Could the Tide Be Turning on Anti-GMO Groups?

June 1st, 2013
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Genetically Modified Organisms may be one of the greatest single achievements of science of the late 20th century.  In addition to providing better crops, they can produce unlimited amounts of human clotting factor, insulin and other compounds needed by medicine.

As far as food crops go, there is absolutely no reason to think they are dangerous or unhealthy and volumes of scientific data to prove they are perfectly safe.   Like conventional crops, genetically modified food crops are made of the same basic materials: water, salt, cellulose, sugars, proteins etc.   The genes may be slightly different but your body certainly doesn’t care.  And while it is possible that introducing new genes and thus proteins could cause allergic reactions, this has been accounted for in all tests and no reports of mass incidents of allergic reactions have occurred.

Most modern farmers purchase their seeds from seed companies, which provide a more consistent product than producing their own seeds.  Hybridized and specially bred varieties are available and may cost more, but also offer benefits.   Genetically modified seeds fit into this business  model as do any other type of seed.

Despite this, activists have gone nuts over this technology.  Many have demanded that the crops are not fit for human consumption, must be banned and blame them for everything from obesity to cancer, despite lack of evidence.   Fields have been burned or mowed down, protests have been held across the world.  Efforts often center around the company Monsanto, which is he single largest producer of genetically modified products.  Monsanto only accounts for about a quarter of products currently available.   It’s the company everyone seems to love to hate, but that does not make its products unhealthy or unsafe.

The extreme activism and political pressure has resulted in a few jurisdictions severely restricting or banning genetically modified crops.  It has even lead to famine-stricken regions refusing food aid on the basis that it might contain genetically modified material.

Yet the tide now seems to be starting to turn, at least slightly.  A few prominent environmentalists and humanitarians are stepping up to the plate to denounce the knee-jerk fear of genetic engineering.

This article from the Daily Kos has recently been getting a great deal of attention:

GMO Truthers need to be kicked out of the Progressive movement

I consider myself to be part of the “far left.” I also have multiple scientific degrees and work in the health care field. I strongly believe that my science background has resulted in my Progressive ideology. The reason being is Progressivism is a fact and science based ideology, whereas Conservatism is a faith based ideology. Conservatives offer religious, faith based solutions to social problems. Moreover, they rely on faith in the “invisible hand” for solutions to the economy, and any free market outcome – whether good or bad – is a moral outcome regardless of its practicality. Hence, wanting to let the economy hit rock bottom after the financial crisis, because that was the “moral”/free market thing to do.

Why do I bring this up? Because a biologist recently wrote a diary criticizing the far left for being a home for GMO truthers. And, unfortunately, Meteor Blades recently promoted GMO nonsense on the front page.

I would probably say that most progressives don’t know much about GMO at all because this topic – especially the science behind it – is not discussed nearly as much as something like climate change or evolution. And this is perfectly all right! It is impossible to know everything about everything. You know GMO has something to do with big corrupt corporations (i.e. Monsanto) and there are a lot of people and groups you inherently trust who say GMO is bad, so you are naturally inclined to think of GMO as a negative thing.

It’s worth a look and I certainly hope it continues to get attention. The comments are predictable, unfortunately. There are a few who are standing up for reason, but many are still in fear of GMO’s.

Politics aside (and I would not consider myself to be part of the fart political left or modern progressivism in general) it is great to see this major segment starting to show some backlash against the GMO fear-mongers.

Political philosophy, after all, is a matter of value judgements and is not fallible. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and there’s no way to prove whether one ideology is right or wrong. But everyone is not entitled to their facts and the safety of GMO’s is an issue of scientific fact. Either you agree with it or you are wrong.


This entry was posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2013 at 1:03 pm and is filed under Agriculture, Bad Science, Culture, Enviornment, Good Science, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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30 Responses to “Could the Tide Be Turning on Anti-GMO Groups?”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    One can only hope that this is the start of a trend, but I fear it is not. This left-right dichotomy in politics means that almost every position on any subject has to be sorted and its followers curried by one side or the other depending on where that sorting falls. Thus many on the Left may support things like GMO, and nuclear to name two, garnering votes in any given election means pandering to those who don’t. Of course the same holds for the Right on several issues.

    Unfortunately it’s not something that can be avoided by just ignoring them. Voter turnout is a major issue in many places and this too mitigates too make voters with an ax to grind more valuable in an election. The sad truth is getting voters out against something is far easier that getting them out for.


