word 'organic' became a superficial marketing term a la "all natural," "fat-free," and "100% beef." My last serving job was at a very upscale farm-to-table style restaurant and since sustainable agriculture/biodynamic farming is all the rage we only offered those types of wine. I've become very disillusioned with the global response to climate change so I don't follow these things that closely anymore but I was glad to learn that those practices are becoming more popular. I should probably start following these things more closely so I can be a more responsible consumer, but I just get sad whenever I read a Plan B style book.

          Just to clarify, the speaker was advocating for something similar to biodynamic farming and I remember there being a lot of great information. That was over 10 years ago so I'm not sure if those terms were popular then or if I just forgot and substituted 'organic' in my memory.

          2 votes
          1. cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Worth noting is that "Organic" isn't entirely superficial everywhere. Here in Canada it's actually a strictly regulated term, and in order to use it (and be able to display the official 'Canada...

            Worth noting is that "Organic" isn't entirely superficial everywhere. Here in Canada it's actually a strictly regulated term, and in order to use it (and be able to display the official 'Canada Organic' logo on their products), companies must not only adhere to certain ethical/sustainable management standards, the products must also be grown using only substances approved by the government for use as "organic/natural" pesticides, fertilizers, feed additives, etc. See:

            Canadian Food Inspection Agency > Organic products

            Organic production systems - General principles and management standards [PDF]

            Organic production systems - Permitted Substances Lists [PDF]

            4 votes
      2. corleone
        Link Parent
        I've had similar experiences with progressive crowds. Some believe only right-wing fascists can employ group think and authoritarism. Reality proves otherwise.

        I mentioned GMOs and everyone chuckled like I was joking. After the initial lecture, there was a Q&A session, and I asked my questions. My God, you would have thought I stood up and said, "Monsanto rules!!" while tearing my shirt off to reveal a giant 'M' painted on my chest

        I've had similar experiences with progressive crowds. Some believe only right-wing fascists can employ group think and authoritarism. Reality proves otherwise.

        4 votes
    2. [3]
      TemulentTeatotaler
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      There has been a moratorium on GURT seeds since 2000, and to my knowledge there aren't (and haven't been?) any such "terminator seeds". GMO crops are able to reproduce, you're just typically not...

      seeds that cannot produce viable offspring in the second generation

      There has been a moratorium on GURT seeds since 2000, and to my knowledge there aren't (and haven't been?) any such "terminator seeds".

      GMO crops are able to reproduce, you're just typically not legally allowed to reuse those seeds.

      The practice of buying seeds is one that predates GMOs. I'm not informed enough on a lot of this, but my understanding is that a lot of farmers prefer buying seeds because it's more likely for them to be "bred true", instead of having some drift in the 2nd generation.

      patented plants, either one of which keeps farmers dependent on the large agrichemical companies in perpetuity

      Plant patents expire after 20 years from initial filing, and they're pretty hard/costly to get.

      Plant patents also predate GMOs, starting (in the U.S.) with the Plant Patent Act of 1930.

      Part of me wants to say "farmers have a choice between buying seasonal GMO crops or doing what they always did", but that does neglect the sort of murkier trends that you touched on. If you get 20% more yield from using monoculture/cashcrop GMOs eventually everyone is going to either do that or get out-competed, and that trend could be a bad thing.

      Superficially I think using the metaphor of software works somewhat well. If there's some software with cost/license that lets your company be 20% more productive, you can decide to use it or not, and more choice is a good thing. A competitor that decides to pirate that software can be held liable. *I can resent trends like microtransactions or always-online.

      not really different from mutating grains with nuclear bombs

      I think the techniques for modifying genes are different enough that they shouldn't get lumped together, not that I know enough to have any strong opinion on it?

      Mutation breeding is still a big thing. Comparatively, there are few GMO crops.

      It has less regulation and less intentionality, though it's more likely to be made freely available than GMO crops.

      I don't know that they're any more prone to being harmful than GMO crops, but it's always been a bit bizarre to me that organic advocates are more okay with inducing chemical/radiation-based mutation in seeds until it does more of what they want (at least from a health/risk lens, vs capitalist critique).


      I think you also always have to compare things to what the alternative is, not in a vacuum where the harms or hazards are obvious.

      Glyphosate bans/maligning is one of those issues that bugs me. In a vacuum you can definitely find problems with it, but there's massive amounts of evidence for it being safe for humans. There are organic alternatives that are significantly worse, whether for health, the environment, crop yield, or all.

