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GM food labeling will be complicated, but industry should support it
Eaten any cheese lately? It was probably made with genetic engineering. Anything with sugar in it? Good chance that was made with genetic engineering too. Anything with ingredients containing corn? Soy? Any pork? Chicken? Beef? Yup, somewhere along the food chain between the farm and your fork, biotechnology was probably used to produce a lot of what you eat. And none of those products were labeled. Should they be? And if so, how? It’s a stickier business than it first seems.
More than 15 years of study on this massive human exposure to genetically modified (GM) food has turned up ZERO evidence of harm to human health, according to every major national science panel that has reviewed all the research. But the folks opposed to genetic modification food deny that evidence, claim there is a risk (or at least that a lot remains unknown), and hope to kill off the whole technology by demanding that such foods be labeled.
Easy to say. Incredibly hard to do. Consider;
The list goes on. (Mother Jones has a decent summary here.) By some estimates 60 -70% of the foods we eat in the United States contain ingredients produced, somewhere along the line, with genetic engineering. But in most cases there’s no difference…down at the molecular and atomic level…in what we’re actually eating. A label might identify the difference to your brain but the rest of your body can’t tell.
So should it all be labeled…what some refer to as a ‘process-based’ standard…so that if biotechnology had anything to do with producing the food at any point, the label has to say so? That’s what the most adamant opponents of the entire idea of genetic engineering want.
Or should the standard be ‘content-based’…just label what’s in the box or bottle…what we actually eat? That’s what most governments require that have any rules on labeling at all.
But even that gets sticky. And honey is an example. The Europeans require labeling of any food that contains more than .9% GM ingredients. Bees produce honey that is, at most, .5% pollen. But, sensitive to GM opponents, the European government recently decided that pollen is a natural part of honey, not an ingredient, and so ALL honey produced by bees that may have fed on GM plants has to be labeled.
Food production is a complicated, messy system. Labeling is easy to call for, but hard to actually work out.
But the interesting thing about this whole labeling fuss is that it has practically nothing to do with the food itself; not with it’s safety, or it’s taste, or it’s quality. The details of what to label, and what the label should say, and whether to label in the first place, are really just skirmishes in the larger battle over genetic modification and biotechnology generally. Those supporting labeling make the appealing case that consumers should have a right to choose, but even a consumer who reads the labels (most of us don’t) and really studies the issue before buying that box of corn flakes (who’s going to do that!?) is still not going to have much of a clue what the label means.
Labeling proponents are GMO opponents, plain and simple. They hope the label will scare people away from the technology, and kill it, because they don’t like things that aren’t natural. They’d don’t like the products and processes that produce profits for big companies. They don’t like the technological tools that empower modern mass agriculture. These values are neither good nor bad, but they are values…feelings…the subjective emotions at the heart of this whole debate. And those deeply held values are not going to go away.
Which is why companies at all levels of the food production system – from the seed companies and the raw material processors to the retail product manufacturers and the food stores themselves - should support GM labeling and thereby defuse the whole distracting debate on which their opponents have staked their case. They should agree to open democratic discussion to establish honest labeling standards and language, beyond the half-hearted and self-serving proposal from the Grocery Manufacturers Association that is sure to go nowhere (The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act ). With a little courage and foresight, the food industry could begin to remove this costly impediment to the application of a body of knowledge that could make them lots of money, and do hundreds of millions of people a lot of good.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.