An NYU Panel Debate on GMO Labeling

By Keith Kloor | April 6, 2013 8:07 am

Bernie Mooney, who writes the excellent Contrary to popular Belief blog, has contributed a guest post:

Last Thursday, the NYU Global Center for Academic & Spiritual Life,  in conjunction with GMO Free New York held a panel debate called GMO Labeling: Do We  Need It? It was a civilized discussion, but the deck was stacked.

The panel included moderator/journalist Frederick Kaufman, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Dr. Carolyn Dimitri of NYU Steinhardt, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and two representatives from anti-GMO lobbying groups, Jean Halloran of the Consumers Union and Patty Lovera from Food & Water Watch.

The lone scientist on the panel was Dr. Walter S. De Jong from the Cornell University, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics. This affable potato breeder gets the award for willingly walking into the belly of the beast.

The hour-long discussion touched on all the familiar anti-GMO talking points complete with the usual misinformation such as Halloran’s claim that GMOs have not increased yields. Thankfully the night was Seralini and Genetic Roulette free. Well, almost Seralini and Genetic Roulette free, but that happened after the event.

Halloran brought up the increased allergen risk of GM salmon, failing to note that it doesn’t matter whether GM salmon is 2 times or 100 times more allergenic than conventional salmon. People who are allergic to salmon can’t eat salmon whether it is genetically modified or not.

She also raised the issue that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) relies on industry testing when deciding to approve or deny approval. She didn’t consider the millions of dollars it would take to do their own testing of every product that comes up for approval. Where does she suggest that money come from?

Overall, nothing new was learned and everybody went away still believing what they believed before they attended the event. Well, almost.

I managed to barge into a few of the conversations among attendees and found that rather than being met with scorn and derision, people actually wanted to hear what I had to say. I wasn’t once called a Monsanto shill. I found that encouraging. I had been remiss in that I didn’t make a better effort to challenge some of the statements made by the panelists, but I think correcting the misinformation I heard in conversations afterward was more fruitful.

While talking with Dr. De Jong, a woman came up and said she respected him for willingly participating in an event where he was odd man out. Then she qualified it by saying, “I didn’t agree with anything you said, but I respect you.” Huh?

I went all deGrasse Tyson on her: “The science is true whether you believe it or not.” She looked at me confused and left.

Taking my leave, I went in search of Kathleen Furey of GMO Free NY. I asked her why, in their events around the state they gave credibility to Jeffrey Smith by screening Genetic Roulette. She asked why they shouldn’t screen it. I said because Smith is “fraud and charlatan; a yogic flying dance teacher with no scientific or agricultural credentials.” (That’s my how to win friends and influence people style.)

She asked, “Who doesn’t think he is credible?”

“The scientific community,” I replied.

“Well, I can show you scientists who do find him credible,” she said.

Me: “Like who? Seralini?”

Her: “Oh, so you don’t find him credible?”

Not surprisingly, the conversation degenerated from there. But once more I missed another opportunity when during our exchange, Furey, in defense of Smith’s non-scientific credentials, told me that she wasn’t a politician but she was able to write legislation. I was so focused on her defense of Smith that I missed a shocking revelation.

Anti-GMO activists have recently been howling about how Monsanto helped craft the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act.” Yet, here was an activist who admitted to not just helping write the GMO labeling bills now in front of the New York State Senate and Assembly, she wrote them.  How does this differ from corporations doing the same thing?

In the end, I found it encouraging that in my private discussions most people were willing to listen. This could be due to the fact that the event was held in NYC, but it’s encouraging nonetheless. With better outreach, the biotech community could help dispel public fears and make the scare mongering of the anti-GMO activists less effective.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, GMOs
MORE ABOUT: biotechnology, GMOs
  • JonFrum

    “In the end, I found it encouraging that in my private discussions most people were willing to listen. This could be due to the fact that the event was held in NYC…”

    Huh? Stop and think about that.

    • Keith Kloor

      Yeah, that struck me, too (and I say that as someone who lives in NYC). The implied meaning….?

      • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

        I know, that does sound odd. But I’ve found that New Yorkers tend to like to discuss things, especially with someone like me who usually doesn’t take the party line,

        • JonFrum

          So we in the rest of the country don’t like to ‘discuss things?’ Only New Yorkers are open minded?

          • Keith Kloor

            JonFrum, oh, I’m sure people in SF, Berkley, Boulder are just as open-minded about GMOs? :)

            Bernie, do you see how that one remark in your post can be construed?

          • FosterBoondoggle

            Berkeley here. No need for insults. Berkeley’s full of people perfectly happy to discuss things with people of different views. I got into a big debate with several local friends last fall about Prop 37 (me anti, one fence sitter, one pro, several innocent bystanders). If you go on the Berkeley Blog site (UC profs) you’ll find a few posts from last fall, all anti-37.

            It’s not useful to assume dogmatism in your political opponents. It’s true that “you can’t reason a man out of a view he didn’t reason himself into in the first place”, but the places you named are all full of highly educated people who at least value reason, even if they’re not always persuadable.

          • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

            Oh yeah. I’m used to it. ;-) I was going to reference places like Berkeley. Or should I say, the People’s Republic of Berkeley.

          • AdamMerberg

            I think it’s more of an in person thing than a New York thing. I haven’t done studies on this, but it generally seems like discourse is less civil on the internet than in real life.

            I live in Berkeley and have also found people to be open-minded in person. Last year, I persuaded the board of directors of an organic food co-op to refrain from endorsing Proposition 37. I don’t know that I changed anybody’s mind about GMOs, but nobody called me a shill, and I think people respected that I was a real person and had done my own thinking.

            Granted, the circumstances were somewhat exceptional. At the time I was a long-time member of that board of directors at the time (I have since stepped aside) so people felt that I shared their values. I don’t know whether a new member at a co-op across the bay in San Francisco could have done the same (though I also wonder if there would be any hope for civil discourse at the Park Slope Food Co-op in New York, which has a committee dedicated to putting warning labels on GMOs: http://gmodanger.wordpress.com/ ). But I do think it says something about the value of connecting with people in person.

          • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

            I wish that was the case, but it hasn’t been my experience. I’ve seen the same kind of drama IRL that you see in the comment threads plenty of times. On vaccines, climate, and GMOs. I go to a lot of public meetings.

          • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

            You know how much I hate you? ;-) You are correct. I guess I need to get out more. And I think you’re right about the Park Slope co-op. I have been planning to head over there to talk to them about it.

