OMG! Why are so many people going ballistic over GMO?

If social media is to be believed, Monsanto is Public Enemy No. 1, or very close to it. Seems like even people I would normally consider as reasonable, just seem to go batshit crazy when it comes to Monsanto and GMO’s more specifically.

I’ve been conducting a running argument on this blog and over email with one of my many critics (whose name shall remain concealed from those who have not read the comments section on the relevent post), who insists that GMO’s are harmful, evil even, despite there being little to no evidence to support that assertion. He picks his evidence from websites that spread absolute bollocks, like Natural (no, I’m not even going to link to it), to trusting without question the horse-shit written by wacko’s like Mike Adams. [Read this response to his latest attack on GMO’s].

I’m not going to try to convince you on my own why GMO’s are perfectly safe. I’ll just leave that to someone who is by far more eminent. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I’m amazed how much objection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public. It smacks of the fear factor that exists at every new emergent science, where people don’t fully understand it or don’t fully know or embrace its consequences, and therefore reject it. What most people don’t know, but they should, is that practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food.

There are no wild seedless watermelons; there’s no wild cows; there’s no long-stem roses growing in the wild — although we don’t eat roses. You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself: Is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it.

We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals, that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called “artificial selection.” That’s how we genetically modify them. So now that we can do it in a lab, all of a sudden you’re going to complain?

If you’re the complainer type, go back and eat the apples that grow wild. You know something? They’re this big, and they’re tart. They’re not sweet, like Red Delicious apples. We manufactured those. That’s a genetic modification.

Do you realize silk cannot be produced in the wild? The silkworm, as we cultivate it, has no wild counterpart because it would die in the wild. So there’s not even any silk anymore. So we are creating and modifying the biology of the world to serve our needs. I don’t have a problem with that, cause we’ve been doing that for tens of thousands of years. So chill out.

Here’s the video:

A story of love, risk, tragedy, ingenuity and… Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan is an absolute legend. I’m truly fascinated about his life, his work, his books…. Cosmos.

When I heard that Neil deGrasse Tyson was working on a project that will bring Sagan’s epic Cosmos television series back to life some time in 2014, I was over the moon. Just today I found this beautiful short film by video artist Penny Lane, which tells a simple story of risk, love, tragedy, man’s ingenuity and Carl Sagan off course.

It’s really humbling to imagine that two single gold discs which are due to exit our solar system, may possibly be the only record of our existence here on Earth that will be available to anyone or anything else out there in the infinity of space, should the sun eventually vaporise us, or we destroy ourselves first.

Freshly Played #13: The Cinematic Orchestra feat. Patrick Watson

I first heard it on some television commercial. I don’t remember the product, but the song lived in the recesses of my mind until I discovered it again when it featured in a Neil deGrasse Tyson YouTube video The Most Astounding Fact.

Far from being melancholy, I find it very uplifting. The lyrics further below are deeply poetic and lends itself to all sorts of interpretations.

To Build A Home



There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don’t feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home

‘Cause, I built a home
For you
For me

Until it disappeared
From me
From you

And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the color of green
Ground had arose and passed it’s knees

By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

‘Cause, I built a home
For you
For me

Until it disappeared
From me
From you

And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust

PS: There’s a live version with Patrick Watson on piano here.

A sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos?

Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking lander

Image via Wikipedia

Who can forget the documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage aired on television during the 80’s, and presented by the late Carl Sagan? The memories of listening intently to Carl Sagan’s mesmerizing voice, and witnessing what was then groundbreaking visual presentations of outer space, will be with me forever.

That series instilled in me a lifelong fascination with scientific discovery and a great love for science in general.

So it is little wonder that I’m extremely excited at the prospect of a sequel. It may not be the same without the inimitable Carl Sagan, but the announcement that well-known astrophysicist and Nova host Neil de Grasse Tyson will be presenting, is at least a consolation. A further boost is that Carl Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan and astrophysicist Steven Soter who worked with Sagan on the original series, will again be heavily involved in the sequel.

The only downer for most scientifically minded people is that it will be produced and aired in prime time by Fox Television, infamous for their religious bias, conservative political outlook and antagonism towards true science. However it is hoped that the involvement of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, will persuade Fox to not cancel the series prematurely as they so often do with others.

Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey is due for release some time in 2013. Let’s hope the hacks at Fox follow through…