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Gene editing could be the next to be approved

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 Jungle_153 11 Jan 2021

Following on from the thread on Neonicatinoids. It looks like our government is continuing to pursue policies that could be potentially damaging to the economy...

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/gene-editing-creates-potential-to-protect-the-nations-environment-pollinators-and-wildlife

There is currently no way of differentiating between what has and hasn't been edited. This could leave the UK in the position where the EU may not allow the import of any of our produce as they will be unable to verify that it has not been edited.

I'm not sure how this sits with me. From an economic point of view it seems like suicide. However with an ever increasing population that needs feeding from a decreasing area of land (as more houses need building), the human race as a whole needs to look at safe and sustainable methods of food production. While also controlling pests and diseases in a way that reduces the harm on the environment to near zero.

Is this the way forward? Should we protect the economy and continue to research and present a case for the safe introduction of increasing food production? Or should we implement the policy and demonstrate that its safe and put pressure on other countries to change their stance?

My inner scientist has already answered the question, I think.

Let the hive mind discuss...

In reply to Jungle_153:

> There is currently no way of differentiating between what has and hasn't been edited. This could leave the UK in the position where the EU may not allow the import of any of our produce as they will be unable to verify that it has not been edited.

But one of the more sensible objections to GM used to be that using old technology you could see the join, with odd bits and pieces of adaptors or restriction sites or, much worse, antibiotic selection markers left in the genome.

GE and, even better in some ways, base editing, allow exact and minimal changes to be made without the risk of some other subtle unintended change.

Of course, individual proposals need to be reviewed carefully, for sure it might be possible to do undesirable things, but objecting to the technology per se is irrational.

Post edited at 22:24
 hang_about 11 Jan 2021
In reply to Jungle_153:

You can tell if a crop has been gene edited by sequencing it's genome. Conventional mutation as used in traditional plant breeding will lead to lots of mutations across the genome. They are hard to get rid of as you get nearer to the mutation you want because the recombination frequency is low. Gene edited plants won't have this excess mutational baggage, just the mutation that governs the trait you want. Of course, the traditional approach with lots of random mutations is considered safe, whereas the precise approach is regulated much more tightly as there are 'unknown risks'. Not defending the tech, but the rules are crazy.

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Jungle_153:

> Following on from the thread on Neonicatinoids. It looks like our government is continuing to pursue policies that could be potentially damaging to the economy...

> There is currently no way of differentiating between what has and hasn't been edited. This could leave the UK in the position where the EU may not allow the import of any of our produce as they will be unable to verify that it has not been edited.

> I'm not sure how this sits with me. From an economic point of view it seems like suicide. However with an ever increasing population that needs feeding from a decreasing area of land (as more houses need building), the human race as a whole needs to look at safe and sustainable methods of food production. While also controlling pests and diseases in a way that reduces the harm on the environment to near zero.

A third of the food we produce is wasted. And half of the calories we produce are not eaten by humans but by livestock.

You can solve all of that by using well known food preservation techniques and switching the population to a mostly vegetarian diet. No need for over complex gene edited crops.

Which BTW is pretty much what humanity has been doing for millennia, except for the last 100 years.

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to hang_about:

> You can tell if a crop has been gene edited by sequencing it's genome. Conventional mutation as used in traditional plant breeding will lead to lots of mutations across the genome. They are hard to get rid of as you get nearer to the mutation you want because the recombination frequency is low. Gene edited plants won't have this excess mutational baggage, just the mutation that governs the trait you want. Of course, the traditional approach with lots of random mutations is considered safe, whereas the precise approach is regulated much more tightly as there are 'unknown risks'. Not defending the tech, but the rules are crazy.

Selective breeding has been done safely for thousands of years. It is a slow, localised, incremental process, with a long track record of being mostly safe and successful.

GMOs, in the other hand, have the potential to introduce a mutation very rapidly, on a global scale.  The risk may be small but the potential harm is global.

You can't compare these risks the way you do, they are in different classes.
 

Post edited at 10:49
 mark20 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Jungle_153:

I heard a good discussion about GM crops on R4 recently https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000mbpp

 cb294 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Jungle_153:

The usual applies, same as with the old transgenic crops: It is generally less the gene manipulation, but the concomitant industrialization of agriculture that does the damage to the environment.

CB

 cb294 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

> You can't compare these risks the way you do, they are in different classes.

On the other hand, you only gene edit if you understand the mechanism you want to influence beforehand, so risk is much easier to predict.

CB

 hang_about 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

Food is not inherently safe. If we breed celery we need to be careful about psoralens- pickers came out in blisters with one conventional variety. Same with potatoes. Breeders test solanine levels haven't inadvertently gone up. There's lots of reasons to be anti gm with increased industrialisation, IP rights etc, but inherent increased dangers of crops made using gene editing is not one of them.

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to cb294:

> On the other hand, you only gene edit if you understand the mechanism you want to influence beforehand, so risk is much easier to predict.

It might be (although the law of unintended consequences apply here) but that isn't the point.

The point is that breeding though natural selection has been done for thousands of year, at a slow pace. We know it's not perfect but it stood the test of time. GMOs have not.

Post edited at 13:05
 hang_about 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

By definition something that is new can't have stood the test of time. In the 60s the Green Revolution undoubtedly saved millions of lives but at great environmental cost. Prior to that the only significant increase in yield occurred with the introduction of F1 hybrids. We need to improve our crops in a sustainable way as the environment is changing and pests evolve. In my opinion we should use the most appropriate tools to do this.

If you look at conventional plant breeding it is less safe than crispr-cas gene editing. That's the point I'm making. 

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to hang_about:

> By definition something that is new can't have stood the test of time. In the 60s the Green Revolution undoubtedly saved millions of lives but at great environmental cost. Prior to that the only significant increase in yield occurred with the introduction of F1 hybrids.
We need to improve our crops in a sustainable way as the environment is changing and pests evolve. In my opinion we should use the most appropriate tools to do this.

You don’t need to improve crops drastically. You need to solve the food waste problem (30% of the worlds food production is wasted) and switch the population to a mostly vegetarian diet.

> If you look at conventional plant breeding it is less safe than crispr-cas gene editing. That's the point I'm making. 

You simply do not know that because it hasn’t been around long enough.

 hang_about 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

Yes - food waste and inequalities, meat eating etc are the main issue

...but saying that mutating a single base pair out of several hundred million is unsafe when we consider mutating that same base pair and several thousand unknown ones at the same time is inherently safe is simply wrong. We do know - time is not the issue - it's the basic biology and that's been around for billions of years. Gene sequencing allows us to look and see what has been changed with 100% confidence and accuracy.

There's an argument that knowledge is dangerous - look at what happened with the 'Tree of Knowledge'. 

OK - I'm going to stop now

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to hang_about:

> Yes - food waste and inequalities, meat eating etc are the main issue

> ...but saying that mutating a single base pair out of several hundred million is unsafe when we consider mutating that same base pair and several thousand unknown ones at the same time is inherently safe is simply wrong. 

One has been done for thousands of years, the other is new.

> We do know - time is not the issue - it's the basic biology and that's been around for billions of years. Gene sequencing allows us to look and see what has been changed with 100% confidence and accuracy.

You might know exactly what has changed but that’s not really helpful if you can’t predict in advance ecosystem impact an unexpected  hazardous synergies with the environment

Yes, random - and potentially hazardous - mutation happen all the time completely naturally, however they aren’t distributed across the globe in a matter of years.

> There's an argument that knowledge is dangerous

But in this case, it’s the lack of knowledge which is dangerous.

 jimtitt 12 Jan 2021

In reply to

> Yes, random - and potentially hazardous - mutation happen all the time completely naturally, however they aren’t distributed across the globe in a matter of years.

You haven't heard of Covid 19 then?

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to jimtitt:

> In reply to

> You haven't heard of Covid 19 then?

Last time I checked a potato doesn’t pass from person to person in an exponential fashion like a virus can...

But it does accidentally raise the  correct point of local risk vs global risk.

 TonyB 12 Jan 2021

> You don’t need to improve crops drastically. 

I think this is wrong. Global food security is a major concern for the future, and the changing climate will have a major impact in the way in which food grows. We are going to see increasing environmental events that result in massive losses to yield.  I would argue that the need to improve yield stability is greater now than it ever has been. 

Since 2009 the UN has said that food production must double by 2050 to meet the demands from a growing population in which 1 billion are already hungry. I fully acknowledge solutions such as changing diets and minimising waste are important, but crop improvements can and will play a vital role too, especially in terms of resistance to environmental and pathogen stresses.

 jimtitt 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

But Phytophthoera infestans passed from potato to potato and killed a million people in Ireland.........

 Punter_Pro 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

> But in this case, it’s the lack of knowledge which is dangerous.

You say that but you keep mixing Gene Editing and GMO, they are not the same thing.

> You don’t need to improve crops drastically. You need to solve the food waste problem (30% of the worlds food production is wasted) and switch the population to a mostly vegetarian diet.

It is not as simple as just reducing food waste down by 30% though is it? Your proposed solution is to move everyone onto a mostly vegetarian diet which puts more burden on growers, requiring an increase in production and more land use.

Growers are already working ridiculous hours and struggling to meet demand as it is due to loss of pesticide actives, adverse weather and climate change, increased production costs, lack of reliable labour supply, crops only being able to be grown in certain parts of the country due to marginal land, lack of available water and crop requirements etc etc.

This is before you take into account annual population growth and that a large number of the global population are already malnourished and hungry. The estimated population growth by 2050 far outweighs your proposed 30% food reduction, if that can even be fully achieved. 

Food waste needs reducing I agree but the issues the industry faces goes a lot deeper than just that. Gene editing would solve some of those problems.

Post edited at 18:18
 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Punter_Pro:

> You say that but you keep mixing Gene Editing and GMO, they are not the same thing.

I am not mixing anything, we have not specified what we considered to be GMOs, but that wasn’t the point.

Whether we are introducing a foreign gene or editing these techniques are relatively novel, and haven’t stood the trial of time.

> You don’t need to improve crops drastically. You need to solve the food waste problem (30% of the worlds food production is wasted) and switch the population to a mostly vegetarian diet.

> It is not as simple as just reducing food waste down by 30% though is it? Your proposed solution is to move everyone onto a mostly vegetarian diet which puts more burden on growers, requiring an increase in production and more land use.

About 50% of the agricultural land use is to grow food for livestock. Appreciate they may not be the same crops but how you get to increase land use by moving to a mostly vegetarian diet is beyond me I admit.

> Growers are already working ridiculous hours and struggling to meet demand as it is due to loss of pesticide actives, adverse weather and climate change, increased production costs, lack of reliable labour supply, crops only being able to be grown in certain parts of the country due to marginal land, lack of available water and crop requirements etc etc.

> This is before you take into account annual population growth and that a large number of the global population are already malnourished and hungry.

And a large part is eating far too many calories.

> The estimated population growth by 2050 far outweighs your proposed 30% food reduction, if that can even be fully achieved. 

Completely wrong on the basic facts.
The population is projected to grow by about 30% by 2050, so in fact, if you were to eliminate waste only you’d get there.
Switching to vegetarian gives you easily another 40%.
With other improvements to farming technique, vertical farming etc etc you can easily get another 20%.


So in fact, we’ve got plenty of margin. We have a distribution problem, rather than a productivity problem.

Post edited at 18:43
 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to jimtitt:

> But Phytophthoera infestans passed from potato to potato and killed a million people in Ireland.........

