Why do people get their knickers in a bunch over engineered foods

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine just issued a book-length report, strongly reaffirming what American and European scientists have long said: Food from genetically modified crops is no more dangerous to eat than food produced by conventional agriculture

The report also finds no clear evidence that genetically modified crops cause environmental harm. It acknowledges the importance of continuing monitoring..Other studies are less equivocal, finding no special risks to the environment from genetically modified agriculture.

And yet the public is deeply concerned. One survey finds that only 37 percent of Americans believed that genetically modified food is safe to eat. According to my own recent survey, 86 percent of Americans favor labeling of genetically modified food, apparently because of perceived health risks — 89 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of independents.

What explains that? New research, by Sydney Scott and Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania and Yoel Inbar of the University of Toronto, offers some important clues.

Scott and his colleagues asked a representative sample of Americans whether they supported or opposed genetically engineering plants and animals. They also asked them to register agreement or disagreement with this statement: “This should be prohibited no matter how great the benefits and minor the risks from allowing it.”

…Astonishingly, 71 percent of the opponents, and 46 percent of the whole sample, were absolutists: They want to ban genetic engineering regardless of the benefits and risks.

On its face, that’s ridiculous. Suppose that the risks of genetic modification are zero and that the benefits are high, because genetically modified food is both cheaper and healthier. If so, how could rational people want to ban it?

Controlling for demographic and other differences, Scott and his coauthors found that disgust was the best predictor of whether people would proclaim absolute opposition to genetic modification.

The conclusion is simple: People who most strongly oppose genetic modification are not weighing risks and benefits. Their opposition is a product of the fact that they find the whole idea disgusting.

What’s disgusting about genetic modification of food? I speculate that many people have an immediate, intuitive sense that what’s healthy is what’s “natural,” and that efforts to tamper with nature will inevitably unleash serious risks — so-called Frankenfoods. The problem with that speculation is that it’s flat-out wrong.

None of which surprises me. Pop culture is useless for many reasons, especially questions of judgement that may involve rationality. A nation that elected and then re-elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush doesn’t fit that requirement.

A number of factors contribute – starting with the collapse of American education over the past 60 years. We embrace some of the silliest myths in psychologizing ideology and apply them to endeavors with reams of solid science – which we promptly ignore. We are the only Western industrial nation that feels the need to identify every area of political and economic life with approval from spirits in the sky. Laughable to much of the world.

But, it all fits together nicely with the anti-GMO side of “natural” living. Trouble is, folks, you’re giving respectability to something about as sound as giving your friendly neighborhood fundamentalist the right to deny civil rights on the basis of gender identity because their one true book says it’s a sin.

A computerized trader Just beat top banks at currency trading

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 1.51.10 PM

Computerized trading firm XTX Markets Ltd. has come from nowhere to dethrone major banks including Deutsche Bank AG in the rankings of the world’s biggest spot currency traders.

The London-based proprietary trader is now the fourth biggest, accounting for 7.6 percent of spot foreign exchange — a subset of the overall currency market. It’s the first time an electronic specialist has displaced a bank in Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc’s annual survey…

Its name is a reference to a mathematical expression, and the firm was spun off from quantitative hedge fund GSA Capital last year.

XTX’s sudden arrival in foreign exchange is part of an evolution that has already made itself felt in the stock market, where banks are surrendering market making to companies that specialize in electronic trading. XTX says it relies on quantitative research, machine learning and correlations between assets to generate prices.

“Electronic market making is entering other asset classes, whether it’s fixed income or others,” said Steve Grob, global director of group strategy at Fidessa Group Plc. “The foreign-exchange market is worth trillions and trillions — it would seem an obvious direction of travel.”…

XTX Co-Chief Executive Officer Zar Amrolia helped build Deutsche’s fixed-income and currencies business. Alex Gerko, a former currencies quant trader at GSA Capital, is the other co-CEO…

Amrolia says XTX isn’t necessarily in competition with the dealers, which have traditionally formed the backbone of currency trading. XTX partners with large banks, allowing them to give their clients access to prices generated by XTX, he said.

Competition is good and innovation is good,” he said. “What’s even better is partnership.”

Yes, I know this doesn’t mean geeks are winning. But – this is part of what China’s government means when they say they’re transforming their economy to consumer-oriented services. Some of those consumers are pretty large corporate entities – including banks and financial traders. And, then, their customers.

Fools who think goons like Trump are going to bring back jobs fastening part A to sub-assembly C simply haven’t a clue. I sincerely doubt if there’s much of anyone this side of Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown or Bernie Sanders in either of the two political parties we’re allowed – who gets it, either.

Obama trudges along with his centrist version of 1950’s thinking with projects like the TPP trade agreement without rebuilding American education or transforming our economy to have much to sell other than soybeans, natgas and oil – and the intellectual property rights for the construction of Buicks. Last month, I checked up on a few of the capital goods manufacturers I worked for [or represented] over the years – and everyone of them is now foreign-owned.

That’s OK. Buying and selling is part of all market economies. But, we’re not moving forward with replacements in our economy other than high tech which is completely portable to manufacture in developing nations as long as they have the engineering education now common in much of Asia.

Oregon ballot measure to block Nestlé water bottling plant succeeds

Hood River County voters have said yes to a measure that would effectively block Nestlé Waters’ plan to bottle water in Cascade Locks by banning large water bottling operations in the county.

Final returns showed the measure winning with 68.8 percent of the vote…

Nestlé for seven years has sought a way to bottle water from Oxbow Springs, which gurgles out of hillside just outside the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks.

The company hopes to build a $50 million bottling plant at the town’s port, where 100 million gallons annually of Oxbow Springs water would be bottled under the Arrowhead brand. Additional Cascade Locks municipal water would be sold under the company’s Pure Life brand.

But the plan has faced opposition from the start, despite widespread support among the town’s leadership. Measure 14-55 was the latest wave of backlash in a yearslong battle…

Critics oppose Nestle on environmental and ideological grounds. Some argue against the waste inherent in selling water in plastic bottles, while others say Nestlé’s plan amounts to privatizing a public resource for corporate profits…

It’s unclear what the election loss means for Nestlé. Aurora del Val, leader of the Local Water Alliance, which sponsored the ballot measure, said she expects Nestle to sue. DeGraw expressed confidence that the measure is legally-defensible.

“It was written knowing full well we were going up against he world’s biggest multinational food and beverage company,” she said.

One old-fashioned American feature of the fight is that it united Left and Right over an environmental issue. Time was Conservatives could be counted for values including conservation, quality of life. Too many years under the thumb of corporate control drew Republican voters away from respecting virtue in nature and good health.

Looks like Oregon voters have rediscovered some of that mutual imperative.