Science Sunday: The Anti-GMO Crackpots

This week’s science blog is an excuse to point you at Will Saletan’s thorough article exposing the deceptions used by the forces opposed to genetically modified foods. After a year of reporting, he has unveiled a long post thick with links to studies by scientists and claims by anti-GMO activists. It is very very damning. The anti-GMO crowd make the Intelligent Designers look like Marie Curie:

I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

Second, the central argument of the anti-GMO movement—that prudence and caution are reasons to avoid genetically engineered, or GE, food—is a sham. Activists who tell you to play it safe around GMOs take no such care in evaluating the alternatives. They denounce proteins in GE crops as toxic, even as they defend drugs, pesticides, and non-GMO crops that are loaded with the same proteins. They portray genetic engineering as chaotic and unpredictable, even when studies indicate that other crop improvement methods, including those favored by the same activists, are more disruptive to plant genomes.

Third, there are valid concerns about some aspects of GE agriculture, such as herbicides, monocultures, and patents. But none of these concerns is fundamentally about genetic engineering. Genetic engineering isn’t a thing. It’s a process that can be used in different ways to create different things. To think clearly about GMOs, you have to distinguish among the applications and focus on the substance of each case. If you’re concerned about pesticides and transparency, you need to know about the toxins to which your food has been exposed. A GMO label won’t tell you that. And it can lull you into buying a non-GMO product even when the GE alternative is safer.

Saletan focuses on three examples of anti-GMO nutbaggery. The first the is the ringspot virus-resistant papaya, engineered to save the papaya industry in Hawaii. Environmentalist groups unleashed every trick in the book: claiming it was unsafe to consume a viral protein that people were consuming anyway; claiming it was bankrupting farmers (because of their opposition); claiming it had not been proven safe. All of these were lies and distortions, pushed by people with an agenda.

Next is crops containing Bt — a protein that kills predatory insects. Anti-GMO activists insist that plants contain Bt are poison … when they aren’t claiming they are ineffective. They do this while pushing Bt-containing sprays as safe and sustainable and attributing harms from Bt sprays to Bt-engineered crops.

Finally, he gets to the golden rice, which we’ve mentioned before. The golden rice could save the eyesight of hundreds of thousands of children. Anti-GMO activists opposed it because it didn’t have enough vitamin A. Then opposed because it had too much.

That summary doesn’t do justice to what’s going on. All along the way, the anti-GMO forces have been … well, lying. They distort studies, they misquote studies, they ignore studies that contradict their opinion. They denounce things as dangerous when they come from genetic engineering but proclaim them safe when they come from other means.

Now you might say, “Hey, what’s the harm in labeling GMO foods?” Here’s the harm:

GMO labels don’t clarify what’s in your food. They don’t address the underlying ingredients—pesticides, toxins, proteins—that supposedly make GMOs harmful. They stigmatize food that’s perfectly safe, and they deflect scrutiny from non-GMO products that have the same disparaged ingredients.

In other words, that safe organic banana might actually have more pesticide, more bacteria and more “toxins” than the supposedly dangerous GMO product. Putting a scarlet letter on GMO products isn’t “informing the public”. It’s trying to scare them into supporting an agenda.

This isn’t a trivial matter. Right now, we are seeing the spread of the UG-99 wheat rust. This rust has the potential to wreck the world’s wheat production, causing mass starvation and economic chaos. We desperately need to engineer strains of wheat that can resist the rust. But if the anti-GMO forces get their way, we’ll only be able to use the slow and less certain process of traditional breeding. Millions could die as a result.

(Saletan, like everyone who defends GMO’s, is being accused of being paid off by Monsanto. Monsanto had a clever reply to this.)

Saletan doesn’t ignore legitimate issues with GMO crops, such as the arms race they are creating in weed control. But those are solvable problems. Solvable problems that are not getting enough attention because the green luddites have us focused on the wrong things.

GMO crops are safe. This is the conclusion of every scientific study that has been done. There are issues around GMO’s that need some work. Let’s concentrate on that.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    Anti-GMO brought to you by envirotards worldwide – the very same ones that want to be put in charge of the entire world to “save” it from people.

     

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  2. West Virginia Rebel

    These are the same folks who caused food riots in third world countries because they insisted corn be grown for cars that made liberals feel better about themselves instead of actually feeding people.  “Let them eat bugs!” No, really, they say that now.

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  3. AlexInCT

    If you need any proof these idiots don’t have a clue about science, you take a look at how they react to two topics: anything related to gmo and nuclear energy.

    Here is a clue you numb nuts: everything you interact with – including the organic or natural stuff they push as an alternative – kills. Everything. Man is moving faster than evolution can keep up with, but that’s no reason to go back to being hunter-gathers living short and brutal  lives in caves, like they want to make us all do.

    I have started suspecting that too many of the people opposed to GMO foods really are opposed to abundance of food and thus too many people that don’t have to beg for their food. These idiots tend to be the ones that want to wipe out 3/4 of humanity (but never themselves) and believe if it doesn’t come from the almighty state it somehow is corrupt.

