Bean or Frankenbean?

Public domain image, posted in electronic form by       

Ooh, so scary, boys and girls!

Are GMO soybeans another “New Coke (TM)”  It’s midnight in the garden of good and evil, and I’m not sure anyone really knows beans.

After 40-ish years of being told that soybeans are very good for me, I am being told that they are now very bad for me, specifically because so many of them are GMOs (genetically modified organisms).  Being the stickler that I’ve been taught to be (and being interested in crop-plant genetic IP), I went looking for reliable primary sources.*  I found out:

To me, this whiffs suspiciously of the “New Coke (TM)” marketing game.******  For those too young to remember, that one goes like this:

  1. Take a popular product.
  2. Introduce a new version and quit producing the old one.
  3. Make sure the consumers who loved the old product the most will hate or fear the new one.*******
  4. When the black market for the old one shows sufficient profit to finance its own space program, grudgingly-but-magnanimously re-introduce the old product to a public who will be too relieved-and-exhilarated to notice, e.g., a higher price or any other side effect you’d like to sneak in.
And, given the findings above, the really beauty part of this one might be that Step 2 was never really taken.  That is, although a lot of soybeans were replaced by GMO strains, few or none of those were the ones that humans eat as tofu, tempeh, soymilk etc.  Yet people will now pay more to be REASSURED that these products are “now” non-GMO.
It’s as if (this is just an analogy, not a fact!):
  • A redacted article, “Coke Produces Carbon Monoxide!” went viral.
  • Redacted was the explanation that the article was actually about small-c “coke,” the derivative of coal used in making CO-containing “producer gas,” and not Coca-Cola(TM) at all.
  • A bunch of people quit drinking Coca-Cola (TM) to avoid the in-fact-nonexistent threat of carbon monoxide.
  • The Coca-Cola Co. introduced a “testing and certification program” GUARANTEEING that their soft drink would not produce carbon monoxide. . . and passed the costs along to consumers who were grateful to be protected.
“This is an amulet to keep rhinos away.”
“There aren’t any rhinos around here!”
“See?  It works!”


*E.g., articles with titles like “GM-Soy: Destroy the Earth and Humanity for Profit” did not make the first cut.^  Oh, P.S.: Any site that pops a “Give me all your contact info and Subscribe Now!!!” window up in my face, before I have a chance to skim even one paragraph, I rebuttably presume not to be a reliable primary source.  Just sayin’.

**Wherein, the author writing about beans missed a golden opportunity to incorporate the phrase “Silent but Deadly.”

***At least one fairly scholarly-looking paper concludes that fermented soy is better for digestive flora than unfermented soy.  This is distinct from “fermented soy is healthy but unfermented soy would just as soon kill you as look at you.”  And it also doesn’t say anything about GMO vs. non-GMO.

****Thankfully this is not a law review article, so I can say things like “Well, du-uh.”

*****Confusingly abbreviated “IP!” This will probably hurt the producers’ case with the particular consumer sector convinced that any plant with a patent, trademark, or copyright^^ is bound to kill us all.  And because of the multiple language-and-logic barriers involved, neither side may ever figure out where the problem started.  Unless they read this blog, of course.

******Coca-Cola(TM) is an IP wonder.  Its formula is possibly the most successful trade secret in the world.

*******Humans’ built-in change-resistance Gripe-O-Matic may do most of the job for you if you calculate the type of change well enough.


^I mean, if I were to destroy the earth and humanity it would at least be for FUN and profit.

^^No, I don’t believe it’s possible to copyright a plant (as distinct from a picture, sculpture, poetic description, or interpretive dance about one).  Others apparently believe it is.

Send In the “GIs”: The U.S. Defends its Vinous Territory

wine1.jpg What goes around, comes around. Wine tasting is one metaphor; you draw the first sip up one side of your tongue, aerating it noisily in a way that would have gotten you banished from your childhood dinner table, and let it slide down the other, savoring all its flavors and, if you’re in that kind of a setting, searching for coherent words to describe them all.

That sip of wine goes around, then it comes around, then you have to either swallow it or spit it out. Similarly, the U.S. has finally come around, at least a little, to the European perspective on identifying wines with place names – because recently our vintners have, figuratively, walked a mile in the Europeans’ vats.
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Landraces: On the “verge” of becoming crops

Road verges. Windbreaks. The vicinities of abandoned fields, market grounds, and storage sheds. When most people think of biodiversity conservation, these are not the places that come to mind. Much more familiar are wild-land conservation areas – rainforests, wetlands, tundra, even tidepools and undersea canyons – places virtually untouched by human occupation. However, the smaller, humbler areas around traditional farming communities are sources of agricultural biodiversity (“agro-biodiversity”). Agro-biodiversity hasn’t had as much global press as wild-land biodiversity – it’s less photogenic, for one thing – but it affects the security of the food supply in agricultural societies. As climates, soil compositions, and local dominant wild species (both crop-eating pests and competing weeds) change, a crop is only as resilient as its gene pool is deep.
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Bio – (prospectors or pirates? Neither metaphor is known for generosity, or good grooming)

No matter what you call these globe-trotting researchers (often pharmaceutical companies or entities hoping to attract the favorable attention of pharmaceutical companies), this is what their detractors say they do: 

  1. Go someplace that has flora or fauna with unusual or unknown characteristics.  In a lot of these places, the people who live there are poor.  Possibly, given more money, the locals would have already paved over the flora, killed off the fauna, and built modern roads, houses, and stores.  At least, when I visited the Peruvian Amazon a few years ago, that’s what a couple of the local folks I met said they’d prefer to do.
  2.  Ask local healers which plants or animal parts are medicinal, and for what, and exactly how to prepare them and how they work. 
  3. Go home with the collected knowledge and materials and lab-tweak them into a mass-producible, marketable, globally shippable product.
  4. Patent it and make a lot of money.
  5. Never pay the so-helpful locals one thin dime.

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