Talk GMOs to Me

By Keith Kloor | August 10, 2012 8:28 am

HuffPo’s minky in-house science blogger talks GMOs with a plant geneticist. (Hey, you don’t title your show/column”Talk nerdy to me” if you look like Ann Ramsey in Throw Momma from the Train.)

The scientist who was interviewed says the science blogger knows her stuff. I agree. I watched it about 12 times. Then I moved on to her other “Talk Nerdy to Me” videos. (I had to catch up!)

In other GMO-related news, did you know that “genetically engineered corn is so tough on equipment that farmers switch to kevlar for tractor tires” and that genetically engineered foods are making you fat? Finally, a real reason to label GMO foods!

One last thing: Via John Fleck, who talks nerdy to his New Mexico readers, I learn that survivalists will not be turning to GMO seeds to help them ride out the apocalypse. On that note, if you ever want to go full in on that doomsday stuff–or just keep up to date as the world is collapsing around you–hook up with these folks. There’s even a weekly column at their site that explores

the psychology of change and the heart and soul of Collapse

GMO-free seed vaults. Psychotherapists who teach you how to embrace the collapse of civilization. You can’t make this stuff up.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: collapse, GMOs
MORE ABOUT: collapse, GMOs
  • Joshua

    I’ve wondered a few times about your angle on scientific debate, Keith. Now I get where you’re coming from.(btw, she needs to lose those glasses). And could you make a more blatant attempt to drive traffic (worked for me, though, didn’t it?).

    As for what the scientists says in the clip? Well, I call BS on his statement that labeling is going to scare people away from purchasing 70% of the products on our shelves. Whaaaaa? Out of fear, consumers are going to avoid 70% of the food that’s out there? Makes. No. Sense. Can you say fear-mongering about fear-mongering? And I love the gratuitous emotional appeal through saying that avoidance of 70% of the products out there is going to hurt poor people the most.

    That kind of rhetoric does not help in the debate about benefits vs. risks for GMOs or labeling of GMOs. What ever happened to old fashioned practicing what you preach?

  • Ed Forbes

    LoL….”Psychotherapists who teach you how to embrace the collapse of civilization…”one’s born every minute. Lots of people out there to separate you from any unneeded cash. 

  • Ed Forbes

    “..did you know that “genetically engineered corn is so tough on equipment that farmers switch to kevlar for tractor tires..”.Written by someone who seems to know nothing about the operation of a modern farm and the stress put on farm equipment. Tractor tires are EXPENSIVE, and anything that will increase run time on equipment with reasonable additional cost is quickly adapted. .And the idea that genetically engineered corn causes major additional tire ware over non….words fail

  • Menth

    @1. So putting a warning label on the less costly(gmo)item wouldn’t give an advantage to a more costly item (organic)? What happens when people start fleeing the less costly item due to health concerns? Perhaps the market might start to tilt towards the more expensive manufacturing process?

    Can you understand why the organics industry is in favour of this and pressures government to require it?

  • Joshua

    Menth -

    I think that labeling the foods might influence consumer behavior to some extent. Here’s my take on that extent:I think that the food industry has multiple ways to counteract the potential for any such influence. I think that with increased information, it may well turn out that balance in any shift will be that the public will be less concerned about GMOs than they currently are.

    I think that perhaps, a tiny minority of folks may be more likely to choose an option to act based on their beliefs about GMOs. Most likely, in fact, they will be people who live considerably above the poverty line. That doesn’t seem to me to be something to be particularly “concerned” about. I don’t think that the behavior of that minority of people will exert a significant influence on a massive industrial market segment.

    I think that for the most part, the debate about GMOs has  become another venue for motivated reasoning to fight (proxy) political battles.

    I don’t think that kind of motivated reasoning is a fair characterization for most of what  the scientist said in the interview, but still, scare-mongering about scare-mongering is a waste of time and likely counterproductive. I have no problem with the rest of what the scientist had to say in that clip. That aspect of what he said was very poorly reasoned, IMO. 

    “Can you understand why the organics industry is in favour of this and pressures government to require it?”