            As to warning labels, I asked Furey about that. I asked her if she was suggesting a listing on the ingredients list, such as made with “genetically modified soybeans” or a warning label on the front of the package, she didn’t answer and tried to end the conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/Timberati Norman Benson

    Bernie, it’s no biggie that you didn’t mention Kathleen Furey’s double standard to her. She wouldn’t have seen it. When one “speaks for the helpless planet” transparency of funding or credentials is of no consequence, as long as one’s heart is untainted by Monsanto.

  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    told me that she wasn’t a politician but she was able to write legislation.

    Ah, that explains why some of these bills are so poorly structured. They are full of inconsistencies, loopholes, and terrible science. And they seem to get terrible legal advice too. The recent letter from the Hawaii AG was pretty clear on that as the Hawaii bill failed.

    I guess that’s all part of the package: terrible choices for information sources. It’s seems to be Dunning-Kruger, or crank magnetism–maybe both.

    The good news is that because of the flaws they probably won’t have much impact. If that’s what they want to spend their time and money on, it’s up to them.

  • Chuck Currie

    “Anti-GMO activists have recently been howling about how Monsanto helped craft the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act.”
    Yet, here was an activist who admitted to not just helping write the
    GMO labeling bills now in front of the New York State Senate and
    Assembly, she wrote them. How does this differ from corporations doing
    the same thing?”

    The answer would be – which one derives financial benefit? Which one derives market protection, reduced competition, increased cost of entry? Which one has a greater financial influence on the political process? There’s your difference. Each has a legal right to petition the government – one has a greater advantage over the other.

    Cheers

    • http://pdiff.weebly.com/ Pdiff

      Chuck, you are kidding yourself if you think these people won’t get financial benefit, market protection, and reduced competition from their activities. I suggest you look at the lawyers and large organic farmers behind CA P37, the organic coop PCC and Wholefoods markets behind the WA initiatives. You will find similar associations in all anti-GMO legislation from OR to CO to HI. Fact is, lobbying is lobbying, no matter who’s doing it. And they do it for a reason: business.

      • Caroline

        Whole Foods was not BEHIND Prop 37. They wanted a national law to label GMOs. But under pressure from their customers (who favor labelling) they relented and spent a paltry $25k on radio ads to support Prop 37.

        • http://pdiff.weebly.com/ Pdiff

          I referred to WF re: WA state, where they are actively promoting it. Yes, they got burned in CA and are moving to cover their butts this time.

      • Chuck Currie

        mem_somerville, Pdiff – I understand that everyone involved has a dog in the fight – but, who has the bigger dog; Monsanto or Dr Mercola?

        The funny thing is, the non-GMO food packagers will have a harder time keeping the GMO label OFF their products than the GMO food packagers will have putting it on. If your product contains soy or corn (and what doesn’t have soy or corn or a derivative of it in it), you’re 99% sure it’s a GMO, so proving that it’s not will be the harder task.

        We may or may not see legislation requiring GMO labeling (after all they’re currently dealing with the most corrupt state government in the country – very low hurdle), but I think GMO labeling is coming, the market will demand it. And, besides, it’s not like food packages are not already ingredient labeled – which have proved to be misleading and useless – so what’s one more line of useless information on the ingredient’s list?

        Cheers

        • http://pdiff.weebly.com/ Pdiff

          I would say Mercola and Oz, etc, etc, ad nauseum, have much bigger dogs in the gullible marketplace, which in the end, is all that matters. Even your corrupt gov’s and evil corp’s will bow to that pressure. And I do agree with you that label laws will come, if only for that reason. I disagree on the idea that one more piece of bad info is no worse than what is already there. IMO, bad laws are worse than no laws. If you are going to label, then do it right. The current batch of label laws (all clones of P37) are full of exemptions that give free rides to certain market sectors while oppressing others. McDonalds gets off the hook, but the local food packager gets the tenth degree of scrutiny (and liability).

          Funnier thing is, the non-GMO labelers will stand to make bigger profits off their efforts too. It’s a marketing gimmick to make the perception of an already existing product more desirable without changing the product itself. An old, but effective, marketing ploy.

    • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

      Keep going on that line of thought Chuck. Who does benefit financially from the labeling bills? Check the donors who wanted Prop37. Joe Mercola, organic food and product producers, etc. Just like Pdiff said. In a more general way, here’s the list:

      1. The fearmongering groups or activists who use it to raise funds. Or to sell books or movies or consultancies.

      2. The natural/organic food and products industries.

      3. Ad agencies.

      Does the general public benefit from the labeling bills? Nope.

      Does the proposed label affect food safety? Nope.

      Does the proposed label decrease food costs? Nope.

      The only folks who benefit from the proposed labels are those who are philosophically opposed to one type of plant tech. Therefore, it should be handled like other philosophical labels such as Kosher. That’s developed into a sustainable and trustworthy model: http://www.foodpolitics.com/2013/03/reading-for-the-holiday-weekend-kosher/

      And it’s not a government-specified label. The rules are established by those who have the issue with the process of their food production, and it is policed by them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

        If you look at other countries with labeling you would see that your assumptions are not likely accurate. In the EU where labeling was made mandatory well over a decade ago organic farming is still very small. In fact many U.S. companies sell non-GMO versions of their products in the EU but those products are generally not organic. I don’t see how the organic farmers or those selling organic products would benefit in this scenario other than a possible consumer rejection could lead to a reduction in GMO crops in the U.S. which could reduce the burden on organic farmers of having to prevent contamination of their organic crops but it isn’t likely that more people will buy organic if mandatory labeling of GMO is implemented. As for your claim, “Does the general public benefit from the labeling bills? Nope.” and, “Does the proposed label affect food safety? Nope.” The answer can be found in this article, “Halloran brought up the increased allergen risk of GM salmon”. If an individual eats salmon and only has a minor allergic reaction and then later eats a genetically engineered salmon and has a more severe reaction a label would allow that individual to link that more severe reaction to the genetically engineered salmon and avoid it in the future. While genetically engineered salmon may not be deregulated this same concept can be applied for other genetically engineered ingredients already in use.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Yana-Tengalas/100001498387941 Yana Tengalas

    ‘The biotech community could help dispel public fears’ by embracing independent enquiry, and omitting extreme and repeated shady behavior re: testing and labeling of their products. “It’s no surprise to me/ I am my own worst enemy…” — the biotech industry (o wait, no, that was Lit… whatev: if the problem fits…)

  • Kurt

    What in the hell is wrong with people. Look, genetic engineering is TOTALLY unnecessary. Period. It’s being done ONLY so that biotech companies can use the patent system to suck money from others. All of the talk about feeding the world is pure bullshit. Go vegan and the world is fed with tons and tons of food left over, so folks don’t even need to go TOTALLY vegan if they so choose. And yeilds are either not really better or not that much better, and the soil gets f—ed up. “Genetic engineering” is more appropriately termed “Genetic tinkering”. There are consequences that AREN’T WELL UNDERSTOOD, AND SO WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE F— IS IN OUR FOOD SO THAT WE CAN CHOOSE TO NOT PLAY IN THIS BULLSHIT EXPERIMENT. GOT IT?