Another example which highlight the danger of scale and lack of genetic variability.

Post edited at 18:48
 TonyB 12 Jan 2021

I have to admit I'm not neutral in this. I work in an academic research group working on plant genetics. 

I find the lack of urgency in improving crops deeply concerning primarily because this and climate change will likely be the two biggest global issues this century. We cannot consider future agriculture without considering it in the context of climate change. The both productivity and resilience of crops in a changing environment is going to become increasingly relevant. The tragedy is that the areas that are most at risk from climate change are already ones in which food insecurity is highest, and are areas in which population growth is rising fastest - e.g. sub Saharan Africa. The consequence of increasing population without increased food production is frightening.

Earlier suggestions of reducing waste, and reducing the amount of animal products we eat are very important. We can all do this now. We should do this now. But I would expect there to be near unanimity in the scientific community that this is not going to be enough, especially in context of increasing economic development in much of the world. Whilst increase in economic development is an excellent thing, it comes with an inevitable shift from plant to animal based diets. We see this in many countries.

We have a variety of technologies that we can use to improve productivity, crop resilience and nutrition. Some will involve genetic approaches, others will not. I think it's vital that we start these conversations about how these are used and how they are legislated. On almost every issue, I'm very pro-EU, but many of their agricultural policies are protectionist. I think a more evidence-led debate about gene editing in crops would be hugely beneficial for society, as well as an understanding of the global challenges that agriculture faces. 

As a scientific community we haven't done a good job of promoting how genetic technologies can be a force for good. Many of the arguments that I hear against GM are valid concerns and should be addressed. But mostly they are not against the technology per se, but against the globalisation of agricultural practises and the dominance of a few AgriTech giants. 

 TonyB 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30 and JimTitt:

Your comments about Phytophthoera infestans the potato famine in Ireland and lack of genetic variability are really important, and could frame a debate around gene editing perfectly.

Changes in pathogens is an enormous threat to agriculture. In this example, engineering blight resistant potatoes would be a feasible solution. Environmentally, it may be preferable to spraying the crops with fungicides. 

Your comment about the need for genetic diversity is really important. We absolutely need to preserve germplasm and wild relatives of crop plants. These will always be a crucial source for genetic variability. However, I don't see that the lack of genetic diversity is an argument against GM/gene editing. It is an argument against large companies providing near monopolies on seeds. I think a longer term view of gene editing could allow similar edits to be made in many local varieties with crop design being bespoke for particular environments.

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to TonyB:

> Earlier suggestions of reducing waste, and reducing the amount of animal products we eat are very important. We can all do this now. We should do this now. But I would expect there to be near unanimity in the scientific community that this is not going to be enough, especially in context of increasing economic development in much of the world. Whilst increase in economic development is an excellent thing, it comes with an inevitable shift from plant to animal based diets. We see this in many countries.

There is nothing inevitable about it. People have eaten meat only occasionally for most of history. And for most of human history food waste has been very low.

> As a scientific community we haven't done a good job of promoting how genetic technologies can be a force for good. 

I think we all here understand, at least at a high level, the benefits of genetic technology.

What not everybody understand is risk. And the application of GMO falls squarely under the precautionary principle.

 Bilberry 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

> Whether we are introducing a foreign gene or editing these techniques are relatively novel, and haven’t stood the trial of time.

Editing genes has been done for centuries; the technique for achieving it has changed.

Gene editing and plant breeding deliver identical outputs; but one does it fast.  It's a highly specific means of choosing the entirely naturally occuring variants that you want.

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to Bilberry:

> Editing genes has been done for centuries; the technique for achieving it has changed.

This is my point. We have one technique that's been tried and tested for centuries, and one technique that is completely new.

> Gene editing and plant breeding deliver identical outputs; but one does it fast. 

First of all that is wrong AFAIK, traditional breeding introduces many other mutations other than the specific one you want. 
Moreover, the viability and qualities of offspring from the mating of two members of the same species implies the range of outcomes of breeding is bounded.
Offspring that arise within a species must have high probability of long term compatibility with other members of the species and their broader environment. Otherwise the species and the ecosystem of which it is part would not have persisted over many generations.

That is not the case with gene editing. Indeed, the whole point of gene editing is to be able to depart significantly from the set of organisms that can arise through breeding, and do it fast.

The speed is also one of the issue, what used to be a relatively slow process of selection and distribution over the world through trial and error,  can now by bypassed entirely with a specific mutation being introduced all over the world in a very short time.

> It's a highly specific means of choosing the entirely naturally occurring variants that you want.

The ability to be specific about which gene to select does not give you the ability to predict feedback loops and synergies with the ecosystem.

As an example, if we were to identify and have the ability to modify precisely a very naturally occurring gene that increases intelligence, shall we go ahead and introduce it on every new human in a short period of time ? 
I'd say that we would have simply have no idea what the potential consequences would be - biological, sociological, political, economic... and we should apply the principle of precaution.

As a general rule complex systems that we do not understand are much better changed through slow tinkering and trial and error than through top-down engineering.

Post edited at 22:37
In reply to Alyson30:

> This is my point. We have one technique that's been tried and tested for centuries, and one technique that is completely new.

Bit like mRNA vaccines compared to conventional ones then?
Though I assume that you wouldn't kick up a fuss if you were offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine...  

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to FactorXXX:

> Bit like mRNA vaccines compared to conventional ones then?

But with vaccines with can test with rigorous clinical trials, we have many humans we can test them on, you can use the law of large numbers to make sure it is safe (or at least, is not as much of a risk as the disease).

That is not possible with our planet, we have only one.

Not that the risk profile of vaccine isn't the same a the individual level than at the societal level. An interesting property I thought.

Post edited at 23:09
In reply to Alyson30:

> But with vaccines with can test with rigorous clinical trials, we have many humans we can test them on, you can use the law of large numbers to make sure it is safe (or at least, not as bad as the virus)

You can do the same with Gene Editing and without the enforced time constraints dictated by Covid-19.

> That is not possible with our planet, we have only one.

There is only one human race and by your logic, if a mistake is made with the mRNA vaccine then it's wiped out.

 Alyson30 12 Jan 2021
In reply to FactorXXX:

> You can do the same with Gene Editing and without the enforced time constraints dictated by Covid-19.


I don't see how, not without sacrificing what is actually beneficial from those techniques.

> There is only one human race and by your logic, if a mistake is made with the mRNA vaccine then it's wiped out.

Provided you do clinical trial, the potential harm of vaccine is effectively bounded to your non-placebo trial group. 


I think the key here is that vaccines are unbounded in risk at the individual level, but are bounded in risk at the societal level - thanks to clinical trial.

So even though you may not be sure that a few people are not going to have an extreme reaction to the vaccine, you can be quite sure it's not going kill of humanity.
 

Post edited at 23:38
 SenzuBean 12 Jan 2021
In reply to jimtitt:

> But Phytophthoera infestans passed from potato to potato and killed a million people in Ireland.........

The reason those people died was English hegemony and cruelty. Ireland was exporting over a million litres of butter per year during the height of the famine, and all sorts of other important foods (including exporting potatoes)

This fits in with a greater theme, just as relevent today - that the real solutions to famines are social change in Western countries - not minor tweaks to crops. We should be growing our own food, and not using third world countries as bread baskets.

Post edited at 00:00
 Bilberry 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

> First of all that is wrong AFAIK, traditional breeding introduces many other mutations other than the specific one you want. 

Initially...but then you back cross and could keep doing so until you have only the bit you want.

If I gave you a bred version and an edited version you would not be able to say with certainty which is which.

And the edits are *pre-existing* versions of the gene - so the issues of "boundedness" don't arise; it's just rapid selection for an allele

Can you tell which part of this message I edited?

Post edited at 11:46
 Alyson30 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Bilberry:

> Initially...but then you back cross and could keep doing so until you have only the bit you want.

> If I gave you a bred version and an edited version you would not be able to say with certainty which is which.

Absolutely, there would be no way to say, between an edited version and a bred version with the same specific mutation, which one has been achieved through breeding and which one through editing.

However, they still would be overall different.

The fact that we can’t tell which one has acquired the mutation through breeding and which one has acquired it through editing is simply the result of our ignorance.

You can’t change just what you want through breeding, it introduces many other mutations, whilst with editing you can be specific - but nature isn’t.

> And the edits are *pre-existing* versions of the gene - so the issues of "boundedness" don't arise; it's just rapid selection for an allele

Yes, again I know the edit may be a pre-existing version , but again, we are talking about offsprings - not a specific mutation.

Your point would be valid if each specific gene interacted with its environment  completely independently of any other,  which is clearly not the case.

In fact, the very reason we do gene editing is indeed to bypass the boundedness of breeding.

Say for example, you discovered a useful gene is a wild variety of wheat, and wanted to introduce it in a high yield variety, if you were to use breeding you would most likely destroy the carefully selected combination of genes in the high yield line.

Post edited at 12:26
 TonyB 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

> There is nothing inevitable about it. People have eaten meat only occasionally for most of history. And for most of human history food waste has been very low.

I feel like I've gone off topic a little bit. Sorry to the OP. But I wanted to comment on what I meant by considering global agriculture in context of increased consumption of animal proteins. Perhaps "inevitable" was the wrong word, but the more I think increased global consumption of animal protein within the next 30 years is inevitable.  I agree with many of your sentiments. Our current agricultural practices around producing animal proteins are massively unsustainable. In the UK we eat too many animal products and should reduce significantly. And we do need radical solutions.

However, the current global trend is towards eating more animal protein as countries industrialise. This UN report talks about sustainable livestock in Kenya. It predicts large increases in animal protein consumption as the population becomes increasingly urbanised and affluent.

http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7348e.pdf

This is forecast to happen all over the world. I think a key question is how we deal with global food production. It's not my area, but I understand the UN is more towards promoting sustainable livestock production. Here, things like aquaculture, along with alternative non-soy animal feeds can make huge contributions. This is possibly more in tune with economic development for these regions. I suspect that these increases in other parts of the world would offset any decreases we see in consumption of animal protein in Europe/Americas. I think it's fair to say the current trajectory is certainly towards increased consumption of animal protein, and I can't see where the global leadership is to prevent this on a global scale. That being said, in the UK we can and should reduce our consumption of animal proteins.

 TonyB 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

I also wanted to come back to your comments about gene editing. 

Firstly, I think we would all absolutely agree that there needs to be legislation that controls what editing can be done, and a system for approval for new crops. This approval system needs to be based on a system of trials. People have concerns about any genetic technology and there needs to be transparency in this process. As you point out it is essential to have clinical trials for vaccines, it is also essential to have procedure in plants for new crops.

I cannot understand your argument about why a series of random mutantions is preferable to a single targeted mutation. Most of the edits that we are talking about are a few basepairs and very similar to what could occur naturally. To me this seems much more predictable.

I would suggest that there should and would be "bounds" in place to what people can do. I imagine that a solution in which you had one licensing process for edited plants and another for GMO plants would be highly appropriate. The procedure for edited plants could determine the bounds to allow only for gene deletions or certain types of edits, with the complete removal of any foreign material. This is explained somewhat within the initial link, but as it is a call for consultation I imagine that what the "bounds" are would be more precisely determined. 

 Alyson30 13 Jan 2021
In reply to TonyB:

> I cannot understand your argument about why a series of random mutations is preferable to a single targeted mutation. Most of the edits that we are talking about are a few base pairs and very similar to what could occur naturally. To me this seems much more predictable.


