In Bed With the GMO Devil

By Keith Kloor | June 14, 2013 12:46 pm

There are two kinds of people who write about genetically modified foods: Those who believe that GMOs are bad and those who don’t. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m in the latter group.

Unfortunately, the simplistic debate between these two camps has devolved into a Three Stooges slapfest:

More specifically, one group shrieks about “seeds of death” and Monsanto’s evil plot to sterilize humanity while the other group (the one I belong to) responds with alternating mockery and sober rebuttals. Personally, I try to avoid writing much about the deranged wing of the anti-GMO movement. It’s like taking on Lord Monckton and James Delingpole in the deranged wing of the climate skeptic sphere. What they say is so absurd that you can’t treat them seriously, so you end up lampooning them.

Unfortunately, the anti-GMO hysterics are, like the climate science is a fraud shouters, the face of their respective movements. Marc Morano goes on CNN and Jeffrey Smith goes on Dr. Oz. Both persons are likable, media-savvy, indefatigable spokesmen for their causes. As such, they help shape the tone and content of public debate.

What bothers me most about this dynamic, especially with respect to the GMO issue, is that thought leaders enable the worst tendencies of the anti-GMO movement, instead of trying to elevate the conversation. Thus, after I really started paying attention to the GMO debate, I wrote in Slate:

I’ve found that fears are stoked by prominent environmental groups, supposed food-safety watchdogs, and influential food columnists; that dodgy science is laundered by well-respected scholars and propaganda is treated credulously by legendary journalists; and that progressive media outlets, which often decry the scurrilous rhetoric that warps the climate debate, serve up a comparable agitprop when it comes to GMOs.

I wrote that last September and it is just as true today. [UPDATE: On a related note, see this Mark Hoofnagle post at his Denialism blog.]  For example, take Grist, a popular environmental media site. They would never bend over backwards to legitimize outlier climate studies that have no credibility with mainstream climate scientists. But if there’s an outlier study that suggests GMOs are poisoning animals, no matter how dubious the research, Grist will be all over it. And if judicious mainstream biotech experts criticize that study, Grist will shrug them off as “GMO lovers.”

When you have one of the most widely read and admired environmental websites regularly promoting GMO fear-mongering and twisting itself into a pretzel to put a positive spin on faulty (and clearly biased) studies, that is as telling as the slanted climate change coverage at Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. [

When you point out this double standard at places like Grist, when you challenge thought leaders and some reporters on their credulousness, as I have been doing of late, or when you highlight the utter zaniness of the main anti-GMO assertions, you get accused of being a shill for Monsanto. This is not an experience unique to me. Anyone who is even gently critical of arguments advanced by anti-GMO activists has heard this. Every geneticist and plant scientist working in the biotech field has been accused of being in Monsanto's pocket. It is an oft-repeated charge that appears in every comment thread of every article and blog post.

When Canadian agricultural researcher Cami Ryan recently published a guest piece in this space on the appeal of GMO myths, some readers predictably accused her of being a cheerleader for Monsanto.

My own all time favorite he's a shill comment was hurled at me several weeks ago:

Wow, Keith Kloor is so rabidly PRO-GMO it wouldn't surprise me if he's receiving kickbacks. Freelance journalist and adjunct professor don't pay too good, and NY has a pretty high cost of living.

As adjuncts and freelancers who live in NYC can attest, there is some truth to this. There's also my two kids (and their massive Lego collection), the $9.00 beers at Yankee Stadium, my Caramel Frappuccino habit at Starbucks, and my summer house in East Hampton.

Now I've grown tired of fending off this "tool of Monsanto" charge. So has Cami. Thus, in the interest of full disclosure, we want to reveal the truth about ourselves.

An illustration of Keith Kloor

GMO lovers in bed with Monsanto. Illustration by an anonymous artist who loves his genetically modified cornflakes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, GMOs, Monsanto, select
  • Tom Scharf

    I bet my daughter’s Lego collection is bigger than yours….ha ha. Of course calling it “hers” is a bit of a reach. She builds the sets I buy her whether she likes it or not.

  • Kevin Folta

    I always love the kickbacks and bribes comments.

    As part of the conspiracy of 100,000 international scientists that have abandoned the integrity of their positions and sullied their reputations for a check from Big Ag, we obviously need a raise. We’re closing labs, not taking students, scooting by with crumbling infrasructure and scaling back programs– due to lack of funding.

    And most of us are wearing clothes we bought in college and our homes are modest (and we ain’t complaining). A Ph.D. gets you $35K a year as a postdoc and if you are lucky to be the 1 in 100 to get a professor job you’ll start at $65K at the age of 35.