      GMOs are a pretty powerful tool for reducing water consumption, improving crop yield, temperature resistance, pesticide requirements, adding in things like Vitamin A precursors (ala Golden rice), and more. The problems of feeding billions, especially with the future issues of climate change, are non-trivial.

      *Disclaimer: My knowledge is pretty limited. I volunteered a bit at an organic drug-rehab farm and worked at a student Zuni-style garden.

      **Also Monsanto-->Bayer has speed limit signs on their campus that are for things like "18 mph" and that's pretty suspicious...

      13 votes
      1. [2]
        Tardigrade
        Link Parent
        Isn't 18mph 30kmph and might be for insurance purposes or am I being whooshed there?

        Isn't 18mph 30kmph and might be for insurance purposes or am I being whooshed there?

        2 votes
        1. TemulentTeatotaler
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          That's very likely the reason! Just a mild joke about there being something sinister about either the degree of specificity or the irregularity.

          That's very likely the reason!

          Just a mild joke about there being something sinister about either the degree of specificity or the irregularity.

          2 votes
    3. vord
      Link Parent
      I agree with your assessment, but I think even traditional GMO has taken us too far off the path. You ever had baked goods made with Einkorn flour? It's rich and buttery in a way that other modern...

      I agree with your assessment, but I think even traditional GMO has taken us too far off the path.

      You ever had baked goods made with Einkorn flour? It's rich and buttery in a way that other modern wheats are not.

      In the endless quest for high yields and perpetual availability we've lost a lot of flavor along the way.

      1 vote
  2. [5]
    Grendel
    Link
    Taking medication for mental health, especially for kids. I see so many parents of kids that are struggling, and the parents are avoiding meds at all costs. They say they want it to be a last...

    Taking medication for mental health, especially for kids.

    I see so many parents of kids that are struggling, and the parents are avoiding meds at all costs. They say they want it to be a last resort, and I agree other interventions should be used first.

    But sometimes their idea of last resort is way to far. It's like waiting for someone to be 90% of the way drowned before throwing them a life vest.

    Its not a big deal. If the meds don't work you just stop using them and try something else. It's usually a combo of pride and fear that seems to drive this behavior

    13 votes
    1. [4]
      corleone
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I would most certainly hesitate before giving psych meds to kids that are about 6 or less. Even doctors and guidelines acknowledge that before a certain age it is often very hard to distinguish...

      I would most certainly hesitate before giving psych meds to kids that are about 6 or less. Even doctors and guidelines acknowledge that before a certain age it is often very hard to distinguish between a "normal" kid and one that is mentall ill. I guess the technical term for that is "all kids are kinda nuts, you know". I might look for a second or even third opinion, depending on the symptoms. Yeah, some kids definitely need meds, but meds do take a toll on our organism and brain function. So there's a balance to achieve there, to avoid both overprescription and underprescription.

      9 votes
      1. [3]
        Grendel
        Link Parent
        Absolutely! I wasn't trying to advocate for throwing pills at kids at the first sign of trouble and I should have been more clear. I'm really talking about cases where it's very clear that it's...

        Absolutely! I wasn't trying to advocate for throwing pills at kids at the first sign of trouble and I should have been more clear.

        I'm really talking about cases where it's very clear that it's needed. My boys were 5 and 6 last year and had 4 in patient physciatric hospital stays. The older one tried to burn the house down and nearly succeeded. They have a documented history of extreme abuse and PTSD from it.

        But I have seen parents with kids in similar circumstances and behaviors that absolutely refuse medication.

        Hell, I struggled with severe depression and self injury in high school and my parents refused to get me any treatment at all (not even non medication things like counseling). I guess thats probably why I feel so strongly about it.

        That and the fact that meds have made life for my boys better, in that they are far more functional and get to be closer to having a normal life.

        11 votes
        1. [2]
          vord
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Having spent decades on various mental meds, I don't want my kids on them unless they need them. Mood regulators of all kinds mess with your body something harsh. I put on 30 lbs inside 2 years...

          Having spent decades on various mental meds, I don't want my kids on them unless they need them.

          Mood regulators of all kinds mess with your body something harsh. I put on 30 lbs inside 2 years when on some meds, it took a while to recover from that.

          3 votes
          1. corleone
            Link Parent
            Yes. Like any medication, mental meds should only be used when the benefit outweighs the harm.

            Yes. Like any medication, mental meds should only be used when the benefit outweighs the harm.