    • jh

      “genetic engineering is TOTALLY unnecessary.”

      So are cars, gortex, smartphones, heirloom tomatoes, NCAA tournaments, lawns, cosmetic surgeries, nail polish, running shoes, pizza, and whitening toothpaste (among other things).

      Do you oppose these as well? :) Does it tick you off that people make money on gortex and iPhones? Should we stop issuing patents because people make money from them?

      • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

        Sorry, I beg to differ. Pizza is most definitely “necessary.”

        • jh

          Recently, pizza makers have been creating entirely new pizzas with unnatural combinations like pepperoni & cauliflower & juniper berries and selling them directly to the PUBLIC without the extensive testing necessary to ensure that these pizzas are SAFE!

          You may think pizza is necessary to feed the world, but the risk these pizzas pose to public safety ISN’T worth it. AND THEY’RE DOING IT FOR NOTHING BUT PROFIT!!!!

          • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

            And these pizza abominations were invented by GMO clowns, created by Monsanto, who drive around in white vans abducting children and forcing them to eat this unnatural pizza.

          • dogctor

            One thing I know for sure, is that responsible physicians aren’t peddling GMO pizzas.

            Corn and soybeans, which together have received $96 billion in subsidies since 1995, are primarily used for animal feed by industrial livestock operations, and also go into processed sugars (like high fructose corn syrup) and fats (like soybean oil). http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/agriculture-and-health-policies-ag-versus-health

            Yep, IT IS ALL FOR PROFIT!!!!!

      • Kurt

        The problem here is that we’re being told that we NEED GMOs to fed the world. We don’t. And the risks to the ecosystem and our health are not something that I want any part of contributing to, so label the damn stuff (or better yet outlaw it due to the risk/benefit ratio … cross-pollination with organics is reason enough) so that I can avoid it without limiting myself to food suppliers that have to jump through hoops to get their stuff labeled organic or non-gmo-project verified. As others have said, labeling can be done just like in other countries, so at least just do /that/. Sheesh!

        • jh

          “And the risks to the ecosystem and our health are not something that I want any part of contributing to…”

          So then you don’t have a car or own a home or drive on roads or own smartphones or computers. You honorably eschew these threats to ecosystems and health! I congratulate you.

          • http://www.facebook.com/caroline.chin.779 Caroline Chin

            Here is the issue. We ALL have to eat – infants, seniors, gays, straights, females, males, dogs, cats, cows, birds, etc – all of us. We don’t all have to watch NCAA, talk on a smart phone, drive a car, wear nail polish, plant a garden… Yes, some of us can eat organic but this is not about organic food. It’s about food integrity and food freedom. Why should 90% of the food on our plate be DICTATED and controlled by three or four Pesticide Companies? Henry Kissinger said it best “Control the food, control the people.” Wake up Sheeple. Oops, I meant People.

  • Caroline

    The argument that there is no difference between an anti-GMO activist writing a law and Monsanto writing a law is ludicrous. The focus should be more on the intent of the law. A law to label GMOs is hardly the same as a law to give Biotech corporation immunity from any court decision. Who next should get immunity? The Wall Street Bankster?

    • jh

      “The argument that there is no difference between an anti-GMO activist writing a law and Monsanto writing a law is ludicrous.”

      I disagree most vehemently. Each group pursues it’s individual interests, not the interests of society in general. Each group’s interests offer both benefits and drawbacks to society has a whole. Neither group is elected.

      “A law to label GMOs…”

      Companies can and do provide labeling if their customers demand it. Labeling mandates, however, are for specific health reasons only.

      • http://www.facebook.com/caroline.chin.779 Caroline Chin

        Self-interest is a given. No one is arguing about that. AGAIN, the focus should be on the intent of the law. My intent for labeling GMOs is about my heatlh. For Biotech it’s profits. So you saying Biotech’s profits should trump public safety and health? Last year Vermont demanded labeling but the Governor pulled out when Monsanto threaten to sue them. So, even if the Public demands labeling, it’s an uphill battle. The truth is Mega Corporations do not want labels, If their GMO products are so great then label them. 61 countries label GMOs.

        • Cairenn Day

          How does any GMO crop threaten your health? They don’t.

          I don’t want to PAY for your refusal to accept science. You would be pushing higher prices down my throat.

          You have a choice now, buy organic. I want the choice to buy plentiful, affordable food,

  • concerned grandmother

    I am sorry for the author who is sadly misinformed on this subject.. Well he can go right on eating GMO and plenty of it.

    There are valid scientific studies that demonstrate the many dangers in GMO but they are rather ruthlessly attacked as it is in the interest of Monsanto and others like them to squash these valid scientific findings, and they have the money to do it.

    I shall not bother posting links as; 1. The author will not be convinced and 2. He will make meager attempts to tear them apart such as his meager attempts to paint Genetically Modified foods as lovely things in this article. Google is your friend.

    I would simply advise the readers to do some research, join some groups that are fighting to get rid of GMO or at least have it labeled so we know what we are buying. You will also learn the best ways to avoid GMO. Why is Monstersatan spending millions and millions of dollars to keep from labeling? 40+ million in California alone. Well I will leave that for you to figure out.

    Why do over 50 countries including all of the European Union and most of Asia ban or require labeling of Genetically Engineered Food?

    Surveys show that 92% of Americans want GMO labeled. I would personally like to see them banned as they are also causing major environmental harm to bees, bats, butterflies and more and cross pollinating our native, heritage and conventional crops to extinction.. If your GMO products are so wonderful then why be afraid of labeling? Oh, you like human genes in your rice?

    Monsanto now owns a large majority of seed companies.. If they have their way they will soon destroy all non-GMO crops,. all REAL food..