Yes, I know, and I agree that the edits could be similar or identical to naturally occurring mutations.
However that has no bearing on my point.

Through breeding, those naturally occurring mutation would happen along many other ones in the offspring, or would happen only in exclusion of others (for example in the case of two lines that simply don't breed).


By necessity, offspring within a species must have high probability of long term compatibility with other members of the species and their broader environment. Otherwise the species and the ecosystem of which it is part would not have persisted over many generations.

In other words, there has to be some evolved bound in what the natural evolutionary mechanism of the species can do, in order to not produce an outcome that ends the species or compromises its environment beyond a point of no return.
 

The whole point of using gene editing over breeding is to bypass those bounds.

So for example even if my low-yielding wild species of wheat has a mutation that gives it resistance to a particular virus can't breed with my high-yielding line of wheat; or can do so, but only in a way that destroys the carefully selected combination of genes in the high yield line, I can still introduce that mutation with gene editing, and do it very quickly.
Thus "bypassing" the limitations of breeding.

However, you can't predict in advance whether this specific combination doesn't have a potential negative synergistic effect with the environment or the species. Even if you understand and control perfectly the mutation you are introducing.

Even if that specific combination happened totally by chance in nature, it would be a very localised occurrence, instead of being distributed widely in all corners of the globe in record time.
 

I hope it's clear, because I have really ran out of ways to explain this I think !

Post edited at 13:51

In say 50 years, could you just gene edit backwards to the characteristics that you started with today?

 hang_about 13 Jan 2021
In reply to Alyson30:

Back from analysing (not editing!) genomes....

Through breeding, those naturally occurring mutation would happen along many other ones in the offspring, or would happen only in exclusion of others (for example in the case of two lines that simply don't breed).

No. There's different techniques used in plant breeding. Mutagenesis is one of them. Mutations are induced using radiation or chemicals sometimes to very high levels (look up TILLING). The mutation will only occur in one copy of the DNA strand, so you either make a haploid and double up, or self fertilise and select the offspring which are homozygous for the mutation you want. This is not remotely natural but has been done for decades. You then back-cross this mutant with the parent line to get rid of most of the unwanted mutations - either sequencing or using other genetic markers as you go. Five back crosses and you're generally good to go - but this takes time and you have unforeseen mutations in the genome with unknown effects.

By necessity, offspring within a species must have high probability of long term compatibility with other members of the species and their broader environment. Otherwise the species and the ecosystem of which it is part would not have persisted over many generations.

In nature yes - in agriculture no. Maize would not exist without human intervention for one generation. That's been true for a thousand or more years.

In other words, there has to be some evolved bound in what the natural evolutionary mechanism of the species can do, in order to not produce an outcome that ends the species or compromises its environment beyond a point of no return

No - organisms with deleterious mutations will not survive. Species which evolve to a point where they are no longer viable also go extinct (see the Irish Elk for a classic example). These ar evolutinary traps and are part of the evolutionary process. There is no 'intent' or 'forward look' in evolution - but there can be in human agriculture.

The whole point of using gene editing over breeding is to bypass those bounds.

No - we can already do this using approaches such as TILLING, but it's slow and ineffective

So for example even if my low-yielding wild species of wheat has a mutation that gives it resistance to a particular virus can't breed with my high-yielding line of wheat; or can do so, but only in a way that destroys the carefully selected combination of genes in the high yield line, I can still introduce that mutation with gene editing, and do it very quickly. Thus "bypassing" the limitations of breeding.

No - we can do this with conventional breeding as described above, but slower.

However, you can't predict in advance whether this specific combination doesn't have a potential negative synergistic effect with the environment or the species. Even if you understand and control perfectly the mutation you are introducing.

Yes (hooray!) - but we can never be sure. We can be sure that a gene edited plant is safer than a conventional plant produced by mutagenesis. We can test performance within the variety (and measure all of the risks associated with that plant e.g. solanine in potatoes). 

Even if that specific combination happened totally by chance in nature, it would be a very localised occurrence, instead of being distributed widely in all corners of the globe in record time.

But that's not what we are talking about - it's conventional breeding vs gene editing in the context of agriculture. The latter is a subset of what can be done by conventional approaches - it just speeds that bit up.

Sorry to keep banging on about this, but modern plant breeding is hugely sophisticated (some of the maize geneticists I know are frighteningly bright). Gene editing is just another tool in a huge toolbox. If you look at the evolution of the maize genome and its islands of genes amongst a sea of overlapping transposons, this 'slow and steady' view of plant evolution bears no relationship to what is actually happening. 

 Alyson30 13 Jan 2021
In reply to hang_about:

> Back from analysing (not editing!) genomes....

> Through breeding, those naturally occurring mutation would happen along many other ones in the offspring, or would happen only in exclusion of others (for example in the case of two lines that simply don't breed).

> No. There's different techniques used in plant breeding. Mutagenesis is one of them. Mutations are induced using radiation or chemicals sometimes to very high levels (look up TILLING). The mutation will only occur in one copy of the DNA strand, so you either make a haploid and double up, or self fertilise and select the offspring which are homozygous for the mutation you want. This is not remotely natural but has been done for decades. 

All you are doing is to refer to another - less efficient  method to induce mutation which would be incredibly difficult to obtain otherwise through breeding.

This does not address my point - you are just distracting with something else.

> By necessity, offspring within a species must have high probability of long term compatibility with other members of the species and their broader environment. Otherwise the species and the ecosystem of which it is part would not have persisted over many generations.

> In nature yes - in agriculture no.

Glad you agree with the first part at this is the crucial bit.,
But since when agriculture isn't part of nature ? Our crops aren't in a closed ecosystem.

> Maize would not exist without human intervention for one generation. That's been true for a thousand or more years.

Again, who said otherwise ?

> In other words, there has to be some evolved bound in what the natural evolutionary mechanism of the species can do, in order to not produce an outcome that ends the species or compromises its environment beyond a point of no return

> No - organisms with deleterious mutations will not survive. Species which evolve to a point where they are no longer viable also go extinct (see the Irish Elk for a classic example). These ar evolutinary traps and are part of the evolutionary process.

Yes, that is what I've said.

> There is no 'intent' or 'forward look' in evolution -

You haven't understood what I've said. Nobody said it's "forward looking", I have said it favours staying within a certain certain boundary. 


Think of it as a tree of possible paths of species/environments in n-dimensional space.
In that space you have absorbing barriers - no go zone - if you cross into them, large parts of the tree are taken out of the pool.

For a species/environment to have existed for a long time, it has to evolve in such a way that the probability to cross this absorbing barrier is low.
This isn't forward looking, it is acquired by selection. It is a statistical imperative, a condition for existence for any species is that when it reproduces, the chances that it produces and offspring that ends up killing its own species and its environment has to be low.

> The whole point of using gene editing over breeding is to bypass those bounds.

> No - we can already do this using approaches such as TILLING, but it's slow and ineffective

That is just another method to bypass those bounds. Just slower. 

> So for example even if my low-yielding wild species of wheat has a mutation that gives it resistance to a particular virus can't breed with my high-yielding line of wheat; or can do so, but only in a way that destroys the carefully selected combination of genes in the high yield line, I can still introduce that mutation with gene editing, and do it very quickly. Thus "bypassing" the limitations of breeding.

> No - we can do this with conventional breeding as described above, but slower.

You keep saying "No" and then confirm exactly what I've said. Do you even read what I wrote ? 

> However, you can't predict in advance whether this specific combination doesn't have a potential negative synergistic effect with the environment or the species. Even if you understand and control perfectly the mutation you are introducing.

> Yes (hooray!) - but we can never be sure.

> We can be sure that a gene edited plant is safer than a conventional plant produced by mutagenesis.
> We can test performance within the variety (and measure all of the risks associated with that plant e.g. solanine in potatoes). 

That is simply false to say that. You can't know in advance what a particular combination of gene that is widely distributed of the world in record time will do. There are too many unpredictable feedback loops.
 

> But that's not what we are talking about - it's conventional breeding vs gene editing in the context of agriculture. The latter is a subset of what can be done by conventional approaches - it just speeds that bit up.

It speeds it up so much so that it is the difference between it being practical and impossible in a short time frame.


> Sorry to keep banging on about this, but modern plant breeding is hugely sophisticated (some of the maize geneticists I know are frighteningly bright). Gene editing is just another tool in a huge toolbox. If you look at the evolution of the maize genome and its islands of genes amongst a sea of overlapping transposons, this 'slow and steady' view of plant evolution bears no relationship to what is actually happening. 

Nobody said otherwise.

I am grateful for all the good knowledge you are adding but it doesn't seem to really address the points I have made.

Post edited at 21:08
 Mike505 13:36 Thu
In reply to Alyson30:

So just to clarify, if we know what mutation we need within a plant and we use selective breeding to achieve it, thats ok. It may take years but hey-ho.

However, you believe achieving the exact same mutation through genetic editing is way riskier?

Can you please explain why and where possible provide evidence? I'm refering specifically to GE not GMO.

In reply to Alyson30:

> The population is projected to grow by about 30% by 2050, so in fact, if you were to eliminate waste only you’d get there.  <

IMHO population is a huge, often ignored, part of the problem. We don't just need to stabilize population we need to reduce it. Few people including politicians dare to emphasize this as they are afraid of upsetting friends with large families, some religions etc.

I'm probably being very simplistic but surely more people = more food, cars etc needed = more environmental damage.

 Alyson30 14:51 Thu
In reply to oldie:

> IMHO population is a huge, often ignored, part of the problem. We don't just need to stabilize population we need to reduce it.

The thing to understand with population growth is that it has inertia. We already have stopped the “engine” of population growth but the car will still go some way just on inertia.

But it is stopping.

 Alyson30 15:02 Thu
In reply to Mike505:

> So just to clarify, if we know what mutation we need within a plant and we use selective breeding to achieve it, thats ok. It may take years but hey-ho

> However, you believe achieving the exact same mutation through genetic editing is way riskier?

No, that is entirely missing my point.
I have explained it in 5 different ways already, maybe I am just bad at it, but I would suggest you re-read carefully and then come back.

Post edited at 15:03
 cb294 16:10 Thu
In reply to hang_about:

Maize genome is something for masochists only, same as TILLING: I remember going home to my battery drill after the lab grinder died to grind up 5000 founder flies for a Drosophila TILLING library, only to have not one single hit in my gene of interest while the other postdocs who were roped into that effort got dozens. Every good deed is punished right away!

Anyway, does anybody still use TILLING instead of Crispr/Cas9? If so I can only assume that commercial  breeders still want to stay clear of the IP issues with the latter! In academic developmental genetics, TILLING is even deader than TALENs and Zf nucleases.

Anyway, the obvioulsy best way to get "natural " new mutants for breeding is to stick them to the outside of some spacecraft and expose them to cosmic radiation, which is 100% natural and therefore of course much safer than X-rays in the lab*.

CB

* This idiotic PR stunt was definitely pulled for brewing yeast a while back, and I seem to remember also for plant seeds, but there I am less sure.

 cb294 16:11 Thu
In reply to Alyson30:

> I have explained it in 5 different ways already, maybe I am just bad at it, but I would suggest you re-read carefully and then come back.

I think you made your point clearly, it just happens to be wrong!

CB

 Alyson30 17:41 Thu
In reply to cb294:

> Anyway, the obvioulsy best way to get "natural " new mutants for breeding is to stick them to the outside of some spacecraft and expose them to cosmic radiation, which is 100% natural and therefore of course much safer than X-rays in the lab*.