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  4. Hal_10000 *

    If you want to eat something that has not been genetically modified by humans, you’re pretty much down to water and salt.

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  5. AlexInCT

    Hal, we idoize most salt that is available, and water , by now, has some human in it (even if it is parts per billion) and is flouridated all over the place, so we can argue even that isn’t “unmodified” (albeit not genetically).

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  6. AlexInCT

    I worked for GE, both as a contractor and an employee, and GE is evil. When Immelt took over the place became a giant den of theives and cutthroats where cronyism and gender/racial identity was rewarded over competence and ability (mostly because manager feared losing their work horses if they got recognized, or worse, being replace by them). That’s one of the main reasons I left. Not much has changed from what I have heard.

    GM is now a government owned shithole. Not sure if it ever was a great place to work at all however.

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  7. Seattle Outcast

    I thought that was Genetically Engineered and Genetically Modified, but I’ll take your word on both companies…

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  8. CM

    I’m on your side(s) again on this issue. I have no problem with engineering our food to improve it, so long as it’s not used to unfairly control people or monopolize a market (the issues noted in the third paragraph of your first quote block). But we should be able to regulate those things.

    Those who like to line up with science on climate change don’t just get to ignore the science and (worse) misinform on this issue (and vice versa).

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  9. Christopher

    “Saletan, like everyone who defends GMO’s, is being accused of being paid off by Monsanto.”

    Of course.  They don’t have any real arguments.  It’s too bad that they lack critical thinking skills, because then they might realize why such an accusation works against them, in my opinion.  Think about it, the anti-GMO activists claim that Monsanto is an organization powerful enough to buy off scientists (to the point that virtually every reliable study on GMOs shows that they are safe), but the studies that anti-GMO activists cite are somehow free of this and have no biases.  So, first off, this organization is so powerful that it can’t prevent the publication of anti-GMO studies.  Second, they seem to believe that there are more important things than money (and I agree).  I would argue that that’s enough evidence to prove that it’s entirely possible to be biased for reasons other than money.  I don’t buy for a minute the idea that anti-GMO activists have nothing to lose if they were to change their minds (and I have a strong indication that everyone here feels the same way as I do).  They undoubtedly have a strong sense of community by hanging around with other anti-GMO activists and would most certainly be ostracized by everyone that used to be their friends.  It’s essentially a cult-like mentality, and it’s a powerful thing.  Thirdly, if a person’s go-to argument is an accusation of greed (also know as the “appeal to motive fallacy”) before actually giving the evidence an honest analysis and critique, it’s objectively obvious that there is no conceivable way to get any real evidence through to their already-closed minds.  The logic is completely circular, anything that they disagree with is wrong and it is wrong because they disagree with it.  And anything that appears to support their conclusions is right and it is right because it appears to support their conclusions.  What’s worse is that it’s apparently inconceivable to them that the shoe could actually be on the other foot.

    Okay, sorry for the long post, but I thought that I’d get my thoughts out on this argument as I’m tired of hearing it.  I hear it when people talk about gun control, creationism (although the accusations there are usually not greed/money) and plenty of other places.

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  10. AlexInCT

    Think about it, the anti-GMO activists claim that Monsanto is an organization powerful enough to buy off scientists (to the point that virtually every reliable study on GMOs shows that they are safe), but the studies that anti-GMO activists cite are somehow free of this and have no biases. So, first off, this organization is so powerful that it can’t prevent the publication of anti-GMO studies.

    There is another cult that shares this same dysfunction, but the name escapes me at this time.

    I would argue that that’s enough evidence to prove that it’s entirely possible to be biased for reasons other than money. I don’t buy for a minute the idea that anti-GMO activists have nothing to lose if they were to change their minds (and I have a strong indication that everyone here feels the same way as I do). They undoubtedly have a strong sense of community by hanging around with other anti-GMO activists and would most certainly be ostracized by everyone that used to be their friends. It’s essentially a cult-like mentality, and it’s a powerful thing.

    There it is again… Dang.

    It’s the new religion man. They got rid of the old religions with their promise of hell and heaven, and invented a new one, centered on the almighty government, that gives you those right here on earth!

    Thirdly, if a person’s go-to argument is an accusation of greed (also know as the “appeal to motive fallacy”) before actually giving the evidence an honest analysis and critique, it’s objectively obvious that there is no conceivable way to get any real evidence through to their already-closed minds.

    You miss the most important motivation: the “problem” they put forth – practically always manufactured and reliant on psuedo-science and the tactics to discredit the opposition’s motives – allows them to sell an otherwise unpalatable and shitty solution to people that would likely never accept it without the doomsday predictions.

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  11. Seattle Outcast

    Just once, ONCE, I’d like to see the libtards that dismiss all criticisms as someone “being in the pocket of X” prove their accusations.

    The claims of being paid off are astronomical in number – just once you’d think that they could actually follow the money and prove it.

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  12. CM

    There is another cult that shares this same dysfunction, but the name escapes me at this time.

    So how do you get to line up entirely with the science on this issue (to the point of mocking), and entirely against it on the Voldemort issue (also to the point of mocking)? Explain that one again?

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