    Oh, do you like Bt toxin pesticide in your corn? It explodes the stomachs of pests.. but it won’t hurt you! (lol facepalm). Oh you like bovine growth hormones in your beef? It bulks them up nice and fast so the beef industry profits. Yes, that is a Monsanto product. Think it might bulk you up?

    I guess it’s fun and profitable to play God.. with no thought to the consequences..

    Monsanto was also the creator of DDT, Agent Orange, I believe Thalidomide and others, which they called safe..

    Monsanto used to make Aspartame too. They sold the Aspartame division, I wonder why? Google that one if you want to be horrified. The name was recently changed to “AminoSweet”.

    and they are now trying to put Aspartame into milk and dairy products WITH NO LABELING!

    Show me the scientific human or even animal studies that prove that GMOs are not a health threat. I have tried and I can’t find any.

    Even Kaiser Permanente advised their employees in their northwest fall 2012 newsletter to “Limit exposure to genetically modified organisms” and provided tips on how to avoid GMO. They also said in this article “Despite what the biotech industry might say, there is little research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human health”. They also go on to site independent research studies showing serious health dangers. This can also be found on google with a copy of the article.

    Oh and by the way, what’s up with sneaking an entirely unrelated provision known as Section 735 (lovingly referred to as the Monsanto Protection Act by anti-GMO advocates) into HR 933, The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, or the spending bill that would have shut down the government if it had not passed.

    Now Monstersatan can continue their experiments on us without risk of being sued thanks to the “Monsanto Protection Act”. the rider that protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks and essentially gives them backdoor approval for any new genetically engineered crops that could be potentially harmful to human health or the environment.

    Thank you Missouri senator Roy Blunt — “famed friend of Big Agriculture on Capitol Hill” and recipient of very generous Monsanto contributions, for sneaking this evil unconstitutional provision into HR 933.

    Sources say Blunt told Politico David Rogers that he “worked with” Monsanto to craft the rider. I am not sure why they needed this rider, as Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto attorney/employee is a Supreme Court Justice now who has ruled in favor of Monsanto in every case presented. Hmm I wonder if Thomas knows about the ability to recuse oneself when there may be a conflict of interest? Guess not..

    Oh and beware of so called “Natural” foods if they aren’t certified organic. As an example, castoreum is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac (anal gland) of beavers and is used as a vanilla flavoring in some “Natural” products. Did your mouth just drop open? Well you can find this one on wikipedia.org.

    Well I didn’t mean to go on such a rant but this article just turned my stomach. I could go on and on but it is time for sleep. I wish I had been able to attend the panel.

    There are many more problems with GMO but as it is all available on the web, I will leave it to you to research. Talk to your local non-GMO farmers, they will tell you an earful.

    I hope the readers will take the time to learn about GMO and start buying Organic for you and your family’s health. And for the health of Earth. If we all stop buying GMO (look for 100% Certified Organic) they will soon run out of money and that will be the end of this nightmare. They won’t need money where they are going anyway..

    • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

      Wow, you’ve fallen for every bad piece of information you have found on GoogleU. Here’s a Pro-tip: not everything you find on Google is true.

      Since you won’t bother with sources, I won’t either. Let’s just talk about one claim:

      Oh, do you like Bt toxin pesticide in your corn? It explodes the stomachs of pests.. but it won’t hurt you! (lol facepalm).

      Chocolate kills dogs…but it won’t hurt you! (lol facepalm, right?) I’m sure you’ll want to start a crusade now to ban chocolate from all foods–think about the children!!1!!

      Or you could think about differences in species, or read some actual science about the mechanism and human biology. Or just believe everything you read on Google.

    • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

      I don’t have the time to respond to all your claims, but I will address a couple of them. There are no “valid” scientific studies that show a health danger from GMOs.

      Second, Kaiser Permanente responded to questions about that article by saying, “The article appearing in this fall’s issue of Partners in Health, Kaiser Permanente’s newsletter for members, was written by one of our nutritionists, and presents her views and insights on the subject. “

      • Kurt

        Even if it were true (which it isn’t) that there is a lack of valid scientific studies that show health dangers … that is NOT a sufficient argument for allowing this risk into our food supply. If we’re doing something so fundamentally different from what occurs in nature then the burden of proof falls on those who are pushing GMOs to /prove/ with near certainty that there is no such risk … unless our backs are against the wall (which they aren’t) and we have no other choice (like if the bullshit argument about needing GMOs to feed the world were actually true).

        • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

          Show me these valid studies. Almost every major medical and scientific organization has weighed in on the safety of GMOs.

          If what occurs in nature is your yardstick, we will have to throw out almost every kind of food we grow. We’ve been tinkering with our food supply for thousands of years. Radiation, hybridization etc are all ways we modify our food. Broccoli, and cauliflower are just two foods that didn’t occur in nature. Actually, corn is the classic example

          GMOs won’t feed the world. They’re not a silver bullet. They are just one more tool in the Ag toolbox. To throw out a beneficial tech is nonsensical. Carl Sagan once said, “It is ironic that we live in a time so dependent on science and technology, yet know so little about science and technology.”

          I think the big problem is anti-GMO folks conflate the tech with their hatred of corporations. If a corporation uses it, it has to be bad.

          • Kurt

            The mechanisms of GE are too much different than the others in terms of how they deviate from nature. A more appropriate term is “genetic tinkering” (or genetic bombardment). I’m all for technology pursued thoroughly (which GE isn’t … there is soooooo much not known about its effects both ecologically and in terms of individual health, and there are plenty of valid concerns raised by scientists all over the map), and for the right reasons (e.g., improvement in human health … such as having healthy soil ecology with a full spectrum of trace minerals, as in permaculture). GE is definitely not that. Oh, and the limited studies on GE crops, mostly done by those who stand to benefit from their sale … and the difficulty of independent researchers being able to do research because of Monsanto’s legal restrictions … make the whole issue such a no-brainer I can’t believe that people continue to agrue in favor of GMOs at this time? If you want the last word, make it a good one, this is my last post here. But I’ll guarantee you that the movement is strong and getting stronger, fully legitimate, and it won’t go away until we at /least/ get labeling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

    The writer makes what has to be one of the most ignorant comments I’ve seen on this subject, “Halloran brought up the increased allergen risk of GM salmon, failing to note that it doesn’t matter whether GM salmon is 2 times or 100 times more allergenic than conventional salmon. People who are allergic to salmon can’t eat salmon whether it is genetically modified or not.” If an individual does not already know that they are allergic to salmon and they eat a salmon with an increased level of an allergen the result could be a more severe reaction like perhaps death.

    • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

      While what you say is true, you’re proposing a “what if” scenario. The FDA did reject the initial allergen data by Aqua Bounty due to a small sample size. But, they did revisit the issue and found the amount of allergens were not “significantly” different from wild salmon. They could conduct larger tests but from what I’ve read it is unlikely there would be much difference.

      But back to your example. You can say that risk exists with any food that contains ingredients which are known allergens. Not knowing you’re allergic to peanuts can have a potentially lethal effect.

      • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

        The data in the 2010 FDA report found in table 29 suggests the highest mean allergenic potency for a non-GE diploid is 2.65 compared to the highest mean allergenic potency for a GE triploid which is 3.22. We could debate that data but it has nothing to do with the writer’s argument. The writer doesn’t argue that the increased allergen risk argument is false, etc. what the writer argues is, “it doesn’t matter whether GM salmon is 2 times or 100 times more allergenic than conventional salmon”. My argument is that if an individual has a mild allergic reaction to salmon and that individual eats a salmon that is, “100 times more allergenic than conventional salmon” that individual could have a severe reaction resulting in death. In fact if an individual has a mild allergic reaction to salmon and that individual even inhales salmon that is, “100 times more allergenic than conventional salmon” that individual could have a severe reaction resulting in death. That is significant. If an individual has a mild reaction when they eat conventional salmon they can live and realize they are allergic to salmon and then avoid it. If that same individual eats a GE salmon that is, “100 times more allergenic than conventional salmon” that individual may die. So allowing a GE salmon that is,”100 times more allergenic than conventional salmon” to be deregulated could be the difference between life and death for many people with a salmon allergy. That is why I stated, “The writer makes what has to be one of the most ignorant comments I’ve seen on this subject”. If the writer is making this type of ignorant argument it is hard to take serious anything he says regardless of whether it is a, “what if” scenario or not.

        • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

          Man, you aren’t going to let this go. First, I was coming from the idea that people who are allergic to salmon won’t eat it, hence the 100x mention. Second, there is no scientific evidence that the increased allergenic content in the GE salmon is more harmful. Third, conventional herring contains larger amounts of allergens than either regular or the GE salmon so it’s kind of a red herring, if you will

          • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

            You stated, “First, I was coming from the idea that people who are allergic to salmon won’t eat it, hence the 100x mention.” Then you didn’t consider all of the variables which still makes the statement one of the most ignorant arguments I’ve ever heard in relation to this subject. You state, “Second, there is no scientific evidence that the increased allergenic content in the GE salmon is more harmful.” Increased Sal s 1 levels generally increase the severity of the allergic reaction, while obviously different people will have different reactions your argument goes against the existing evidence for Atlantic salmon allergens provided the 2010 FDA data is representative of the non-GE diploids and GE triploids in general. You state, “Third, conventional herring contains larger amounts of allergens than either regular or the GE salmon” We are talking about allergens specific to Atlantic salmon such as Sal s 1 which is not found in herring so it looks like your argument is a red herring. Even if we were talking about parvalbumin in general keep in mind that raw fish muscle extracts are used for the primary detection method. However when you consider the muscle(protein) content of the edible portions of raw Atlantic salmon compared to raw Atlantic herring for example you will see that on a per gram basis the average raw Atlantic herring contains less protein which would mean the fish muscle extracts do not necessarily represent the parvalbumin content of the edible portions of each fish.

          • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

            All I can say is read this. I don’t have access to the actual article, it’s behind a paywall, but here is the release by UC Davis concerning the issue. http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=9969 You sound like you get your info from Mercola or Smith.

          • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

            I get my info (which you have obviously avoided responding to) from peer reviewed studies conducted by authors who do not have a professional or financial conflict of interest unlike you who referenced an article by a former Monsanto employee Alison L. Van Eenennaam.

  • rp

    What an a slanted, arrogant and self-important article! I find it really disturbing how disrespectfully this writer speaks about those whose views differ from his own.

    I personally feel that at best, GMO foods have not been adequately tested for safety, and I choose not to consume them. If someone else feels GMO foods are the bright future of agriculture, that is his or her personal choice.

    Having no intention of “getting into it” with anyone, I won’t even get started on the scientific, safety, political or corporate issues debated here. Instead, let’s just get to the core of the matter: If nothing is wrong with GMO foods, why not just label them? No dire consequences will befall our nation if labels accurately reveal what is in our food. Much of the world has already arrived at this conclusion; our nation is lagging way behind.

    Everyone has the right to know exactly what they are eating. Americans deserve better than to be treated as though we are too ignorant to truly know what we want or what is best for us. The biotech industry reacts to labeling debates as though they are the parent who knows better and is justified in literally shoving their products down our throats. GMO foods need to thrive or die in real transparency, in a functioning democracy of ideas. And democracy is often fueled by informative, unbiased journalism, which is sadly lacking here. Shame.

    • http://theprogessivecontrarian.wordpress.com/ Bernie Mooney

      Don’t beat around the bush, tell me how you really feel. Don’t mince words. ;-)

      The reason for a mandatory label is if the product contains potentially harmful ingredients. GMO foods don’t fit into that category. What you believe is different than what the science says.

      I have no problem with the idea if, on the ingredient list, it says “genetically modified soybeans,” but that’s not what the activists want. They want what amounts to a warning label, prominently displayed.

      From the NY Senate bill:”No person, firm, corporation, or other legal entity shall manufacture, sell or distribute food or food products produced with a genetically modified material, or containing a genetically modified material unless it bears a label or labeling upon which shall be clearly imprinted the words “this product contains a genetically modified material,” or “this product was produced with a
      genetically modified material”.

      It’s not a matter of belief. It’s a matter of what the science says. If I wrote the same thing about a climate change denier panel, more than likely you would be applauding me. That’s what really disturbs me about this issue among progressives. They’re seeing the issue through their worldview rather than looking at it objectively.

      Don’t you find it telling the panel included only one scientist? It was to present a false sense of balance.

      As to your comment, “…a functioning democracy of ideas.” Science is not a democracy. It’s based on facts and evidence. If you believe that, then I guess we have to give equal time to creationism. Are you up for that?

      • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

        Any real scientist would want a label for genetically engineered foods. Since when does a scientist not want more data? Not wanting more data is anti-science and since a label on genetically engineered food provides more data any scientist opposed to that calls into question their motives. Since you are fine with a label that states, “genetically modified soybeans,” I would believe that label would be in compliance with the NY Senate bill. The likely reason that the bill calls for a product to contain a generic, “this product contains a genetically modified material,” label is because it makes it easier for a company that uses multiple genetically engineered ingredients to comply. It would allow the company to test for the 35S promoter and tnos instead of trying to determine which ingredient is specifically genetically engineered which would generally require further testing for specific transgenes or cisgenes . In fact if a company didn’t want to test at all they could just put the, “this product contains a genetically modified material,” label on their product and be in compliance. As for your claim, “Don’t you find it telling the panel included only one scientist?” Well the panel consisted of more than one scientist for example, Dr. Carolyn Dimitri is a scientist and Patty Lovera is an environmental scientist but if you mean why did the non-labeling side only have one scientist, as I stated earlier in this post, “Not wanting more data is anti-science” so I would assume it is more difficult to find an anti-science scientist.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Philip/591615305 Michael Philip

          any real scientist would know that the case against GMO is non-existent

        • Walter De Jong

          I like data :) Especially reproducible data.

          Here’s a link (behind a paywall, but at least you can read the abstract) to a literature review of 12 long-term feeding studies, and 12 multi-generation feeding studies. Lots of different GMO crops, fed to lots of different types of animals.

          http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511006399

          If the link doesn’t work, google the article title to find it. “Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review”

          Conclusion of this review of 24 separate studies? “The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed”

          Back in the 1990s, when the controversy began, it was true that there were not many published studies on safety. That is no longer true…

          • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

            There are several problems with this review. To begin with several of the studies reviewed suggest there were potential adverse health effects observed. For example of the 24 long term studies reviewed the 4 Malatesta studies the Vecchio study and the Krzyowska study suggest some potential adverse health effects. Several other studies observed differences and suggested further study is needed for example the Tudisco study found fragments of both 35S and EPSPS in the blood and milk as well as in several organs of the kids along with, “A significant increase in lactic dehydrogenase, mainly concerning the lacticdehydrogenase-1 isoenzyme was found in heart, skeletal muscle and kidney of treated kids, thus suggesting a change in the local production of the enzyme.” Another issue is several of the studies reviewed do not use GE foods currently approved for human consumption. For example in Table 2 and 3 you see 2 studies used Bt176 which is no longer approved, 1 used a rice variety not approved, 1 used a potato not approved and 2 used triticale not approved. Since those studies have no relevance to GE foods currently consumed by humans that knocks the study total in those tables down. If we then look at the health parameters listed in the tables we see that some of these studies did not use quality health parameters. For example the Steinke study only looks at, “Milk composition and yield”. Most of these studies have not been replicated either not to mention the poor study design, etc. for the majority of these studies even acknowledged by the reviewers. Also keep in mind that there have been dozens more GE foods approved that were not fed to any of the animals in the studies reviewed. As for why the reviewers dismissed the potential adverse health effects suggested by the original authors, a look at most of their backgrounds seem to indicate they are biotechnologists and plant scientists which appears not only to be a professional conflict of interest but also seems strange considering they don’t really seem to have any health related background. It isn’t surprising that the reviewers dismissed the potential adverse health effects considering, “it was found that the existence of either financial or professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light (p = 0.005).” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919210001302 However the point of my comment is that human trials are severely lacking and labeling allows for better ability to report adverse health effects for humans and for post market studies, etc, Two dozen long term studies most of which were poorly designed and have never been replicated, some of which suggested potential adverse health effects and others which used GE foods not approved for human consumption is hardly enough data and certainly doesn’t replace the human data that labeling would provide. As I stated earlier, “Not wanting more data is anti-science” although you want more data so I assume you are in favor of labeling.

          • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

            There are several problems with this review. To begin with several of the studies reviewed suggest there were potential adverse health effects observed. For example of the 24 long term studies reviewed the 4 Malatesta studies the Vecchio study and the Krzyowska study suggest some potential adverse health effects. Several other studies observed differences and suggested further study is needed. For example the Tudisco study found fragments of 35S and EPSPS in the blood and milk and in several organs of kids as well as, “A significant increase in lactic dehydrogenase, mainly concerning the lacticdehydrogenase-1 isoenzyme was found in heart, skeletal muscle and kidney of treated kids, thus suggesting a change in the local production of the enzyme.” Another issue is several of the studies reviewed did not use GE foods currently approved for human consumption. For example in Table 2 and 3 you see 2 studies used Bt176 which is no longer approved, 1 used a rice variety not approved, 1 used a potato not approved and 2 used triticale not approved. Since those studies have no relevance to GE foods currently consumed by humans that knocks the study total down. If we then look at the health parameters listed in the tables we see that some of these studies did not look at quality health parameters. For example the Steinke study only looks at, “Milk composition and yield”. The majority of these studies have never been replicated and even the reviewers acknowledge most of the studies were poorly designed, etc. Also keep in mind that there are dozens of GE foods approved for human consumption that were not fed to animals in any of the studies reviewed. As for why the reviewers dismissed the potential adverse health effects suggested by the original study authors, a look at the background of most of the reviewers reveals that they are biotechnologists and plant scientists which suggests a professional conflict of interest as well as it being rather strange that they appear to not have health related backgrounds. It isn’t really surprising the reviewers dismissed the potential adverse health effects considering, “it was found that the existence of either financial or professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light (p = 0.005)” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919210001302
            However the point of my comment is that human studies are severely lacking and labeling provides the ability for humans to report adverse health effects and for post market studies, etc. Two dozen long term animal studies which are mostly poorly designed with some suggesting potential adverse health effects and others using varieties not approved for human consumption are hardly enough data and certainly not the same as human data. As I stated before, “Not wanting more data is anti-science and since a label on genetically engineered food provides more data any scientist opposed to that calls into question their motives”.

          • Walter De Jong

            Your main concern, as I understand it, is that there are not enough human feeding studies. Have there been any human GMO feeding studies? I don’t know. I’m not a health risk-assessment specialist. I am a scientist,
            though, and want to make decisions based on data.

            One question, in relation to the need for human feeding studies, is do we need them? I suspect that for most
            food-related safety questions, animal feeding studies are the norm. A second question: can you outline
            a human feeding study that you would believe the results of? It is all well and good to criticize the studies of others. What, specifically, would work for you?