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  2. 2
    Life Beyond Monsanto Says:

    Dem or Republican, right or left, poor or rich, poison is poison and the idiots who are pushing this stuff need to wake up. It won’t matter how rich it makes you if it kills you. We do not have labeling and consumers have no choice. All you can do is move to a country that knows enough to stop this, but even that, what the ****, can’t help when the polin is blowing all over the world.

    Do the opposit of what America does. Ban Monsanto and burn the crops. Food security and health are the only thing that matters. Farmers know best and they know what is up. That is why it needs to be forced for them.

    That gone and they got control. No wonder they are spraying more to kill the good food we have left.

    FOD disinformation running rampant.


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  3. 3
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I always wonder how they find it so fast. Maybe they have Google Alerts? Or just spend their time cruising the net looking for new stuff to comment on?


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  4. 4
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    I always wonder how they find it so fast. Maybe they have Google Alerts? Or just spend their time cruising the net looking for new stuff to comment on?

    Like a lot of these things, the most active core of objectors are driven by other motivations. In the case of GMO, one of those groups is small farmers who feel threatened by this technology. They think that companies like Monsanto bullies small farmers turning them into corporate slaves by squeezing them with their patents. Desperate to save their way of life they have turned to FUD as a tool to manipulate public opinion. And yes they probably do have active programs scanning the net for posts like yours.

    This is the same tactic that those that don’t want flex pricing for electricity are using when they try to get folks worked up over smart meters, and those that don’t want cell towers ruining their views use to try and protect their property values. Invoking health and safety always garners a larger audience.

    General ignorance and wide distrust of governments and corporations does the rest.


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  5. 5
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Like a lot of these things, the most active core of objectors are driven by other motivations. In the case of GMO, one of those groups is small farmers who feel threatened by this technology. They think that companies like Monsanto bullies small farmers turning them into corporate slaves by squeezing them with their patents. Desperate to save their way of life they have turned to FUD as a tool to manipulate public opinion. And yes they probably do have active programs scanning the net for posts like yours.

    This is the same tactic that those that don’t want flex pricing for electricity are using when they try to get folks worked up over smart meters, and those that don’t want cell towers ruining their views use to try and protect their property values. Invoking health and safety always garners a larger audience.

    General ignorance and wide distrust of governments and corporations does the rest.


    I guess it depends on their style of growing and what they grow.

    I have talked to farmers who are actually fans of Monsanto products and have no problem with it. Most of the farmers I have talked to are either “small” or “medium.”

    By the way, I mean primarily staple crop growers in the US plains and west. I am not talking so much about smaller orchard or vegetable farms.

    They do not generally buy their seeds from Monsanto. They buy them from a wholesale seed distributor. This is how it is done in modern agriculture. It’s more expensive than using the seed you take from last years crop, but it is guaranteed to germinate, it has predictable traits and it is consistent. That makes it more than worth the cost.

    Genetically modified seeds are one option. Seed distributors carry GMO’s from Monsanto, Bayer and others. It depends on the variety. They also can choose various other options. There are hybridized seeds etc.

    What seed they buy depends on what they are trying to do. For example, with corn, there is corn that is bread for use as animal feed, for use in producing corn meal, for ethanol production etc.

    The prices vary depending on what type of seed they buy. The GMO’s tend to be a bit more expensive. That’s just a tendency, some of the non-gmo hybrids are just as expensive. In any case, it’s an expense worth paying if it increases yield. One of the many expenses in agriculture and, if properly managed, will be well within revenue.

    The farmers I have talked to generally like the GMO seeds and find the expense to be pretty nominal and a good value.


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  6. 6
    Q Says:

    Apparently the patent for Roundup Ready soybean seeds, which are Monsanto’s biggest selling seed product will run out next year. After that, seed producers can put it in their seeds without any royalties.

    Right now, the price is 75 dollars per acre, versus about half that for conventional seeds, so it’s not like it breaks the bank as is.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/business/18seed.html?_r=0

    The regulations seem stupid, though. Once something goes patent-free, it should be public domain and fee, but I guess they could continue to try to enforce license contracts. Also, what is really stupid is importing the GMO crops to some countries requires a license on the product that needs to be renewed, so if they don’t keep paying, it becomes illegal to import it to these countries. That makes no sense at all.