            5 votes
  3. [12]
    precise
    Link
    Bees. This doesn't apply to people who are allergic, but come on. It's a bee. Sure they sting, but ants, spiders and tons of other insects sting or bite, and some of them are actually deadly. Sure...

    Bees. This doesn't apply to people who are allergic, but come on. It's a bee. Sure they sting, but ants, spiders and tons of other insects sting or bite, and some of them are actually deadly. Sure it's natural to not want to get stung, but I've seen some serious over the top reactions, as far as sprinting away to the nearest building over a solitary bee who just thinks you're a flower.

    Settle down, go watch Bee Movie or something. Also, if you ask me if it's a bee I'm going to tell you it's a fly 99% of the time.

    12 votes
    1. [3]
      georgebcrawford
      Link Parent
      If I get stung I die :-(

      If I get stung I die :-(

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        corleone
        Link Parent
        Don't watch 1991s My Girl...

        Don't watch 1991s My Girl...

        1 vote
        1. georgebcrawford
          Link Parent
          Haha, I think about that movie sometimes! While I don't claim to have any sixth sense for bees, I definitely have a low-level system process scanning for them most of the time.

          Haha, I think about that movie sometimes! While I don't claim to have any sixth sense for bees, I definitely have a low-level system process scanning for them most of the time.

          1 vote
    2. [4]
      corleone
      Link Parent
      I guess a lot of people are deeply scared of any insects at all. There was a very small wasp house forming outside the house. Everyone told me I should hire a specialized company. That wouldn't be...

      I guess a lot of people are deeply scared of any insects at all. There was a very small wasp house forming outside the house. Everyone told me I should hire a specialized company. That wouldn't be cheap, so I just smoked it and knocked it down. There were quite a few wasps. Maybe the smoke made them less aggressive, but it was totally fine.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        precise
        Link Parent
        We get one or two wasp nests a year. Back when there were kids running around, or pets for that matter we'd hose it down or spray it. Now-a-days we just leave them be. They never get large and...

        We get one or two wasp nests a year. Back when there were kids running around, or pets for that matter we'd hose it down or spray it. Now-a-days we just leave them be. They never get large and while they're assholes they tend to keep to themselves in my experience.

        4 votes
        1. corleone
          Link Parent
          The wasps were bothering me actually, they were outside my gym and would "harass me" while I exercised. They can only blame themselves.

          The wasps were bothering me actually, they were outside my gym and would "harass me" while I exercised. They can only blame themselves.

          7 votes
      2. hungariantoast
        Link Parent
        Pro tip for dealing with wasps: If you can spray and kill the wasps with some kind of chemical spray, but leave the nest structure behind, do so. I have never in my life seen wasps reoccupy an...

        Pro tip for dealing with wasps:

        If you can spray and kill the wasps with some kind of chemical spray, but leave the nest structure behind, do so. I have never in my life seen wasps reoccupy an empty nest after we chemical-attacked its former owners.

        4 votes
    3. [3]
      vektor
      Link Parent
      Agreed. Bumblebees and hornets too, they're pretty chill. Wasps can fuck off though. Too unpredictable and can be quite aggressive. I'll not run away from them, but I'll meticulously watch every...

      Agreed. Bumblebees and hornets too, they're pretty chill. Wasps can fuck off though. Too unpredictable and can be quite aggressive. I'll not run away from them, but I'll meticulously watch every bite of my food if one is around while I eat. I will try to peacefully steer it away from me if I can. But if a wasp shows interest in a human, particularly around the face, that is too far.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        Tardigrade
        Link Parent
        I've been stung on the eyelids and lips more than once for trying to be chill around wasps so I'm going to walk off if they start hovering around me. I just don't think being perfectly still works :(

        I've been stung on the eyelids and lips more than once for trying to be chill around wasps so I'm going to walk off if they start hovering around me. I just don't think being perfectly still works :(

        2 votes
        1. vektor
          Link Parent
          You know what does? A decisive pincer grip. Grab em, crush em, pull em away in one swoop. If they're already in your face, you should have someone else do it for you though. Your mileage may vary,...

          You know what does? A decisive pincer grip. Grab em, crush em, pull em away in one swoop. If they're already in your face, you should have someone else do it for you though. Your mileage may vary, as I've only had to do that once. Seems to me like it's better odds than doing nothing.

          I think what's better than staying perfectly still is waving your hands at them - not agressively. Your job is not to smack them away, but to gently convince them that this is not the place to be right now. At least for me, that hasn't resulted in wasps any more angry than they already were.