            We are, obviously, essentially engaged in a huge human health study already. In 2012 there were 400,000,000+ acres of GMO crops planted worldwide. If
            GMOs were as dangerous as the negative hype that has surrounded them for so long – surely we’d have noticed by now.

            I don’t understand why you dismiss the relevance of animal feeding studies with GMOs that haven’t been
            approved for human consumption. Lots of people believe that ALL GMOs are unhealthy. (I don’t, but many people do). For them – this data is relevant. It’s also inconsistent with their beliefs, I might add.

            Lets turn the discussion around a little. Can you point me in the direction of a series of studies that makes a compelling case for a specific health risk? Your critique
            of the literature review of 24 studies is that individual papers raise the odd issue or two. Which doesn’t
            surprise me at all, as biological data is inherently noisy. But the trend is obvious – no detrimental effect is seen over and over again. What specific health issues are you concerned about? Lets keep it to one or two – the cases where you think the data is strongest.

            Getting down to a tangential issue you mentioned, which caught my eye, as I was once a plant
            virologist. “…fragments of 35S in blood and milk…” Do you realize that you occasionally eat food infected with
            the entire cauliflower mosaic virus genome? Not just the promoter – but the whole virus? Can you be specific about how a fragment of 35S might realistically impact human health?

            I found the food policy paper you cited on correlation between financial or professional COI and nature
            of publication to be interesting. For what its worth, I’m a public sector scientist, and have never
            received funding from Monsanto or any other biotech company. In any case – we ultimately need to
            make decisions based on data itself, not on the affiliations of the people who performed it. So – returning to a point from two paragraphs up – what’s the most compelling anti-GMO data you’ve got?

          • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

            You ask, “One question, in relation to the need for human feeding studies, is do we need them?”. The answer of course is yes. If we look at human drug trials we see that drugs can get through animal trials and not get through human trials using hundreds and often thousands of human subjects. Even if a drug does get through human trials there can be and has been adverse health effects reported in post market studies and the drugs recalled. You claim, ” If GMOs were as dangerous as the negative hype that has surrounded them for so long – surely we’d have noticed by now.” but this isn’t accurate considering those most exposed are those who consume them without labels making it difficult to report adverse health effects and difficult for epidemiological studies to be conducted. You state, “I don’t understand why you dismiss the relevance of animal feeding studies with GMOs that haven’t been approved for human consumption”. You must assess safety on an individual basis and therefore studies using unapproved varieties have no relevance. You can look at GE crops as a whole and in some cases assume if one crop poses a risk that other GE crops may as well due to similarities such as the same ARM used the same promoter, the same transgene, etc. but you cannot do the same and assume safety that we be unethical and unscientific. You state, “Your critique of the literature review of 24 studies is that individual papers raise the odd issue or two.” my critique is that the studies were poorly designed and out of the relevant studies more than 1/4 suggest potential adverse health effects even though the reviewers strangely dismissed that data. I could also argue that rodents would generally be the preferred subject in these studies and not salmon or broiler chickens, etc. used in some of these studies along with other issues but as I mentioned before there simply isn’t enough overall data here since these studies would need to be repeated using basic standards like at least 4 groups per sex, etc. You ask, “Do you realize that you occasionally eat food infected with the entire cauliflower mosaic virus genome? Not just the promoter – but the whole virus?” You can’t assume that ingesting the naked DNA or the synthetic promoter is the same as consuming the whole virus. You state, “we ultimately need to make decisions based on data itself, not on the affiliations of the people who performed it.” I would argue in this case that this is the interpretation of the data by the reviewers and not necessarily the data itself. However I would also state that I have little confidence in industry studies. You ask, “what’s the most compelling anti-GMO data”. As I stated several times there just isn’t enough data, the Malatesta studies for example need to be replicated and that data evaluated. It seems unscientific to dismiss potential toxic effects for liver and pancreas without at least replicating the study. Ultimately my point has been, “Not wanting more data is anti-science and since a label on genetically engineered food provides more data any scientist opposed to that calls into question their motives.”

          • Walter De Jong

            OK, so your main point is
            that not-wanting more data is anti-science.

            As a scientist – I am all too well aware – there is no end to collecting data. You need to collect data for a reason. There is already lot of data on the safety of consuming GMOs at present. What, in your estimation, are the **specific** safety issues that need
            to be addressed? Unless you indicate otherwise – I’ll assume you consider the Malatesta studies to be it. I’ll take a look at them, but probably won’t be able to comment meaningfully for at least a week.

            Every potato variety ever developed on earth is unlike every other potato variety that has ever existed before, or will ever exist again. Why are you not concerned about every new potato variety? Why don’t you
            insist on extensive testing? That new varieties arose from ”natural” processes doesn’t cut it. Each potato variety literally differs in protein composition, small molecule composition, DNA composition, and every
            other component that you can think of. Humans have never experienced that unique combination in their
            evolutionary history. Shouldn’t you be concerned?

            There is a big difference, in my opinion, between drug and food safety testing. Drugs are small molecules, that we consume in much larger quantities (molecule-number-wise) than the extra gene/protein present in a
            typical GMO. We know what happens to proteins when we eat them (they get broken down into amino acids) and what happens to DNA (it gets broken down into nucleotides). A typical drug is EXPECTED to have an impact on human metabolism (we wouldn’t use them otherwise) – so obviously a higher standard of safety testing needs to be met.

            Coming back to my comment “If GMOs were as dangerous as the negative hype that has surrounded them for so long – surely we’d have noticed by now”, and your reply, “but this isn’t accurate considering
            those most exposed are those who consume them without labels making it difficult to report adverse health effects and difficult for epidemiological studies to be conducted”. 400,000,000 acres is HUGE – and feeds a HUGE number of people/animals. If there were strong adverse effects – everybody would know by now.
            You don’t need statistics to discern the presence of qualitative effects. And for subtle effects – if
            you really wanted to – you could
            always compare the general public to those who eat only organic. Certified organic food is GMO free.

            Re your comment: “You can’t assume that ingesting the naked DNA or the synthetic promoter is the same
            as consuming the whole virus”. Strictly
            speaking, this is true. Yet — if you
            wish to argue this way, you need to explain why you don’t insist on extensive safety testing of every new plant or animal variety. Because you can’t assume they are safe either, right? Your answer to this topic, by the way, suggests to me that you don’t really know what a promoter is or what it does. Although you appear much
            more knowledgeable than a typical critic of GMOs.

            Any reason you choose to remain anonymous when posting your comments?

