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Organic farming is less efficient and makes more CO2, why is it important?

Imagine a genetically engineered super-weed which no known herbicide can kill, now imagine it's used as a weapon.

Diversity is

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@kravietz
I think we're probably going to see it work this way, in our lifetimes...

@cjd No, I mean genetic doesn't work this way. There are cultured plants - either by selection, mutation breeding or CRISPR - and there are plants that evolved in the wild. The former just don't survive in the wild - not because of some engineered terminator genes, but because they are *not fit.* Potatoes or carrots don't really need these massive roots for themselves, it's *us* who need them, and when you leave them in the wild uncultivated they will regress to feral, or disappear completely.

@kravietz
I'm not talking about GMO with good intentions, you know my opinion is that it's dangerous but is a bridge we need to cross.

what I'm talking about is a military creating weaponized crabgrass.

@cjd

This topic has been discussed a lot, here's a good article:

phys.org/news/2017-08-crispr-b

There are threats which even though they have weapon potential are not used anyway.

There was tons of FUD from Greenpeace about terrorists blowing up nuclear power plant for decades. In reality the only person who ever did that was Green activist idiot, Chaim Nissim, who shot reactor in construction from an RPG to demonstrate the threat is real. He didn't even scratch it, and nobody ever repeated it.

@kravietz
So it's too expensive for terrorists (so far) and nation-state actors all agree never to do it.

Problem is, everybody agrees never to do everything, until the moment it has a chance to change the outcome of a war.

If there's a WW3 it's almost certain to be biological + cyber.

@cjd

Weapons need to be controllable to win wars, which is why nobody except for Russia and Syria routinely uses chemical weapons - and even that on a small scale.

Nobody uses biological weapons either, probably because they are even more uncontrollable. If you poison your own troops or civilians then you not only suffer losses but actually demoralize your own people.

And because nothing is genetics has sharp boundaries (ethnicity, gender etc) GMO makes a very poor candidate for bioweapon.

@kravietz
Our modern era has been unnaturally peaceful, but you only need to look back 100 years to find plenty of examples of Scorched Earth warfare. People will harm themselves if they think it will harm their enemy more.

@cjd We will see. But GMO food and bioweapons are just as orthogonal as VVR reactors and nuclear weapons so calling to ban foods just because it somehow facilitates production of weapons (and it doesn't) is a bit like calling to ban nuclear medicine so that nobody builds a bomb (and they will, anyway).

@kravietz
Ahh but I didn't, not in this thread :D

Like I said, GMO for good reasons is something we, as society, need to tame, but we need to do so carefully. Same for nuclear energy.

@kravietz
Now I understand you're located in Germany and there is a particular case here where Gazprom is using greenwashing to push Germany to reduce domestic power production which will lead to increased dependence on gas.

In this case I agree with you, a few nuclear reactors in a low-population area are far less dangerous than giving Putin money, but it's not the same solution to every problem.

@cjd

> low-population area

Actually, a coal power plant releases 100x more radioactive elements to the air than a nuclear power power plant. That's because coal contains radioactive elements which are released with fly ash, and it's burned in vast amounts.

Fun fact: this is record from a dosimeter that travelled with a group of students from Paris to defunct Fukushima plant:

I think @kravietz is missing your point.
AFAIK, @cjd claimed that "organic" plants are more resistant to bioweapons, because they aren't a monoculture, and because they're more adapted to the wild.

A GMO plant is fragile, so a bionegineered weed would have no problem killing it, while an "organically" farmed plant will be more resistant to the bioengineered weed, right?

@wolf480pl @kravietz
Nope, organic farmers deal with weeds by literally tilling them under. A herbicide resistant superweed is probably not going to be plow-resistant as well.

@wolf480pl @cjd

Note that "organic plants" are just the same domesticated plants as any other, they just are *planted* in a special way that involves use of some pesticides and herbicides perceived as "natural" but not others.

There's very little difference between say modern GM soyabean and "organic soyabean", the latter meaning an soyabean variety that has been derived using selection or mutation breeding.

Both of which are genetic engineering, just in more random way.

@kravietz @cjd
hmm.... can I order GMO seeds with 256 bits of randomness? So that they're not just all clones of each other...

@wolf480pl @cjd

Selection breeding is waiting for a random mutation with the trait you like - e.g. sweeter or larger plant. Then you reinforce the mutation by crossing it with other plants with similar features. Very slow.

Mutation breeding is artificially inducing random mutations with carcirogens or radiation. Out of 1000 irradiated seeds 900 don't sprout, out of the 100 that sprouted you get one with the trait you like, the rest goes to a bin. Much faster.