You refers to this as a “natural” process but nobody is saying GE is risky because it is not “natural”.
This isn’t some hippy argument, I don’t care if it is natural it not natural, it is about probability.

Yes, a plant could achieve a potentially harmful mutation (to the species and its environment) just by sitting next to a radioactive rock, or just by pure luck through breeding.

But this isn’t going to happen for the exact same mutation, millions of times, at the same time, all across the world.

Post edited at 17:58
 Alyson30 17:42 Thu
In reply to cb294:

> I think you made your point clearly, it just happens to be wrong!

No, because your answers make it clear to me that you haven’t got my point. (Or that you have wilfully ignored it)

You seem to have total tunnel vision on the biology, but this isn’t a biology problem it’s a complex system / probability / risk problem. The argument I am making is valid in many other domains.

I feel a bit like I am taking to a very talented carpenter/woodworker who knows everything there is to know about making roulettes, but every time I try to explain the risks at betting at roulette, his answer is “wrong, my roulettes are the best, with the best kind of wood and better than the last generation of roulettes”.

We’re talking at cross purpose.

Post edited at 18:01
In reply to Alyson30:

>Re:  IMHO population is a huge, often ignored, part of the problem. We don't just need to stabilize population we need to reduce it. <

> The thing to understand with population growth is that it has inertia. We already have stopped the “engine” of population growth but the car will still go some way just on inertia. But it is stopping. <

One might say much the same about eg climate change but surely one doesn't just say there's inertia.....it needs continual action. IMHO nobody is at present pushing the population factor which itself is a (the?) major driver of demand for food, pollution etc.

 Alyson30 18:15 Thu
In reply to oldie:

> >Re:  IMHO population is a huge, often ignored, part of the problem. We don't just need to stabilize population we need to reduce it. <

> One might say much the same about eg climate change but surely one doesn't just say there's inertia.....it needs continual action. IMHO nobody is at present pushing the population factor which itself is a (the?) major driver of demand for food, pollution etc.

You are not getting my point here, there is inertia because even if the reproductive rates are broadly under control, because a large proportion of the population enters reproductive years, the population will keep growing until that cohort exits.

It’s like a tanker full of oil, even if you stop the engine dead it will keep going further for a long time. 
In the case of population growth, we already have stopped the engine pretty much, at a global elve. 
It will just take a long time before the impact is seen.

Post edited at 18:31
 hang_about 18:39 Thu
In reply to cb294:

I've seen some groups use TILLING - but it was always a way to avoid GM rather than a method of choice (unless you wanted to saturation mutagenise a gene). Those places that had an in-house TILLING factory tended to embrace it - for one-off users I think it was simply too much work. Hadn't heard about the yeast in space! I wonder what it's carbon footprint would be.....

Everyone seems to have gone Crispr/Cas for lab work at the moment - I'm a bit long in the tooth for that and my model systems are either easily transformable with lots of existing mutants or untransformable and a right pain..... Biotrophic pathogens are a pain.

I like to work with good maize geneticists - wouldn't want to be one though!

In reply to Alyson30:

> You are not getting my point here, there is inertia because even if the reproductive rates are broadly under control, because a large proportion of the population enters reproductive years, the population will keep growing until that cohort exits.......... It will just take a long time before the impact is seen. <

I'm sure you know more about population trends than me. However are you saying that population growth couldn't be decreased even further with more pressure in the same way people are applying more pressure for other changes such as CO2 reduction, and alteration in food patterns? Further population reduction should result in an associated reduction in those things too. Ultimately surely overpopulation is the cause of the other problems.

 Alyson30 20:30 Thu
In reply to oldie:

> I'm sure you know more about population trends than me. However are you saying that population growth couldn't be decreased even further with more pressure in the same way people are applying more pressure for other changes such as CO2 reduction, and alteration in food patterns?

No, what I am saying is that most of the population growth that we will have in the next 30/40 years has been created in the past, and it seems obvious to me that we can’t change the past.

 cb294 21:16 Thu
In reply to hang_about:

We had an in house genomics facility, who got some grant money to establish a Drosophila TILLING library, i.e., a collection of mutagenized, live stocks mutagenized to within an inch of syntehtic lethality. The idea was to then systematically go through the exome, PCR amplicon by PCR amplicon, and map which stock had hits in which gene.

That step was fully automated, but DNA extraction from the mutagenized founders was not, so they bribed every fly person in reach with one free gene for which the library would be screened first go. As I said, some got lucky, but all my hits were silent!

You should definitely try Crispr, though, as long as you can get any DNA into your organism it is dead trivial. I established it in my lab in 2014, and by 2015 did Cispr gene KOs as a teaching experiment with the bachelor course!

CB

 cb294 21:27 Thu
In reply to Alyson30:

IIRC you are in insurance and risk modeling or a related field (correct me if I am wrong), so you seem to see everything through these glasses.

My point is that in editing you pretty much know what you are doing, otherwise you could not even designate a target (unless you are screening some model organism in the lab to see what happens). That information CLEARLY reduces the risk inherent in the process relative to conventionally breeding techniques aimed at achieving the same outcome. There will be biochemical assays for, say, vitamin levels, before the first seedling leaves the lab in either case.

I agree that there are other biochemical approaches where I share your reluctance, because they have inherent properties that makes organismic of ecosystem level effects highly unpredictable.

The most prominent example for this would be engineered gene drives to make moskito populations resistant against Plasmodia and other parasites. That looks like a total time bomb to me!

CB

 geode 21:51 Thu
In reply to Jungle_153:

it'll take more than a rebranding to gene editing to convince me..

In reply to Alyson30:

> No, what I am saying is that most of the population growth that we will have in the next 30/40 years has been created in the past, and it seems obvious to me that we can’t change the past. <

Sorry, I don't see that. If we now have x people who in the future will be likely to bear an average of y children then surely y can be decreased by eg increased social and environmental responsibility, and changes in religious teachings: ie it is Not yet set in stone.

Post edited at 22:31
 Alyson30 22:37 Thu
In reply to oldie:

> Sorry, I don't see that. If we now have x people who in the future will be likely to bear an average of y children then surely y can be decreased by eg increased social and environmental responsibility, and changes in religious teachings: ie it is Not yet set in stone.

I am not saying it is set in stone, I am saying that that this will only have a minimal impact, because the "y" is already low enough to not create future growth, and most of the future growth is caused by the y having been high in the past.

In reply to Alyson30:

> I am not saying it is set in stone, I am saying that that this will only have a minimal impact, because the "y" is already low enough to not create future growth, and most of the future growth is caused by the y having been high in the past. <

But surely we do need to not just prevent future growth, we actually need population Decrease. A large decrease in population should lead to a large decrease in global food requirements and in other environmental problems. Similarly we aren't just trying "to not create future growth" in CO2 levels: the status quo is not by any means sufficient, we need a reduction.

Post edited at 22:59
 hang_about 23:05 Thu
In reply to cb294:

Yup. Got plenty of colleagues using crispr, so will go that route in the future I'm sure. 

 Alyson30 00:33 Fri
In reply to oldie:

> But surely we do need to not just prevent future growth, we actually need population Decrease.

Maybe but what I am trying to tell you is simply that we already pretty much started the process of decrease (the world fertility rate crossing below replacement rate), it is just that it will take decades before you see the impact. There is a lag.

> Similarly we aren't just trying "to not create future growth" in CO2 levels: the status quo is not by any means sufficient, we need a reduction.

It is not similar because if we stop emitting co2 today, CO2 levels will start decreasing immediately, they won’t keep growing for 30 years before decreasing. There isn’t any inertia like there is with demographic growth. 

Post edited at 00:35
 Alyson30 01:42 Fri
In reply to cb294:

> IIRC you are in insurance and risk modeling or a related field (correct me if I am wrong), so you seem to see everything through these glasses.

And I am asking you to put on those glasses for a minute.

> My point is that in editing you pretty much know what you are doing, otherwise you could not even designate a target (unless you are screening some model organism in the lab to see what happens).

Yes, for the nth time I am perfectly aware if that.

> That information CLEARLY reduces the risk inherent in the process relative to conventionally breeding techniques aimed at achieving the same outcome.

That is where we disagree.
The whole point of using these technique is indeed to depart from what is possible the traditional breeding of two lines, as most of the advantages of it have already been exploited.

Having extra information about the mutation  is totally useless to the risk assessment, because harm can arise from the many interactions between the mutation, the species and its environment that are possible. 
And that’s a computationally impossible problem.

> There will be biochemical assays for, say, vitamin levels, before the first seedling leaves the lab in either case.

Yes, you can test for known risks, but they aren’t the problem. I am not particularly worried about my GE potatoes poisoning me. 
 

> I agree that there are other biochemical approaches where I share your reluctance, because they have inherent properties that makes organismic of ecosystem level effects highly unpredictable.

How the method works isn’t important to this question. What is important is how easy it is to produce something that naturally occurring breeding would not have a high probability to produce.

The more it is outside of this enveloppe, the higher the risk.
Why ? Because we know that the natural reproduction process has to produce outcomes that are harmful to the species and its environment only very rarely, otherwise the species would not exist today.


And knowing with absolute precision which mutation are introduced does not help, because 1) the boundaries of this envelope are unknown. 2) you have to consider the environment - which you don’t understand, changes, and is mostly unknown.

 cb294 08:16 Fri
In reply to Alyson30:

I believe that by stepping away from the actual process you are advocating throwing away information. Why?

Rotting of fruit is a regulated process. Why would it be inherently safer to have, say, tomatoes where that regulatory pathway is disrupted through mutagenesis or classical breeding, potentially associated with tons of other, unknown mutations, instead of a clean KO? Long shelf life tomatoes taste lethally bland anyway....

I do not understand why you think that traditional plant breeding is any safer. You can easily generate ecosystem level effects using classical breeding. Multi stalk, short growth wheat (generated to increase plant investment in seeds as use for straw has droped) exterminates partridge populations in central Europe without any gene technology.

IMO, whichever way you alter the property of your food plants the problematic issue is with the farming practises.

Now if you advocated breeding and farming practises more akin to a mechanized version of the 19th century, with farmers retaining seed stock, and a market with plenty of variants that together retain a large genetic diversity across cultivars to ensure resistance against multiple potential threats (instead of supermarket shelves with the same three variants of apples that have lost all their characteristics), I would be with you!

CB

edited for typos

Post edited at 08:17
 Alyson30 08:34 Fri
In reply to cb294:

> I do not understand why you think that traditional plant breeding is any safer. You can easily generate ecosystem level effects using classical breeding.

It has to be quite safe. It is a statistical necessity. If traditional breeding was producing harmful ecosystem level effect often, the species and the ecosystem of which it is part would not have persisted over many generations.


> Now if you advocated breeding and farming practises more akin to a mechanized version of the 19th century, with farmers retaining seed stock, and a market with plenty of variants that together retain a large genetic diversity across cultivars to ensure resistance against multiple potential threats (instead of supermarket shelves with the same three variants of apples that have lost all their characteristics), I would be with you!

That is what I am advocating. A less « too big too fail » farming, with lots of diversity and boundaries

Post edited at 08:56
In reply to Alyson30:

> Maybe but what I am trying to tell you is simply that we already pretty much started the process of decrease (the world fertility rate crossing below replacement rate), it is just that it will take decades before you see the impact. There is a lag. <

So we have "started" the process but then pretty much have ceased putting much effort into reducing population because it will take decades before we see the impact? Surely that would mean we are leaving a future generation with a far bigger problem than necessary. Incidentally I don't see how population reduction campaigns might not have a rapid impact....the human gestation period is 9 months! 