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  7. 7
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    ‘I have talked to farmers who are actually fans of Monsanto products and have no problem with it. Most of the farmers I have talked to are either “small” or “medium.”.

    I’m not suggesting it’s universal by any means, but as usual on the interpipes a vocal minority can have a far greater impact than their numbers would otherwise warrant.

    The other group that wants to keep the ‘GMO are poison’ meme alive is the ‘organic’ produce sector. The point here being that like the other cases, it is difficult to fight back with pure reason if one’s opponents already know their arguments are based on lies. This is not conducive to a free exchange of ideas, but rather becomes a ‘hearts and minds’ propaganda war.

            Q said:

    The regulations seem stupid, though. Once something goes patent-free, it should be public domain and fee, but I guess they could continue to try to enforce license contracts. Also, what is really stupid is importing the GMO crops to some countries requires a license on the product that needs to be renewed, so if they don’t keep paying, it becomes illegal to import it to these countries. That makes no sense at all.

    The GMO controversy is also about corporate control of the seed supply. As a form of biotechnology, GM seeds are protected by intellectual property laws, which give patent holders broad authority to control how the seeds are used. This is at the root of the issue. A farmer can violate Monsanto’s licensing agreement without ever intending to plant GM seeds. Wind or wildlife can carry seeds into the fields of neighboring farms, where they grow among non-GM crops without the farmer knowing. While it is true that this has been used as an excuse by farmers that were indeed pirating seed, the broad net Monsanto cast, did sweep in some how were truly innocent. So far only a handful of those charged have gotten off without some fine being levied.

    Even for those not directly impacted this raises hackles and throws more fuel on the fire.


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  8. 8
    Joseph Hertzlinger Says:

    If there’s a law mandated labeling of GMO food, the only label necessary will read: ALL BIOLOGICAL ORGANISMS ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED YOU IDIOTS!

    As for “Life Beyond Monsanto,” I recommend deporting everybody who can’t spell.


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  9. 9
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Has anyone else noticed “Life Beyond Monsanto” has a link for his name that points to a chemtrail site?


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  10. 10
    Loren Pechtel Says:

    When you look at the behavior of the left you see a strong anti-business attitude. The only non-evil large organization is government. GMOs come from large commercial companies. Thus it’s no surprise that many conclude they must be evil.


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  11. 11
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Loren Pechtel said:

    When you look at the behavior of the left you see a strong anti-business attitude. The only non-evil large organization is government. GMOs come from large commercial companies. Thus it’s no surprise that many conclude they must be evil.

    I guess… except they all seem to love Apple and Starbucks.


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  12. 12
    BMS Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    I guess… except they all seem to love Apple and Starbucks.

    You mean the Apple that, these days, alternates back and forth with ExxonMobile as the world’s biggest company?

    Heh … a clear case of fashion trumping principles.

    Or then again, maybe they’re impressed that so much of Apple’s labor force comes from the communist “worker’s paradise” of China, which also has a very, very strong government.


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  13. 13
    Q Says:

            DV82XL said:

    The GMO controversy is also about corporate control of the seed supply. As a form of biotechnology, GM seeds are protected by intellectual property laws, which give patent holders broad authority to control how the seeds are used. This is at the root of the issue. A farmer can violate Monsanto’s licensing agreement without ever intending to plant GM seeds. Wind or wildlife can carry seeds into the fields of neighboring farms, where they grow among non-GM crops without the farmer knowing. While it is true that this has been used as an excuse by farmers that were indeed pirating seed, the broad net Monsanto cast, did sweep in some how were truly innocent. So far only a handful of those charged have gotten off without some fine being levied.

    Even for those not directly impacted this raises hackles and throws more fuel on the fire.

    But patents run out, and Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready soybeans is about to run out. As of next year it will be expired and anyone will be able to retain the seeds or breed them or whatever. Of course, they will still make new products.

    How will anti-corporate groups react to the fact that one of the most popular GMO seeds is no longer corporate controlled?


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  14. 14
    Gordon Says:

    A few public domain or open source genetic engineered seeds will not likely change any minds.


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  15. 15
    AKA the A Says:

    While I do not mind eating GMOs, I do mind the patent lunacy around them…

    Can’t sow the seeds from the plants you grew from the seeds you paid for? I say BS, if you don’t want people copying your dear patented DNA (which btw had to come from something…), don’t sell it in a self-replicating form…


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  16. 16
    DV82XL Says:

            Q said:

    But patents run out, and Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready soybeans is about to run out. As of next year it will be expired and anyone will be able to retain the seeds or breed them or whatever. Of course, they will still make new products.