@wolf480pl @cjd

Both selection and mutation breeding are based on random mutations - some factor, like radiation, randomly breaks DNA in seed in hundreds of places, and one of them results in a mutation you like. You have no idea what the other changes did to the plan though.

This is how most modern varieties of cannabis are made by the way.

@wolf480pl @cjd

In CRISPR ("GMO") you know precisely which gene does what and you just modify those genes you need, for example to change color or sugar content or whatever. You don't touch other genes because you don't need to.

Also CRISPR is not the same thing as "cloning".

@kravietz @cjd
ok, but once you get the traits you want, do you let the organism reproduce through meiosos afterwards, or do you just make a bunch of copies with identical DNA?

@wolf480pl @cjd

They are just normal seeds that you can grow, collect news seeds, plant again and use selection breeding to modify them further.

There was a significant amount of shitstorm after Monsanto came up with an idea of making their plants infertile, and then Greenpeace simultaneously complained that Monsanto is preventing farmers from growing their seeds *and* that fertile plants will "contaminate nature".

All that is now in the past:

agfax.com/2014/12/03/arkansas-

@wolf480pl @cjd

Basically, if we resorted to programming analogies which everyone understands here - you have a program with a bug and you try these approaches:

* you shuffle the program code randomly, compile and test millions of times until the bug is fixed - this is mutation breeding

* you sit back and wait for a random bit flip in the code to bring you closer to the bugfix - this is selection breeding

* you debug program, find the bug and fix it using vim - this is CRISPR

@kravietz @cjd
ok.
After I fixed the bug, I want to introduce ASLR so that any exploits for yet-uncovered bug has only 1/2^256 chance of working on a particular instance of the program.

How do I do that in biology?

@wolf480pl @cjd

Natural selection is probably the most stringent functional testing you can imagine for a copy of DNA build.

Generally genetics is extremely interesting and inspiring topic - on one hand you have very effective error recovery and redundance in DNA, at the same time you have purposeful DNA recombination of inherited genetic material to ensure resilience against *future* change of external conditions.

How this even works never stops amazing me...

@kravietz @cjd
ok, but to take advantage of that you need to cross-breed your GM plants with other breeds of plants, and it'll take a few generations for them to become reasonably diverse, right?

@wolf480pl @cjd

But why would you want them to become diverse - this could only lead to them *losing* the traits you want? Once you got a variety you want, you just stick to it and breed the hell of it.

Monoculture is a separate problem - it certainly bad for environment if you cut 100 km2 of forest and plant only soya or wheat there. But it's just as harmful if you plant organic, Bt or whatever else variety, as long as it's single plant.

@kravietz @cjd
well, let's split traits into 3 categories:
a) those I want
b) those I do not want
c) those I don't care about / they don't seem to do anything

Any permutation of the traits (c) works equally well, right?
So why settle on one, if we could have multiple, to reduce the likelihood that a single bug will affect all my wheat instead of affecting every n-th plant?

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@wolf480pl @cjd

So here comes the concept of permaculture - which is not about leaving your wheat to mix with weeds (because you no longer have wheat), but about mixing sections of various plants in a clever way that helps both plants, and the wildlife and pollinators etc. But nothing prevents you from growing GMO plants in permaculture either.

@cjd @kravietz
IIRC even during the cold war, the USSR was seriously considering the use of tactical nukes to clear an area before their troops march into it.

@cjd

So the only party who *could* be theoretically interested in chemical of bio warfare, or dirty bombs, are terrorists because as the story goes they are just crazy and don't care for life.

But they don't and never did, except for one attack with sarin by Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo. There can be many reasons for that but in general terrorists do have clear friend-or-foe definition so an indiscriminate weapon with "global* potential isn't an option as it would hit their friends.

@cjd Diversity is good. “Organic” is a scam though. Look for heritage crops or local farming instead.

Imagine a genetically engineered super-weed which no known herbicide can kill, now imagine it’s used as a weapon.

We can barely even make sickly corn that resists one single herbicide. And the funny thing about biowarfare is it’s more of a threat to the attackers, who have to develop the damn stuff. Not saying people aren’t stupid enough to do it, but it’s not something anyone will ever do on purpose. And we can already breed super-weeds, by accident!. Genetic engineering isn’t qualitatively different from breeding, it’s just less likely to cause unfortunate side effects.

But uh… yeah we should be engineering diversity into our crops, and ourselves, not the other way around.

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