> It is not similar because if we stop emitting co2 today, CO2 levels will start decreasing immediately, they won’t keep growing for 30 years before decreasing. There isn’t any inertia like there is with demographic growth. <

My above comment may be relevant. And again CO2 levels and other environmental impacts must be directly related to population albeit increasing with age on an individual level as consumption increases. I think the two things are Similar, I was careful not to say "the same as".

 Alyson30 09:28 Fri
In reply to oldie:

> So we have "started" the process but then pretty much have ceased putting much effort into reducing population because it will take decades before we see the impact?

No, that is not it. Fertility rates are projected to continue to go down below replacement rate.

But as I have said, from the point when that fertility rate crosses below tje replacement rate, you need to wait a generation before the population actually starts decreasing.

> Surely that would mean we are leaving a future generation with a far bigger problem than necessary. Incidentally I don't see how population reduction campaigns might not have a rapid impact....the human gestation period is 9 months! 

Because the main driver in the short term isn’t how many babies people have, but how many people entre reproductive age.

It’s called demographic momentum. Look it up. That is why for example when China introduced the one child policy, population kept growing anyway.

If you wanted to reduce the world population now, only way is pandemic, wars etc etc not exactly desirable !

Post edited at 09:30
 cb294 10:16 Fri
In reply to Alyson30:

> That is what I am advocating. A less « too big too fail » farming, with lots of diversity and boundaries

Me too! Industrial agriculture is an ecological disaster. I would also limit the size of fields, and make the introduction of hedgerows compulsory. Even people who do not give a shit about wildlife must understand that soil is a precious commodity!

CB

 Punter_Pro 10:39 Fri
In reply to Alyson30:

> About 50% of the agricultural land use is to grow food for livestock. Appreciate they may not be the same crops but how you get to increase land use by moving to a mostly vegetarian diet is beyond me I admit.

It is the type and quality of land that is required, just because Soya and Maize grows on it doesn't mean high quality vegetables will. Each year we lose more and more land, some of it goes to housing development, some of it is now used for energy crops for bio fuels, some of it is because intensive farming has knackered it and you now can't grown anything of value on it because the top spoil/organic matter is no longer there.

Let's look at the UK for example, we import 40% of our food because it is cheaper and more economically beneficial to do so and currently don't grow enough. Let's say we were to go self sufficient and vegetarian/vegan we would have to convince the British public to give up foods such as spices, pulses, beans, citrus fruits, bananas and so on and just live on a boring diet of salad sandwiches in the summer and then brassicas, onions, indoor grown crops and potatoes in the winter. 

In the UK we are already having to farm multiple fields 2-3 times in a single season to meet up with supermarket orders for Salad crops. In 2018 we had to buy lettuce from America just to meet the demand because the crop all died due to the hot summer and there not being enough water.

You would need every single growing year to be perfect, no adverse weather, no mass insect pests migrating from Europe spreading diseases and viruses, plenty of sunshine but not too hot, enough rain but not too much etc etc. This would never happen, I have seen entire fields wiped out by a single hail storm in the mid summer reducing yields for that year down to <50%. This all has a knock on affect within the industry that affects market prices and so on.

We would also have no room for margin for any energy crops, that would have to stop, no room for margin for housing development and so on. In the real world it isn't going to happen.

And then there is the knock on effect of price increases hitting the poorest in this country, food is already undervalued as it is. We would risk seeing another food price crisis like what happened in 2008.
 

> And a large part is eating far too many calories.

True but that is the society that we live in now.

> Completely wrong on the basic facts.

> The population is projected to grow by about 30% by 2050, so in fact, if you were to eliminate waste only you’d get there.

Fair enough, I was wrong on that I looked at some wrong figures initially.

> Switching to vegetarian gives you easily another 40%.

> With other improvements to farming technique,

What improvements do you suggest? Sounds like you are the missing messiah the industry needs!

> vertical farming etc etc you can easily get another 20%.

 

Vertical farming looks great on paper but in reality:

It doesn't make any money, the industry is littered with bankruptcy's

It requires huge initial investments, a single vertical farm unit costs tens of millions of pounds to set up for an area that is smaller then a single field.

There is a lack of expertise and it has a very steep learning curve compared to more traditional growing.

Limited to what can be grown, currently it is just salads and micro herbs. 

The energy requirements and C02 output are huge, a vertical farming site the size requires far more energy than a typical greenhouse.

Although it has its place, this won't be a solution for a long time. I do feel it is something that could be benefited by the two industry's collaborating however.

Post edited at 10:49
 Alyson30 10:57 Fri
In reply to Punter_Pro:

Good point about the type of land, and yes, an I am aware that a full vegetarian diet may actually not be an optimal way to optimise the land carrying capacity in many geographies.

But most study I have seen show that land use should be nevertheless reduced significantly with a lower intake in meat (even if the optimal point is not no meat whatsoever)

I agree with all the other good points you made but when you do the sums, you’ll find that lowering waste alone is almost enough to accommodate a +30% increase in population.

And we already know how to do it, for thousands of years, we can get it near zero and and it was near zero for longs periods of history (I guess people didn’t have a choice !)

That, plus eating less meat and some other incremental improvements, and in fact, you find that we have more than enough food to feed everybody.

The main downside of those alternatives is that they aren’t necessarily easy to monetise.

Post edited at 11:05
In reply to Alyson30:

> No, that is not it. Fertility rates are projected to continue to go down below replacement rate. But as I have said, from the point when that fertility rate crosses below tje replacement rate, you need to wait a generation before the population actually starts decreasing. <

But surely there should be even greater efforts to reduce population still further for future generations. I just can't see that if on an individual basis if a child is born this year that it will not have an environmental impact right now (nappies, food etc) and that impact will increase with age (more food needed, transport costs, eventually own car ,home , family etc). If a family decided not to have that extra child this year for environmental reasons then that surely has a rapid beneficial impact. In fact the impact of having that child may negate other environmentally beneficial efforts the family is making

> Because the main driver in the short term isn’t how many babies people have, but how many people entre reproductive age.  It’s called demographic momentum. Look it up. That is why for example when China introduced the one child policy, population kept growing anyway. <

Population may have kept growing but surely it would have been very much higher if families had several children rather than one.

> If you wanted to reduce the world population now, only way is pandemic, wars etc etc not exactly desirable ! <

It still seems to me that not pushing population control right now is burying our heads in the sand and ignoring what's going to happen to the next generation.

Incidentally thanks for taking the time to discuss this, you're obviously far more knowledgeable around much of the subject than me, But I still think many environmentalists are afraid to mention an elephant in the room for fear of antagonizing potential support. Off to google demographic momentum.

Post edited at 11:11
 Alyson30 11:46 Fri
In reply to oldie:

> But surely there should be even greater efforts to reduce population still further for future generations. I just can't see that if on an individual basis if a child is born this year that it will not have an environmental impact right now (nappies, food etc) and that impact will increase with age (more food needed, transport costs, eventually own car ,home , family etc). If a family decided not to have that extra child this year for environmental reasons then that surely has a rapid beneficial impact. In fact the impact of having that child may negate other environmentally beneficial efforts the family is making

Yes, but what counts for the planet is not the individual level, it’s the aggregate level, and on the aggregate, if we were to go from 2 children per woman to 1.5 right now, it wouldn’t have that much of an impact on population growth rate until the next generation.

> Population may have kept growing but surely it would have been very much higher if families had several children rather than one.

> It still seems to me that not pushing population control right now is burying our heads in the sand and ignoring what's going to happen to the next generation.

> Incidentally thanks for taking the time to discuss this, you're obviously far more knowledgeable around much of the subject than me, But I still think many environmentalists are afraid to mention an elephant in the room for fear of antagonizing potential support. Off to google demographic momentum.

I completely agree that the engine of population growth needs to be stopped, as it clearly isn’t sustainable.

My point is that the engine has already stopped, so it’s good news, however the car will continue rolling on its own for some time.

And the problem with this car is that the brake pedal is super unresponsive. If you press a bit it does nothing, press it harder it does not much , press it all the way to the floor it does a bit more but still not enough, however  30/50 years later the effect comes all at once and it feels like you have hit a brick wall.

You need to be very careful with birth control. You can easily store up societal or demographic catastrophes 50 years down the line. The effects of a very unbalanced age structure could easily be far more disastrous to humanity than any marginal gain on climate.

Basically, it seems to me that given that the growth engine has already stopped, there is no reason to mess too much with forces we don’t understand.

Post edited at 11:50
 Alyson30 12:07 Fri
In reply to cb294:

> Me too! Industrial agriculture is an ecological disaster. I would also limit the size of fields, and make the introduction of hedgerows compulsory. Even people who do not give a shit about wildlife must understand that soil is a precious commodity!

I am not against technology at all BTW. 
In many ways I think that the recourse to gene-editing, pesticide, and monoculture is the result of our ignorance and basic technology.

We don’t know how nature works, and in particular how plants, animals, microbes and fungi work together to help each other and their environment.  It’s a very complex, high dimensional system with lots of feedback loops and synergies.

Because we don’t really understand it we take the naive approach, and focus on what we know (select for genes that increase yield, kill off everything we think is bad with pesticides etc etc). We get very clever and sophisticated at being dumb.

The tropical rainforest for example is many times more productive than any crop on earth (despite being mostly on extremely poor soil.) It is also extremely robust. No single parasite would take it out (except maybe humans!). It survived for thousands of years.


And that’s because it’s an extremely complex system of very high diversity where, as a whole,  organisms help each other grow, adapt, and sustain.

If we could harness that, it would be another agricultural revolution. 

Post edited at 12:16
In reply to Alyson30:

> Yes, but what counts for the planet is not the individual level, it’s the aggregate level, and on the aggregate, if we were to go from 2 children per woman to 1.5 right now, it wouldn’t have that much of an impact on population growth rate until the next generation. <

Surely the aggregate is just a combination of individuals, so they do matter? I just cannot see why we don't do something (ie encourage population reduction) that will affect the next generation. A large part of current environmental arguments emphasizes that future generations will pay for the actions/inactivity of those that came before them.

> I completely agree that the engine of population growth needs to be stopped, as it clearly isn’t sustainable. <

Then surely we should do more now. If we don't do enough then we'll be making the same argument for inaction in 30 years time.

> My point is that the engine has already stopped, so it’s good news, however the car will continue rolling on its own for some time. And the problem with this car is that the brake pedal is super unresponsive. If you press a bit it does nothing, press it harder it does not much , press it all the way to the floor it does a bit more but still not enough, however  30/50 years later the effect comes all at once and it feels like you have hit a brick wall. <

I don't think there is any reason to assume the brake pedal is exactly right now so it could be equally bad not doing anything.

> You need to be very careful with birth control. You can easily store up societal or demographic catastrophes 50 years down the line. The effects of a very unbalanced age structure could easily be far more disastrous to humanity than any marginal gain on climate. <

We have a global catastrophe at present which is in large part due to overpopulation. Its undeniable there would be problems with population reduction (we have an unbalanced age structure now, but it possibly won't be much better in 50 years). At some time we need to bite the bullet.. <

> Basically, it seems to me that given that the growth engine has already stopped, there is no reason to mess too much with forces we don’t understand. <

Why do we assume that that would be stopping at an optimal point? We have messed with the environment in ways we didn't understand. It is likely we can predict the effects of our own population reduction at least as well as we predicted, or failed to predict, other environmental changes caused by us.