          1 vote
    4. vord
      Link Parent
      I get it, but I've stepped on one too many yellow jacket nests in my childhood, so even though I'm mostly chill with bees now, over 20 years later I still flinch when they come near. Also, cicada...

      I get it, but I've stepped on one too many yellow jacket nests in my childhood, so even though I'm mostly chill with bees now, over 20 years later I still flinch when they come near.

      Also, cicada killers are super useful and mostly harmless, but my god are they terrifying when you have dozens swarming around your home,

      5 votes
  4. [3]
    nothis
    Link
    Food waste. Typing this out makes me very nervous because basically all my friends are super responsible with food and even I myself had fights with my girlfriend about her throwing away perfectly...
    • Exemplary

    Food waste.

    Typing this out makes me very nervous because basically all my friends are super responsible with food and even I myself had fights with my girlfriend about her throwing away perfectly fine stuff that I thought was still good. So this is not coming from a "damn libs want us to starve!!1" kind of position.

    What I rather mean is that food is so integral to a functioning society (most of us never experienced a true threat of starvation) that you want to over-produce and build a safety net. I think it's too complicated a system to produce exactly 100% of required food. There's ups and downs, droughts, floods, political turmoil, etc. So you either have to choose a constant threat of food shortage or a constant surplus that leads to a certain amount of waste.

    I'm not saying there aren't absurd niche cases of large companies wasting food for some short term gain that are kinda disgusting. But generally, supermarkets having to throw away a certain percentage of their food is the result of us having a roughly 20% "buffer" of over-supply that is intentional and a reasonable long-term safety net.

    6 votes
    1. vektor
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Not so sure. I believe the lower-level waste is just for our convenience, not safety. It's often the luxury items too: Fresh(!) vegetables, meat, fresh bread. It'd be a lot easier to assure...

      Not so sure. I believe the lower-level waste is just for our convenience, not safety. It's often the luxury items too: Fresh(!) vegetables, meat, fresh bread. It'd be a lot easier to assure sufficient food if consumers were more willing in a pinch to eat preserved foods - canned, dried, frozen, whatever. But basically, if the supply chain is built on the assumption that consumers will want the full range of options of fresh foods even when there's supply chain issues ensures that way too much is made available.

      Add on that if you buy two times what you eat because the rest is wasted in your household, the supermarket doesn't know that. They don't know you could reduce that waste if their supply chain had issues. They have to assume that you're going to need just as much food any other time, even when there's a shortage. They're going to stock accordingly and produce waste doing so. Without assigning blame (because frankly every part of the chain here from capitalism to food culture is broken), your waste has knock-on effects.

      I have high enough faith in our food supply chain that I wouldn't expect us to actually need that overproduction. 40 different variants of fresh fruits and veggies aren't there just in case of famine, they're there because if you can't get broccoli, you're going to go to next store. What is there in case of famine is a strategic reserve of food: In the case of Germany, we have 800000 tons of food - peas, lentils, grains, whole milk powder, available as a national emergency reserve. I realize not every country has that, but all of these are easily stored for years, so grocery store suppliers could be made to do just that. That's the kind of stuff to build a buffer out of. For the bit of overproduction you still need to feel comfortable, you could scale animal products up and down depending on availability of beans and grains. That way, if you need your reserves, you can scale back meat production and use the beans that are used as animal feed directly, giving you some breathing room.

      [Edit: The US used to have such a strategic reserve: Link - nowadays it's largely a bank account for the purpose of buying food when in a pinch.]

      3 votes
    2. corleone
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      The logistical and economic challenge of delivering fresh food from one point to another is frequently overlooked. Shipping costs, specially for perishables, can be prohibitive. Sure, it is often...

      The logistical and economic challenge of delivering fresh food from one point to another is frequently overlooked. Shipping costs, specially for perishables, can be prohibitive. Sure, it is often possible to give food for people nearby, but how many will accept food literally from your plate? How that would be viewed anyway? And are there really that many hungry people nearby? I most certainly believe that waste must be reduced, but there are lots of problems to solve to make that happen, and while we do that, maybe it makes more sense to purchase food from local producers from wherever famines are happening, stimulate local agriculture, or at least buy from those that are in a better position to supply it. Supermarkets throw tons of good food every day just to keep everything looking good. A bruised apple is still good but will stay on the shelf. That is a culture problem for sure, and should be absolutely regulated. Is the food I'm leaving on the plate really that much of a problem?

      1 vote