    Sure – but I think that is a simplistic description if it is intended to somehow capture anything approaching a comprehensive picture in any meaningful way. It suggests a binary approach to looking at complex issues. There are different stakeholders in this debate, and they have different levels of influence. I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Just because that is true does not, in and of itself, give much insight into creating the best policy. When people focus on certain, obvious factors, to the exclusion of others, it suggests motivated reasoning. We live in an imperfect world.

  • MarkB

    The tractor story was on public radio a few days ago. The host told us breathlessly how very expensive the tires are. It didn’t occur to her that farmers are capable of doing the math themselves and deciding when to switch seed. Regarding ‘survivalists,’ I recommend searching YouTube for ‘prepper.’ The preppers are collecting non-hybrid seed for the soon-to-happen collapse of the economy. They’re also burying guns and ammunition, so don’t bother going to their house for food when the Shit Hits The Fan.

  • PDA

    I believe the term of art is “When The Schumer Hits The Fan.”

  • Joshua
    It didn’t occur to her that farmers are capable of doing the math themselves and deciding when to switch seed.

    Really? It seems rather obvious that the farmers would be capable of doing the math themselves. What did the “breathless” interviewer say (how did you measure her “breathlessness?”) that led you to believe that never occurred to her? Is there a reason that you assume that other people are stupid? (Think about that for a minute.)

    Also – do GMOs cross-pollinate with the crops of farmers who choose not to use GMOs (or at least the transgenic techniques being referred to as GMO in the common vernacular)? So for some, it may not be a matter as simple as calculating the costs and then making a choice.

  • Matt B

    It wasn’t that long ago that Cara Santa Maria stared that feature for HuffPo & given HuffPo’s “science” track record (and her obvious minkiliciousness, thanks KK I love that term), I held out little hope that she would post much of anything that was worthwhile (I expected a steady diet of health & environment postings with a suitable progressive slant) but she has done a good job with some true scientific topics. Encouraging! 

  • hr

    As an expert can I just let everybody know that the fear-mongering by the anti-GMO brigade is the biggest crock of Schumer ever (that’s absolutely ever, not a grain of uncertainty). Hope that clears things up for some people.  

  • Joshua

    Yeah – that clears it up, hr. Thanks.

    As an expert, you can assure us that your opinion is absolutely certain. Glad we cleared that up.

    Next issue?

  • harrywr2

    #8 Joshua

    Also ““ do GMOs cross-pollinate with the crops of farmers who choose not to use GMOs

    So how have been farmers been dealing with the problem of cross pollination between silage corn and sweet corn and other varieties of corn that fetch a premium at the supermarket  since forever?Oh wait…I know…you either plant ‘wastage rows’…I.E…rows that will be harvested as the ‘lower value’ crop or physically separate the crops.

  • Joshua

    harry -

    Well, I guess in a sense someone who wants to prevent someone else’s GMO crops from cross-pollinating with their own has a “choice” between going to the expense and trouble of taking compensatory measures and moving  their farm….

    Look – I’m not suggesting that it is a fatal flaw or insurmountable problem. I was pointing out that there was an incorrect assumption being made in Mark’s comment.

  • steven mosher

    label smable. Look all around california we have these stupid signs that this thing may cause cancer. If SF I guess we are going to demand the same nonsense for phones. Go ahead and label 70% of all foods as dangerous. it merely becomes pink noise. people wont hear it.
    You know if you buy cigarettes in a place like taiwan they have nasty pictures of diseased lungs on the label. whatever. I imagine these labels make people who dont smoke marginally happier. whatever. personally, if I were marketing GMO food. I’d simply do two SKUs of the same product.
    One bragging about the genetic technology ( charge a premium) and the other with no GMO branding. or i’d target franken foods at kids and babies. raise smarter kids with GMO foods. for every nutjob scared of GMO there is a nutjob who can be convinced that a franken food will give them super powers.. dont fight what you can exploit..

  • MarkB

    Minky? Is that a new thing? A mink is a rat-faced animal – I’m not sure how this works. Are you thinking of ‘minx?’ A minx is an attractive, flirtatious woman. A mink? An aggressive predator with nasty musk glands.

  • jim

    @14 Stephen,
     
    In Martin Lindstrom’s book “Buyology,”  he points out that research shows that negative messages about smoking trigger the urge to smoke.
     

  • steven mosher

    yes jim. as a marketer and a smoker I know this.

  • PDA
  • Menth
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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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