Post edited at 21:13
 Alyson30 21:26 Fri
In reply to oldie:

> Surely the aggregate is just a combination of individuals, so they do matter?

 

Yes, but as I have explained, most of the population growth that will come with the next 30 years will come from more people having kids, rather than from people having more kids.

> I just cannot see why we don't do something (ie encourage population reduction) that will affect the next generation.

We are already doing something. And massively. In just a few years, fertility rates will be below the replacement rates.

> Then surely we should do something now. If we don't do enough then webe making the same argument for inaction in 30 years time.

As said above, we are already doing. And the main driver by far a large is the education of young girls across the world. The more educated women are the less kids they have.

> I don't think there is any reason to assume the brake pedal is exactly right now so it could be equally bad not doing anything.

> We have a global catastrophe at present which is in large part due to overpopulation. Its undeniable there would be problems with population reduction (we have an unbalanced age structure now, but it possibly won't be much better in 50 years).

Don’t understimate the social and economic strain a society dominated by the old. We are already seeing massive problems with that in the west, imagine having the problem 4 times worse on a global scale. This could be far worse than any climate crisis.

> Why do we assume that that would be stopping at an optimal point?

It won’t stop. Assuming current trends don’t change, world population will start decreasing in 40/50 years time.

Post edited at 21:32
In reply to Alyson30:

> Yes, but as I have explained, most of the population growth that will come with the next 30 years will come from more people having kids, rather than from people having more kids. <

I don't disagree with that, but in the end population does depend on the actions of individuals in aggregate (I think we agree on that).

> We are already doing something. And massively. In just a few years, fertility rates will be below the replacement rates. <

Part of initial argument was that environmentalists don't seem to emphasize the importance of population enough, a matter of opinion I suppose.

> As said above, we are already doing. And the main driver by far a large is the education of young girls across the world. The more educated women are the less kids they have. <

As above I think we could do more. Just because we are doing something doesn't mean it is having an optimal effect (though it might be).

> Don’t understimate the social and economic strain a society dominated by the old. We are already seeing massive problems with that in the west, imagine having the problem 4 times worse on a global scale. This could be far worse than any climate crisis.

I don't. IMHO we probably should bite the bullet now rather than later, again a matter of opinion. Can we claim there is evidence we are doing the optimum at present? 

> It won’t stop. Assuming current trends don’t change, world population will start decreasing in 40/50 years time.

I'll try not to over repeat my previous points. But surely if population did decrease even more then so would its adverse effects.

A major part of my original argument was that many, not necessarily all, who espouse methods to combat climate change hardly mention population control and reduction. I contended that one reason was that support would be lost by offending many people including some with particular religious beliefs. I know I wouldn't discuss this with several of my friends who have large families. Being a coward I can hide behind an anonymous forum name.   

Post edited at 22:06
 Alyson30 09:07 Sat
In reply to oldie:

> I don't disagree with that, but in the end population does depend on the actions of individuals in aggregate (I think we agree on that).

Yes, but the population growth of the next 30 years depends on the actions of people in the past.

Can you change the past ?

> As above I think we could do more. Just because we are doing something doesn't mean it is having an optimal effect (though it might be).

> I don't. IMHO we probably should bite the bullet now rather than later, again a matter of opinion.

It isn’t a matter of « opinion » it’s a matter of fact.

> A major part of my original argument was that many, not necessarily all, who espouse methods to combat climate change hardly mention population control and reduction. 

Maybe because it is not needed as population growth is already under control. You don’t see the effect now because there is a lag. That’s it.

In reply to Alyson30:

> Yes, but the population growth of the next 30 years depends on the actions of people in the past.  Can you change the past ? <

Of course we can't, but we can change the future. If it is important to do so then we should act now. For example climate change has, and is, happening because we haven't done enough about it in the past (or at present).

>(Re: I don't. IMHO we probably should bite the bullet now rather than later, again a matter of opinion.)  It isn’t a matter of « opinion » it’s a matter of fact. <

I think we may be agreeing(?) and talking at cross purposes here. The "Re" was me intending to refer to the desirability of promoting an increase in population reduction now, which I think you were saying is unnecessary and probably undesirable. The misunderstanding was probably my fault.

> Maybe because it is not needed as population growth is already under control. You don’t see the effect now because there is a lag. That’s it. <

Here we just have to agree to disagree. I say we need to have an even greater decrease in population because even though there is a lag we should do it now, or else when/if (obviously debatable) we need its effects it will be too late.

In reply to oldie:

> We have a global catastrophe at present which is in large part due to overpopulation. Its undeniable there would be problems with population reduction (we have an unbalanced age structure now, but it possibly won't be much better in 50 years). At some time we need to bite the bullet.. <

I'm interested to know what you're actually proposing here wrt 'biting the bullet' on population? What are your concrete policies to reduce overpopulation?

 jimtitt 11:38 Sat
In reply to Alyson30:

> Yes, but the population growth of the next 30 years depends on the actions of people in the past.

In a simplistic world. Quite clearly we can eliminate population growth within 9 months and completely eliminate the entire human race within 100 years.

In reply to climbingpixie:

I haven't got any policies in mind I'm afraid. I would not want to follow a state restrictions path. However my approach would be to encourage everyone to consider whether  it was socially and environmentally responsible to have a large family. My point at the start of the above part of the thread. To do that it would be useful for the climate change/environmental lobby, to give far greater prominence to the importance of reducing population much faster than it does at present. It would help if other groups including a spectrum of political parties and religions promoted these views. 

This does have the potential to alienate many people including current environmentalist supporters, some religions, and many who simply enjoy having a large family. For instance, on an individual level, I have a friend who has four children and from my (simplistic) viewpoint during their lives her children are likely to cause double the carbon footprint of a two child family.....she'd have to have a huge negative carbon footprint herself to make up for that. I wouldn't discuss my view with her because I could easily lose a friend (in fact overall she's far more socially responsible than me: eg street pastor, participates in cycling for disabled people, member of Amnesty International, helps in local theatre).

I do wonder whether it is often considered counterproductive to promote this viewpoint because of this possible alienation. Alternatively I'm sure many genuinely believe that greater population control is unnecessary and could be dangerous, Probably Alyson30 holds that view, my apologies for any misrepresentation.

 Alyson30 13:26 Sat
In reply to jimtitt:

> In a simplistic world we can eliminate population growth within 9 months and completely eliminate the entire human race within 100 years.

Fixed that for you.

Yes, we can start nuclear war and have population down to zero in no time.

 Alyson30 13:30 Sat
In reply to oldie:

> I haven't got any policies in mind I'm afraid. I would not want to follow a state restrictions path. However my approach would be to encourage everyone to consider whether  it was socially and environmentally responsible to have a large family.

And that is why your point is moot, without any state restrictions it is already the case that fertility rates worldwide are falling below replacement rate.

If you want to decrease fertility rates faster then all the evidence shows that women education is key.

Post edited at 13:33
 jimtitt 13:45 Sat
In reply to Alyson30:

Exactly, which is why I wonder why you so dogmatically keep harping back to the concept that we are irrevocably locked into the past when clearly this isn't so.

 Alyson30 14:16 Sat
In reply to jimtitt:

> Exactly, which is why I wonder why you so dogmatically keep harping back to the concept that we are irrevocably locked into the past when clearly this isn't so.

Do I really need to explain why mass extermination by nuclear war or stopping all birth is impractical ?

We aren’t « locked into the past » but the fact is that a reduction in fertility rates now will have only a moderate impact on population growth in the medium term, because, at this stage in our demography, growth is driven mostly by new people entering reproductive age rather than by high fertility rates.

So basically between the time you solve the root of the problem (fertility rates above 2.1) and the time you see a decrease in population it could take a generation.

I am not sure what is so hard to understand about it.

Post edited at 14:22
 jimtitt 14:44 Sat
In reply to Alyson30:

We don't understand economics, the risks of genetic engineering or demographics because we weren't "chosen" to be told the truth.

In reply to oldie:

So are you coming from this from the perspective of rich western countries needing to reduce their populations? Many countries have policies that depress fertility anyway; some positive like educating their girls and providing free access to contraception and abortion, others more negative like not subsidising childcare, poor parental leave or the two child benefits cap. As Alyson30 has said, in the west most countries' birth rates are already below the rate required to grow, or even sustain, their populations. The demographic issues this poses have already been discussed but the result is likely to be increased migration (of people who then live and consume at a western standard) rather than a declining population. So whilst I don't disagree that we should encourage people to consider their environmental impact when planning their family, I suspect few politicians want to have to explain the inherent trade offs in such a policy platform.

In reply to Alyson30:

> And that is why your point is moot, without any state restrictions it is already the case that fertility rates worldwide are falling below replacement rate. <

I accept growth rate is falling but still suggest it would ideally, in the long term, be a substantial fall.

> If you want to decrease fertility rates faster then all the evidence shows that women education is key. <

No argument with that.

In reply to climbingpixie:

You obviously know much more about the issues than me. However my simplistic argument is that reducing population means reducing the global effects caused by man.

I accept that present birth rates may even be below those required to sustain a population but surely an eventual bigger reduction in population would in the end be beneficial? And yes there will be major problems during such a reduction. But basically aren't there overall too many of us, in developing countries as well as rich western nations.

I hope I'm interpreting you correctly when you say there will be migration to rich countries (which is logical), but will a reduced birth rate, in both types of economy, lead to even more migration in the long term? 

Don't we really need a population reset? And I agree that politicians would find it difficult to explain the trade offs, but that doesn't in itself mean the ultimate objective is undesirable. As I've said I also wonder if environmental campaigners, who are also politicians, may also think the idea would be too difficult to sell, though I do accept that many/most may believe an increased reduction in growth is not a good course anyway.

 Incidentally IIRC overpopulation was the big enemy in the 60s and 70s and my uninformed views are probably still  influenced by that. Climate change, what's that? 

 Alyson30 22:42 Sat
In reply to jimtitt:

> We don't understand economics, the risks of genetic engineering or demographics because we weren't "chosen" to be told the truth.

No, all you need to know to understand what I told you is how to add and multiply.

Post edited at 22:43
 climbercool 03:42 Sun
In reply to Alyson30:

> As said above, we are already doing. And the main driver by far a large is the education of young girls across the world. The more educated women are the less kids they have.

not really, the most drastic fertility reduction in history has been seen in China and it was achieved   not through education but through draconian policies, education is great but Its expensive and slow,  I feel the scale of the overpopulation problem is so severe that governments should be coercing and educating together in order to speed up the reduction in birth rates. 
 Alyson30 09:52 Sun
In reply to climbercool:

> > As said above, we are already doing. And the main driver by far a large is the education of young girls across the world. The more educated women are the less kids they have.

> not really, the most drastic fertility reduction in history has been seen in China and it was achieved   not through education but through draconian policies


As I have pointed pour repeatedly,  fertility reduction doesn’t mean you get an immediate population reduction.

That is why when China introduced the one child policy population has kept growing.

We don’t need terrible policies like that because world fertility rates are already going below replacement rates.

In reply to Alyson30:

> As I have pointed pour repeatedly,  fertility reduction doesn’t mean you get an immediate population reduction. <

Obviously this is absolutely correct. But with fertility reduction (re: our ping pong of posts) there would be an increasing reduction with time. Not doing so would mean that reduction didn't occur.