    How will anti-corporate groups react to the fact that one of the most popular GMO seeds is no longer corporate controlled?

    The fact is the utility of Roundup Ready crops is fading along with the patents as glyphosate resistant weeds are appearing; about thirty odd species at this point as well as colonization by weed species that Roundup was never effective against in the first place. Thus it going to be an ongoing process and the companies will have to come up with new strains of cultivars and new herbicides.


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  17. 17
    drbuzz0 Says:

            AKA the A said:

    While I do not mind eating GMOs, I do mind the patent lunacy around them…

    Can’t sow the seeds from the plants you grew from the seeds you paid for? I say BS, if you don’t want people copying your dear patented DNA (which btw had to come from something…), don’t sell it in a self-replicating form…

    I agree. the problem is we have no laws to deal with this. This is a new issue and old patent and copyright case law has been shoehorned into it, to try to regulate it, when the existing laws is really not suited to it.

    If I’m elected, one big issue would be the reform of intellectual property law to include better and more consistent regulation of things like gene discoveries and therapies and genetically modified organisms.

    I admit I do not have all the answers on this. It’s a complex subject and I would expect the need to convene a panel of scientists, ethicists and lawyers to try to come up with a solution.

    Just off the top of my head I might suggest that the seeds of a GMO product would be subject to licenses and patents when it comes to marketing and sales, but not to retention. So, a farmer could buy Monsanto Roundup Ready soy seeds and then if they wanted to use them for a second season, they could do that. If the pollen carried the gene to another farmer’s field, that would also be fair game. What they could not do is offer their second generation seeds for sale as “Roundup Ready” to other farmers. Also, competing seed companies could not intentionally breed the gene into their seeds and then sell it as a feature.

    I would also suggest limits on terms of patents for genes and also for a greater burden of proof be placed on patent holders when filing a lawsuit for infringement.


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  18. 18
    Anon Says:

            AKA the A said:

    Can’t sow the seeds from the plants you grew from the seeds you paid for? I say BS, if you don’t want people copying your dear patented DNA (which btw had to come from something…), don’t sell it in a self-replicating form…

    Monsanto actually have the technology to do that but have pledged not to commercialise the technology.


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  19. 19
    Matte Says:

    Well, I love to hate Monsato, they are evil and should/will burn in hell one day…
    However they are not half as evil as Greenpeace or any other green muppet show of an organisation out there oposing GMO-crops. We need to be able to feed 10 billion people in a sustainable manner, this is imposible to do with out GMO.

    Here is a nice dilema, either you nuke the hell out of the human population, let half the worlds population starve to death or allow GMO. You can’t eat the cake and not suffer the consequences…


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  20. 20
    magne Says:

            Q said:

    But patents run out, and Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready soybeans is about to run out. As of next year it will be expired and anyone will be able to retain the seeds or breed them or whatever. Of course, they will still make new products.

    How will anti-corporate groups react to the fact that one of the most popular GMO seeds is no longer corporate controlled?

    Two issues here, one is intellectual property, they have the right to their seeds. However this is mostly an brand name.

    Other is patent, no other can make seeds who is roundup resident while this is active, afterward you can as long as they don’t uses Monsanto’s seeds as base so other companies will do this.


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  21. 21
    Shafe Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    What they could not do is offer their second generation seeds for sale as “Roundup Ready” to other farmers. Also, competing seed companies could not intentionally breed the gene into their seeds and then sell it as a feature.

    That’d be a tough one. A farmer would not have to put the “Roundup Ready” name on his seeds. The grapevine will still tell every other farmer in the local market what he’s selling.

    I don’t see a better solution than using “single-generation” genes. Then the crops will produce viable offspring seed that do not express the patented genetic trait.


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  22. 22
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Shafe said:

    That’d be a tough one. A farmer would not have to put the “Roundup Ready” name on his seeds. The grapevine will still tell every other farmer in the local market what he’s selling.

    I don’t see a better solution than using “single-generation” genes. Then the crops will produce viable offspring seed that do not express the patented genetic trait.

    Yeah. Like I said, I’m not certain how it would work. I’m just throwing out some ideas. We would have to really work to get a comprehensive and well planned regulatory problem.