            A few more rhetorical questions to finish off. 1) How would you feel if a label said “The FDA considers this food to be safe and nutritious. This food contains one
            or more genetically modified ingredients”. 2) If you want labeling to track safety issues – is your
            position that every transgenic event be labeled separately? If so, how do you propose to track each
            event separately through the food chain? If not, how can you claim that you want labeling data to assess safety?

          • http://www.facebook.com/no.gmo.9 No Gmo

            You state, ” There is already lot of data on the safety of consuming GMOs at present”. No there isn’t. There are dozens of varieties that have been approved yet only 2 dozen long term studies and several of those used varieties not approved and others suggested potential adverse health effects. As I stated earlier you cannot look at a small sample of the GE crops approved then dismiss the studies suggesting potential adverse health effects and declare all GE foods safe that is completely unscientific. There needs to be data for each individual GE food and most GE foods have never been fed to animals in a long term safety studies so there is nowhere near enough data. If we look at NK603 there is only one long term study that looks at quality health parameters and not just things like carcass weight and that study suggests a variety of potential adverse health effects. Unlike nearly every study reviewed in the Snell meta analysis the Seralini study did use more basic study design standards like 4 groups per sex, etc. This study would obviously need to be replicated but it shows how little data there really is. You ask, “What, in your estimation, are the **specific** safety issues that need
            to be addressed?” As I mentioned in this review alone the Malatesta and Vecchio studies suggest potential adverse health effects for glyphosate tolerant soy including potential organ toxicity primarily liver, kidney and pancreas. The Seralini study suggests similar potential adverse health effects for NK603 as well as some others. There is potential immunological issues in short term studies like the Finamore, Sagstad, etc. studies. Other potential issues can be found in the Dona review but just like the Snell review some of the studies in the Dona review used varieties not approved for human consumption. You state, “Every potato variety ever developed on earth is unlike every other potato variety that has ever existed before, or will ever exist again.” while for the most part this is true there are breeding methods that are generally considered to have more risks than others. For example transgenic breeding using the Agrobacterium method or the gene gun as well as other breeding methods like chemical mutagenesis and ionizing radiation are generally considered more risky than breeding methods like selective breeding or pollen based hybridization. The breeding methods with the most risk should be extensively tested as well as labeled for post market studies to be conducted. Labeling the food crops bred using the most risky techniques would also allow for the food crops bred using the least risky methods to be better traced as well. If mandatory labeling of the food crops bred using the most risky techniques are in place and you report an adverse health effect from consuming a food that is not labeled as GE, etc. that allows you to narrow down what variety was used that may have caused the adverse health effect. You state, “We know what happens to proteins when we eat them (they get broken down into amino acids) and what happens to DNA (it gets broken down into nucleotides).” this may not always be the case since at least fragmented transgenes may been found in organs, etc. as was previously mentioned in the Tudisco study and other studies as well. You state, “And for subtle effects – if you really wanted to – you could always compare the general public to those who eat only organic. Certified organic food is GMO free.” Certified organic is grown without using GE seeds but is not necessarily, “GMO free” since contamination can occur and as you mentioned GE crops are grown on a huge amount of land so contamination of certified organic foods is not only possible but likely. Conventional food may not always contain GE ingredients either so it makes for a poor comparison. Also consider for example the Kroghsbo study which suggests that even protein inhalation should be avoided by the non-GE fed group when comparing GE to non-GE fed subjects. While labeling would not avoid the inhalation issue it does allow for a better comparison than organic compared to conventional and it also allows for a better opportunity to identify a specific GE food that may be causing a specific adverse health effect. You state, “Your answer to this topic, by the way, suggests to me that you don’t really know what a promoter is or what it does.” I assure you I understand what a promoter is and what it does. The synthetic promoter has not been present in food before genetic engineering of crops and since most GE foods have the 35S promoter in common and since fragmented 35S may be observed in the organs, etc. of some animals fed GE foods testing would make sense here. You ask, “1) How would you feel if a label said “The FDA considers this food to be safe and nutritious. This food contains one or more genetically modified ingredients” I would not be opposed to that. The FDA considers peanuts safe but not everyone reacts the same, regardless it provides more data that can be used to further assess safety. Although I am in favor of the, “genetically modified soybeans,” type of labeling mentioned above the type of mandatory label you are suggesting is certainly better than no mandatory label. You ask, “If you want labeling to track safety issues – is your position that every transgenic event be labeled separately?” I would prefer every variety be listed by name for example a label would state, “Mon810 corn” however since corn is generally mixed before use in a product it would not likely be realistic to have this type of label. You ask, ” If not, how can you claim that you want labeling data to assess safety?” That is simple, if an individual consumes a food that states a generic, “made with genetically engineered ingredients” label and has an adverse reaction the product can then be tested to determine the event(s) which could narrow down the variety or varieties that may have caused the reaction. While a generic label certainly isn’t as helpful as the, “Mon810 corn” label it is certainly better than no label. If an individual notices they had an allergic reaction for example to a product marked with a generic GE label and the ingredient list has corn in it and they consume a product with corn that is not listed as GE they can then chose to avoid products labeled as GE which contain corn. It may be that it is only a specific variety of GE corn that may be causing the reaction but if avoiding products that may contain GE corn allows them to avoid the allergic reaction then obviously the generic label still has benefits.

  • http://twitter.com/livemusicnaples Loathing Self-Praise

    This article is obviously bought by big agriculture. Just another mindless troll in the media. People who write crap like this for money should be lynched publicly. Maybe one day whoever wrote this (I would never use the word ‘author’) will get their lynching.

    • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

      Wow, lynched for writing something. That’s quite a justice system you have there.

      Can you tell me: what’s the penalty for lying and slander in your world? Asking for a friend….

  • http://www.facebook.com/jules.vanbeelen Jules van Beelen

    What a pity – a chance to write intelligently on a issue with 2 sides and it is yet another shrill insulting article –

  • http://www.facebook.com/karenelainebatra Karen Batra

    Thank you, Bernie, for trying to insert some common sense into this debate. For the naysayers in this comments section: careful not to ride in any boats because you might sail off the edge of the Earth. Also, stand far FAR away from the microwave oven, and check yourself for cancer if you often use cellphones. The sky is faling, the sky is falling!

  • Lori

    I agree with the position held by the Union of Concerned Scientists and I think their lack of support for GMO is the more prevalent position in the scientific community. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/environmental-effects-of.html#SUMMARY

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and 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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