> That is why when China introduced the one child policy population has kept growing. We don’t need terrible policies like that because world fertility rates are already going below replacement rates. <

I agree with avoiding draconian policies, though if population levels prove too high (even if they were reducing slowly) the pressure to pursue them might actually increase. And while fertility rates may be going below replacement rates that may well not be sufficient (there are a multiplicity of factors here  but as far as I know there is no evidence that the current progress is optimal).

Sorry for my boring repetition, but I think we're both party to it.   

Post edited at 10:36
In reply to oldie:

Should have said: "Not doing so would mean that that reduction didn't occur." Hope that makes sense.

 Alyson30 12:24 Sun
In reply to oldie:

> Obviously this is absolutely correct. But with fertility reduction (re: our ping pong of posts) there would be an increasing reduction with time.

 

But it would be quite marginal until 50 years time.

The thing is that you overestimate massively any realistic level of birth control would have, but underestimating the dramatic effect it would have on age distribution.

Besides, those who worry about population growth are not doing their sums properly.

Human population growth isn’t the problem, the problem is the rapid rise in global consumption. The issue isn’t that we have more people, the issue is more people living like we are living.

As a result, relatively small changes to consumption habits have a far bigger on the planet than fertility rates.

 

Post edited at 12:39
In reply to Alyson30:

> Human population growth isn’t the problem, the problem is the rapid rise in global consumption. The issue isn’t that we have more people, the issue is more people living like we are living. As a result, relatively small changes to consumption habits have a far bigger on the planet than fertility rates. <

Thanks. That is a very clear way of putting things. I do accept your point.

On a personal level I think I'd still be unhappy in that eliminating, not literally  two of my four (imaginary) kids would have a far greater effect on, say, my carbon footprint than almost anything else I'd be likely to do. The effect might not be so great when they were young, but would increase rapidly as they grew up.

I'll have a think but won't type anything else at present as I don't want to argue for the sake of it.

 climbercool 15:16 Sun
In reply to Alyson30:

> Besides, those who worry about population growth are not doing their sums properly.

> Human population growth isn’t the problem, the problem is the rapid rise in global consumption. The issue isn’t that we have more people, the issue is more people living like we are living.

Sure if we all started living like third world Africans we could probably triple the population and have a planet healthier than it is now, problem is nobody wants to live like that.  People in the richest nations on earth have shown again and again they are unwilling to make the needed compromises to their lifestyles, so how on earth do you suggest recommending to the billions currently living in poverty to stop reaching for more.  

Even if we do vigorously adopt the greenest technologies of the coming decades they all still have deep environmental impacts when multiplied by billions of users. There is no true sustainable way of having 8-10 billion people on the planet with anything like the luxury we enjoy today, and i would argue that overall we don't have nearly enough luxury, yes people in rich nations could sure make do with less but there are more people who currently don't have enough consumption and need more, cars, toys, computers, and electric, average consumption is going to and needs to rise.  

> As a result, relatively small changes to consumption habits have a far bigger on the planet than fertility rates.

Not at all, reduce your consumption to the absolute bare minimum and have two kids or carry on as normal but have no kids and 50 years from now the world will be in a much better place for sure.

I think aiming for a lower population is actually a lot more realistic than aiming for voluntary reduced consumption, i think it is quite easy to convince people they will be better off with less kids, its quite difficult to convince people they will be better off with less cars.  The problem is there is a massive global taboo around population control.

The last 40 years of trying to reduce consumption has only resulted in us consuming more and more, if we directed 10% of the funds away from environmental causes towards fertility treatments, the payoff to the environment would probably be 10 fold.

And population control is not just about the environment, I want to live in a country where i can have a big house with a big garden, where i can go and wild camp out on the moor or sleep in my campervan on the layby, I want to go climb at a crag with no one else there.

 climbercool 15:26 Sun
In reply to Alyson30:

> As I have pointed pour repeatedly,  fertility reduction doesn’t mean you get an immediate population reduction.

> That is why when China introduced the one child policy population has kept growing.

Pointing out that it is a failure because the population is still growing is completely missing the point, What would be the population of China today if they hadn't introduced the one child policy, 2 billion? more?

 Alyson30 15:41 Sun
In reply to climbercool:

> Pointing out that it is a failure because the population is still growing is completely missing the point, What would be the population of China today if they hadn't introduced the one child policy, 2 billion? more?

According to estimates, at best between 0.2 to 0.4bn more.

 Alyson30 16:13 Sun
In reply to climbercool:

> Not at all, reduce your consumption to the absolute bare minimum and have two kids or carry on as normal but have no kids and 50 years from now the world will be in a much better place for sure.

The problem is that you get the scales all wrong.
You seem to think that having drastically lower fertility would have a big effect, and you believe that massive changes to our lifestyle would be needed to have an effect.

The reverse is true. Relatively small changes to our consumption habit have a far bigger impact that fertility rate change.

> I think aiming for a lower population is actually a lot more realistic than aiming for voluntary reduced consumption

Then again, your sums are compeltely wrong.
If we enacted an extreme worldwide one child policy similar to China, it would take a century for the world population to reduce by 2bn. And for the first three decades it would keep increasing anyway.

If everybody stopped eating beef tomorrow, the equivalent impact is saved immediately.

Which do you think is the most realistic way forward ?

> The last 40 years of trying to reduce consumption has only resulted in us consuming more and more

That is a complete misconception. Consumption of physical goods is falling significantly in most advanced economies. People buy more services and less stuff.

Moreover co2 emissions are steadily falling in Europe.

It is wrong to suggest the only way to save the planet is to drastically reduce fertility. In fact this could well be one of the least effective method.

> And population control is not just about the environment, I want to live in a country where i can have a big house with a big garden,

I see, so in the end, you just want more stuff, take more space, and pretend you want to save the planet.
Nice one.

Post edited at 16:40
 climbercool 17:09 Sun
In reply to Alyson30:

> The problem is that you get the scales all wrong.

> You seem to think that having drastically lower fertility would have a big effect, and you believe that massive changes to our lifestyle would be needed to have an effect.

yes reducing fertility will have a bigger impact than anything.  Yes i do believe we would need a massive move away from the typical western life style.

> The reverse is true. Relatively small changes to our consumption habit have a far bigger impact that fertility rate change.

Yeah? who says?

> Then again, your sums are compeltely wrong.

what sums? says who?

> If we enacted an extreme worldwide one child policy similar to China, it would take a century for the world population to reduce by 2bn.

don't know how you got this figure but that sounds awesome, having 2bn less people instead of 3 billion more is just what the world needs if we are to avoid complete disaster.

> If everybody stopped eating beef tomorrow, the equivalent impact is saved immediately.

If everyone stopped having kids tomorrow the beneficial impact would be immediate and not only that but the benefit would increase exponentially as less kids would mean less grandkids, you seem completely incapable of understanding that just because populations wont start falling immediately that slow growth is still better than rapid growth.

> That is a complete misconception. Consumption of physical goods is falling significantly in most advanced economies. People buy more services and less stuff.

Again you completely miss the point, intentionally i presume.  The majority dont live in advanced economies, they live in poor countries where consumpiton is growing fast. look at energy, plastic, metals food they are all growing year on year very rapidly.

> Moreover co2 emissions are steadily falling in Europe.

But growing everywhere else

> I see, so in the end, you just want more stuff, take more space, and pretend you want to save the planet.

im so sorry that i want access to a natural landscape and a nice house, what a terrible person i must be!

 jimtitt 17:17 Sun
In reply to climbercool:

> Pointing out that it is a failure because the population is still growing is completely missing the point, What would be the population of China today if they hadn't introduced the one child policy, 2 billion? more?


The figure is disputed because there was a massive drop in fertility rates previous to the one-child rule which in itself was relatively a failure as it remained around 1.7 anyway. The largest drop was in the previous decades under the longer, later (or whatever it was called) then the two-child rule which combined dropped the rate from over 6 to around 2. Depending on how you project future growth and the economic influences you get either a positive or negative effect.

BUT,  (and why Alysons posts are simplistic at best is that) in the this period life expectancy was nearly doubled due to better health care and living conditions. When the one-child policy was relaxed the fertility rate dropped further to a level not even capable of a sustainable population (1.54) the increase being purely due to longetivity which it is now policy to encourage having children to maintain the economy (as it is in many developed countries). China actually only has a population growth (as of 2019) of 0.59% and this is going to fall over the cliff in the next few years as it has done in many developed countries such as Germany where I live. Despite an influx of 1.5m refugees  the population dropped last year basically because the Germans don't f#ck enough.

While I don't study demographics it is an elementary part of economics which I occasionally read books about (I run a business) and while some think the most effective way to reduce fertility rates is education (and possibly it is at one level) in economics the phrase is " money is the best contraceptive". While it may be repugnant to some economists know accurately how much money (well-being) you have to throw at a society to reduce the fertility rate, the Indian government for example know the effect of giving a subsistance farmer a small tractor has.

The balance for the global economic system is difficult because if you raise the economic power of a population you also reduce it's size, the objective for business is to balance the two which is naturally different for different industries. Yiu don't need a nuclear war to change the population dramatically or an education program from the UN, a tractor, a BMW and a flat-screen TV does it nicely.

 Alyson30 18:14 Sun
In reply to climbercool:

> yes reducing fertility will have a bigger impact than anything. 

 

It depends. What time horizon are I’m you interested in ? If you are looking at yhree centuries ahead, yes, it’s big.

But if what you are interested in are the next 50 years, it isn’t fertility rates that are the going to have the main, it is consumption behaviour changes.

> don't know how you got this figure but that sounds awesome, having 2bn less people instead of 3 billion more is just what the world needs if we are to avoid complete disaster.

Don’t rejoice, before it decreases by 2bn in a 100 years, it would increase by almost 2bn in 50.

> If everyone stopped having kids tomorrow the beneficial impact would be immediate and not only that but the benefit would increase exponentially as less kids would mean less grandkids.

Sure and in 60 years time you have a population that is mostly 60 years old +.
I can see that turning out very well for humanity.

> Again you completely miss the point, intentionally i presume.  The majority dont live in advanced economies, they live in poor countries where consumpiton is growing fast. look at energy, plastic, metals food they are all growing year on year very rapidly.

I am not missing the point, this is my point. The issues we will face aren’t going to be different whether you have 10bn or 7bn people on the planet.

What will make the biggest difference is what and how much we consume.

> im so sorry that i want access to a natural landscape and a nice house, what a terrible person i must be!

Well yes actually to ask people to stop having kids so that you can have a big-ass house in the countryside with a big-ass car to go anywhere is pretty terrible (and also deluded)

If you really are worried about the planet, live in a small flat with good insulation, use public transports instead of a car, don’t eat red meat, and don’t fly long haul.

Once you’ve done all that you can start asking others to stop having babies.

Post edited at 18:14
 climbercool 11:27 Mon
In reply to Alyson30:

Why do you think peoples rights to have 4 kids is more important than my right to have a nice house with a garden?

 climbercool 11:29 Mon
In reply to Alyson30:

> I am not missing the point, this is my point. The issues we will face aren’t going to be different whether you have 10bn or 7bn people on the planet.

Really cant take you seriously when you post things like this.
In reply to Alyson30:

> If you really are worried about the planet, live in a small flat with good insulation, use public transports instead of a car, don’t eat red meat, and don’t fly long haul.  Once you’ve done all that you can start asking others to stop having babies. <

Say a couple wanted to be as environmentally friendly as possible, were keen to follow diet modifications, use public transport, etc and were concerned about, but wanted, a large family. Would you advise them that that was OK and wouldn't "cancel out" some of the other measures?
I find it hard to grasp that each extra human is not likely to mean extra environmental pressure.
In no way does limiting family size mean that one should not follow the other measures...but why should it be the last measure and not concomitant with the rest?