    And as far as single generation genes, I do prefer a technical solution to a legal one. Ideally, that solution would be able to completely take over most of the issue. The only thing you;d have to explicitly regulate would be attempts by anyone to somehow produce more of the product by artificial means, like grafting or something. That would make it a lot easier.


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  23. 23
    Anon Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    The only thing you;d have to explicitly regulate would be attempts by anyone to somehow produce more of the product by artificial means, like grafting or something.

    Those would pretty obviously be illegal.

    In terms of regulation we’d probably be better off with GMOs being regulated more like copyright than like patents but without lasting forever (the only real advantage of patents is that they run out).


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  24. 24
    George Carty Says:

            Matte said:

    We need to be able to feed 10 billion people in a sustainable manner, this is imposible to do with out GMO.

    Do we really need GMOs to feed the world, or just artificial fertilizers made using the Haber-Bosch process?

    And incidentally, I’ve heard of GMOs designed to fix their own nitrogen, but I wonder if they’re overrated. Surely, all the solar energy which the plant uses to fix nitrogen is energy which cannot be used to build up the mass of the plant itself (which is after all the main “mission” of any crop plant — to convert solar energy into complex organic chemicals suitable for food).


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  25. 25
    PsihoKekec Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    I always wonder how they find it so fast.

    Maybe they have Google Alerts?

    Hivemind. It’s bored middle class kids with way too much free time, latching onto some cause that seems cool and nonconformist. They spend countless hours fighting the arch enemies of the humanity on the internet, defending thankless sheeple from the evil iluminati and lizzard people.


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  26. 26
    DV82XL Says:

            George Carty said:

    Do we really need GMOs to feed the world, or just artificial fertilizers made using the Haber-Bosch process?

    And incidentally, I’ve heard of GMOs designed to fix their own nitrogen, but I wonder if they’re overrated. Surely, all the solar energy which the plant uses to fix nitrogen is energy which cannot be used to build up the mass of the plant itself (which is after all the main “mission” of any crop plant — to convert solar energy into complex organic chemicals suitable for food).

    Two [problems: First there is trouble with too much nitrogen fertilizer being applied to fields in the First World and the run-off causing problems with the bodies of water they are draining into.

    But second: an effort to insert the genes that code for the nodules that promote nitrogen fixation from peanuts into some other food cultivars was highly successful but it never went to market when it was also found that these same genes coded for the allergen that make some people go into anaphylactic shock and die from eating peanuts.

    For the record I am NOT anti GMO but as with anything when you increase the degrees of freedom, you also increase the potential for creating hitherto undiscovered paths to failure. This is a very powerful tool that we are just learning to use, thus caution is indicated.

    The point here being that quick fixes are often not as good as the seem.


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  27. 27
    Shafe Says:

            George Carty said:

    Surely, all the solar energy which the plant uses to fix nitrogen is energy which cannot be used to build up the mass of the plant itself (which is after all the main “mission” of any crop plant — to convert solar energy into complex organic chemicals suitable for food).

    Surely. But it may still be worth it. On the one hand, there is an opportunity cost associated with putting the plant to work fixing nitrogen when it could be producing food. But it will save feedstock, fuel, infrastructure, equipment, and labor (cumulatively: money) associated with producing, transporting, and applying fertilizer.

    Like many things it will come down to what the farmer is willing to pay. (1) What’s the cost of nitrogen-fixing seed and reduced yield? (2) What’s the cost of applying nitrogen and possibly being required to detain your agricultural runoff? I think those answers will vary from farm to farm. (Assuming that nitrogen fixing crops can be developed that won’t kill peanut-sensitive people.)


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  28. 28
    Chris Says:

    Safety of GMO’s tested on pigs: http://www.organic-systems.org/journal/81/8106.pdf
    Maybe you can write another article debunking this study too.
    I’m sure there will be even more to come.

    Don’t forget (if I remember correctly) most of the studies done on GMO seeds have been done by Monsanto themselves and you usually have to permission from them to use their patented GMO seeds in any type of study. This in itself is sensorship/prevention of critical studies and this is why the studies have been mostly positive so far. Similar case with Big Pharma and drug trials.


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  29. 29
    Chris Says:

    Article on the above study:
    http://www.pri.org/stories/science/environment/study-finds-health-issues-with-pigs-consuming-genetically-modified-foods-14195.html


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  30. 30
    drbuzz0 Says:

    http://www.marklynas.org/2013/06/gmo-pigs-study-more-junk-science/


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