 Alyson30 12:27 Mon
In reply to oldie:

> Say a couple wanted to be as environmentally friendly as possible, were keen to follow diet modifications, use public transport, etc and were concerned about, but wanted, a large family. Would you advise them that that was OK and wouldn't "cancel out" some of the other measures?

I'd say it doesn't matter how many kids an individual family has. What counts is the average number of kids per woman.
And in most western countries it sits well below replacement rate, and in most of the world it is going below replacement rate.

> I find it hard to grasp that each extra human is not likely to mean extra environmental pressure.

Of course it does, but that problem is that fertility rates and population growth, as long as it's not out of control, which it isn't, isn't really where big environmental gains can be made.
Fertility rates are a weak lever that is very, very slow to act, and over which you have very little control anyway.

Here is a simple example. The average north American puts out 3 to 4 times more CO2 in the atmosphere than the average western European.

What do you think is the easiest way for them to reduce their impact on the environment ? Reducing their population by 3 with forced sterilisation of most women, or making relatively minor changes to bring themselves in lines with the kind of standard with have in Europe ?

 Alyson30 12:33 Mon
In reply to climbercool:

> > I am not missing the point, this is my point. The issues we will face aren’t going to be different whether you have 10bn or 7bn people on the planet.

> Really cant take you seriously when you post things like this.

Well I didn't think it would be that hard to understand that our environmental impact can vary hugely depending on how we consume and produce energy (even at relatively similar living standards) but that our population can only change slowly (bar any catastrophes, wars etc)

If you want to protect the planet, the single most important lever is to ask the richest one billion to lower their emissions and resource use to a level that can be shared by ten times as many people throughout the world.

Here is Hans Rosling explaining it with legos. Can't do more dumbed down that that.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2013/may/17/population-climate-change-hans-rosling-video

Post edited at 12:52
 Alyson30 12:42 Mon
In reply to climbercool:

> Why do you think peoples rights to have 4 kids is more important than my right to have a nice house with a garden?

News for you, you don't have an automatic right to have a nice house and a garden. 
 

Post edited at 12:43
In reply to Alyson30:

> I'd say it doesn't matter how many kids an individual family has. What counts is the average number of kids per woman. <

But surely the same argument can be used for everything eg "It doesn't matter if I cut out red meat because if everyone else does it I won't affect the global average." And if everyone thought like that we'd get nowhere.  

> Of course it does, but that problem is that fertility rates and population growth, as long as it's not out of control, which it isn't, isn't really where big environmental gains can be made.

> Fertility rates are a weak lever that is very, very slow to act, and over which you have very little control anyway. <

Surely those extra kids are going to increase  environmental footprint of a family from the time they are born. Not attempting to control population isn't going to help. I'd say encouraging the social responsibility aspect might be worthwhile.

> Here is a simple example. The average north American puts out 3 to 4 times more CO2 in the atmosphere than the average western European. What do you think is the easiest way for them to reduce their impact on the environment ? Reducing their population by 3 with forced sterilisation of most women, or making relatively minor changes to bring themselves in lines with the kind of standard with have in Europe ? <

I think bringing enforced sterilization into the argument (which in no way would I support) is a bit excessive. Education and a general acceptance that family size was a way of reducing environmental impact would be a way. I'm repeatimg myself but each extra child in the USA has presumably three times the footprint of a European child.

 Alyson30 15:21 Mon
In reply to oldie:

> But surely the same argument can be used for everything eg "It doesn't matter if I cut out red meat because if everyone else does it I won't affect the global average." 

 

Wrong, because meat consumption on the aggregate is a problem. Fertility rates on the aggregate aren’t a problem.
 

> Surely those extra kids are going to increase  environmental footprint of a family from the time they are born. Not attempting to control population isn't going to help. I'd say encouraging the social responsibility aspect might be worthwhile.

The thing is, it’s a non issue. A red-herring. Our problem isn’t too many births, it’s the way we consume.

> I think bringing enforced sterilization into the argument (which in no way would I support) is a bit excessive.

It’s pretty much what it would take to cut down the US population by two thirds in a century.

> Education and a general acceptance that family size was a way of reducing environmental impact would be a way.

I agree.
 

> I'm repeatimg myself but each extra child in the USA has presumably three times the footprint of a European child.

Isn’t that exactly what I have said ? US women have on average 1.7 children. That’s below replacement rate.
 

What do you think is the most realistic ? 

1) Impose far stricter birth control than China did to bring fertility rates down to 1 or less, which would take about 50 years before you see substantial effect, and then generate a catastrophic age pyramid imbalance.

2) Bring carbon emission per capita in the US down to European standard ?

Post edited at 15:26
In reply to Alyson30:

> Wrong, because meat consumption on the aggregate is a problem. Fertility rates on the aggregate aren’t a problem. <

My point was not about the relative value of red meat vs population reduction. It was that when you say: "I'd say it doesn't matter how many kids an individual family has. What counts is the average number of kids per woman.", That same argument could be applied to something which we both agree is important eg "It doesn't matter if I carry om eating red meat because I won't significantly affect the global average", and if everyone said that we'd get nowhere.

> The thing is, it’s a non issue. A red-herring. Our problem isn’t too many births, it’s the way we consume. <

.....surely not just the way we consume. Its the number of people consuming too. If I and my wife halve our red meat intake but have two kids who eat the same then we're still eating the original amount of red meat between us.

> 1) Impose far stricter birth control than China did to bring fertility rates down to 1 or less, which would take about 50 years before you see substantial effect, and then generate a catastrophic age pyramid imbalance. 2) Bring carbon emission per capita in the US down to European standard ? <

That's not quite a fair comparison because they are not mutually exclusive and you're imposing a method for population control but not for carbon emission. Basically education and social responsibility should be the way forward for both. Environmentalists seem to promote carbon emission reduction but not population measures which was my original point*.  You say it is unlikely that there would be a significant effect with the latter, but there would be some and ultimately its political methods that are needed to push support for environmental measures.

Incidentally is the following wrong? I have an environmental impact. My kids have an environmental impact, The more kids I have the greater the environmental impact.                            I admit I may be misunderstanding time frames and dynamic aspects, and am sometimes slow on the uptake,  but I'm yet to be convinced

* I thought some might be afraid of alienating some of their target audience, but I accept that many may not do so because they think it ineffective (your point).    

 Alyson30 17:41 Mon
In reply to oldie:

> My point was not about the relative value of red meat vs population reduction. It was that when you say: "I'd say it doesn't matter how many kids an individual family has. What counts is the average number of kids per woman.", That same argument could be applied to something which we both agree is important eg "It doesn't matter if I carry om eating red meat because I won't significantly affect the global average", and if everyone said that we'd get nowhere.

Well yes but that isn’t the case. As long as as fertility rate, on average, are below replacement rate, it means population will decrease in the long term. It doesn’t matter if the distribution is uneven.

However red meat consumption is a problem. Where do you tackle it ? First where the biggest consumers are. 

> .....surely not just the way we consume. Its the number of people consuming too. If I and my wife halve our red meat intake but have two kids who eat the same then we're still eating the original amount of red meat between us.

Yes, but what’s easiest ? Force people to stop having kids, despite the fact that on average they already don’t have many, or ask them to reduce their meat consumption a little bit ?

> That's not quite a fair comparison because they are not mutually exclusive and you're imposing a method for population control but not for carbon emission. Basically education and social responsibility should be the way forward for both. Environmentalists seem to promote carbon emission reduction but not population measures which was my original point*. 

 

Because most environmentalist have figured out for a while now that reducing population is last in our list of priorities given that reducing population substantially would practically take centuries, and would have a fraction  of the impact than other measure would have.

> Incidentally is the following wrong? I have an environmental impact. My kids have an environmental impact, The more kids I have the greater the environmental impact.    

                       

No, it’s not wrong, but it’s an incomplete picture.

Sure, the more kids people have, the more the environment impact. But by how much can you influence that, and by how much the resulting impact will be ?

We’ve got fertility rate at 2.4 worldwide, say you move that to 1.7 immediately with  a Chinese style 1 child policy.
The world population would keep growing anyway for at least 30 years, you would create massive social and economic problems due to old age dependency ratios shooting up, and you would need to wait a century or so to see something like a 20% reduction in population and therefore, environmental impact, everything else being equal.

That’s not very much to show for severe freeedom destruction and social upset, and way too late.

Or you can move away from fossil fuel and phase out eating red meat, and achieve many times the same benefit, almost immediately.

So yes, you are right, they are not mutually exclusive, but the former is very much a red-herring, whilst the latter is really the main lever that we have.

In reply to Alyson30:

> REoldie:.......That same argument could be applied to something which we both agree is important eg "It doesn't matter if I carry om eating red meat because I won't significantly affect the global average", and if everyone said that we'd get nowhere.   Your reply: "Well yes but that isn’t the case. As long as as fertility rate, on average, are below replacement rate, it means population will decrease in the long term. It doesn’t matter if the distribution is uneven." <

I obviously wasn't being clear. I saying just saying the same " Whatever little me does does not affect the global situation"argument could be applied to red meat reduction etc etc and would be true.  Same as my vote for my MP, Brexit etc doesn't make a difference (except if  two options are only 1 vote apart) so I might as well not vote. But I suppose that was pedantic.

> However red meat consumption is a problem. Where do you tackle it ? First where the biggest consumers are. <

And you have to convince individuals to reduce their red meat intake, and if they have more kids it is likely they will have the same red meat consumption as their parents and consumption in the family group will be high. Of course we could "Force" people to be vegans which would have a massive effect, but I think both of us are actually against force whether concerning meat, population or other factors. 

> Yes, but what’s easiest ? Force people to stop having kids, despite the fact that on average they already don’t have many, or ask them to reduce their meat consumption a little bit ? <

>Re:  I have an environmental impact. My kids have an environmental impact, The more kids I have the greater the environmental impact.  Your reply; No, it’s not wrong, but it’s an incomplete picture. Sure, the more kids people have, the more the environment impact. But by how much can you influence that, and by how much the resulting impact will be ? ...........<

Surely at present we are relying on influencing individuals (mutual inflence between individuals and governments of course) and if we influence successfully then smaller families would be a socially responsible way of magnifying that.

> We’ve got fertility rate at 2.4 worldwide, say you move that to 1.7 immediately with  a Chinese style 1 child policy. The world population would keep growing anyway for at least 30 years, you would create massive social and economic problems due to old age dependency ratios shooting up, and you would need to wait a century or so to see something like a 20% reduction in population and therefore, environmental impact, everything else being equal.  That’s not very much to show for severe freeedom destruction and social upset, and way too late. <

One way we're dealing with unbalenced population at present is by migration from poorer to richer countries. Includes disadvantages to both sides including draining of expertise. Of course that may stop. Technology may help solve the problem.  But I do believe we could do with less people.

> Or you can move away from fossil fuel and phase out eating red meat, and achieve many times the same benefit, almost immediately.  So yes, you are right, they are not mutually exclusive, but the former is very much a red-herring, whilst the latter is really the main lever that we have. <

It won't be (and isn't) immediate though. There may be huge resistance down the line, As increasing numbers in developing countries prosper their environmental footprint will possibly increase. I don't think many really accurate assumptions can be made about the future.


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