    I’m paid by the citizens of my state to help them understand science. I’m a shill for science and the land grant university mission.

    • Michael Gibson

      Very well put.

      • Susan

        Kevin you take contracts. Anyone can do a search for name & the company. Now stop.

        • Susan

          the No’s win

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

          Susan, Please post whatever you find. You can find it because my record is public and transparent. That funding is not from any of the big six (MON, DOW, BASF, etc) that commercialize GM plants. Plus, that small amount went to other labs too- it was split.

          That said, I welcome funding from industry. I’ll take it. We need money to do the work. Industry wants us to help because of our reputation for great research and reproducible results. If MON funds us, we’ll do the work, report the results, and if they don’t like it, too bad.

          That’s why I don’t have more contracts. I demand that all results be published and most companies want to keep them proprietary.

          I never get a dime from any of this personally. My lab also does not commercialize GM crops, so we have no financial interest or gain here.

          But to your point directly, there is no amount of money, absolutely none, that could get me to sell-out science. None. I’ve worked a long time to get to this point and would never risk a solid reputation and great career by bending the truth for some damn company.

          That’s called integrity. Good stuff.

          I take your allegation very seriously and invite you to present any evidence of malfeasance or scientific misconduct you feel is due to corporate influence. I work for YOU, and take that very seriously.

          Happy Sunday.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

          My comment keeps disappearing here. I’ll be brief.

          Go ahead and post it. My record is transparent and public.

          I get a TINY contract from NOT one of the big-six GM companies. I split it with other labs to do work in a non-GM crop. I get nothing personally and they come to us because we are experts in the area. Furthermore, I demand that all results be published before I consider a contract. If the company doesn’t like the results– too bad.

          I’m not going to trash a career and reputation for some stupid company. No way. I can’t be bought- no price. None.

          I’ll take any company’s money to train students, expand our lab’s activities and move science forward.

          • Susan

            You have already given enough information & yes this is integrity and your comment will build trust. Let other people do the search if they want to find out. The people here, Kevin, voted to not have the link & they support you. Take care.

    • Jack Weber

      Kevin, what is your point? Why do you obscure it in sarcasm?

      If I can gather any facts from your comment, and I have to guess at even this, I respond that the vast majority of all studies performed on GE foods are Big Ag subsidized. Here is a study just released NOT subsidized by Big Ag but by the Australian government.

      http://gmojudycarman.org/look-whos-squealing-now-gmo-lovers-freak-over-new-study-of-sick-pigs/

      And you can read the answers to critics here, inclusive many of the knee-jerk pro-GMO conspiracy theorists (conspiring that anti-GMO folks are irrational):

      http://gmojudycarman.org/category/critics-answered/

      Cheers.

      • mem_somerville

        If anyone wants to see discussion of the Carman paper that’s not on the Carman fan site, try the links on the right side of the page here:

        http://bit.ly/CarmanRebuts

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

        Jack, if those data are real and properly obtained, and 70% of the US food supply is poison, then why is this not in Nature or Science? Why in an obscure journal without any impact factor?

        I publish some stuff in low-impact journals too, so I’m not knocking the journals. But if this result was real it would not be in such a venue.

        And the non-Big Ag subsidized results match the big-ag results. That says a lot.

        History is the ultimate critic. We’ll watch this paper disappear into obscurity along with the rest of the tired, irreproducible drivel from other bad science.

        • Jack Weber

          Hi Kevin…I don;t know why the study is not in Science or Nature. I imagine you do not know either. I imagine those journals might not want to back a study a like this. Who knows.

          What is important is the data, and there is no reason to doubt it. The Seralini study has not gone into obscurity and I doubt this one will either, whatever “obscurity” means.

          You call it bad science. Why? On what non-assumptive grounds?

          • Tom

            Regarding the Seralini study – this paper explains in detail why it’s bad science : http://www.ask-force.org/web/Seralini/Arjo-Plurality-Opinion-Scientific-Discourse-Seralini-2013.pdf

          • Jack Weber

            Yes, I’ve read the criticism on both sides. WE can all sit around and criticize the science we did not do ourselves, on both sides. Giles Seralini has a good reputation and his study has been appreciated the world over and criticized as well. Future studies will shed more light….

          • Tom

            No – he does not have a good reputation. At least not among scientists. His study is only appreciated by anti-GM ideologues that more often than not lack the scientific training to actually understand why his study was a POS. Again, the paper I linked to spells out in detail (even for the non-specialist) why the study is flawed. You should read it.

          • Jack Weber

            Thanks, Tom. I have read numerous critiques, and then critiques of those critiques. In the end I don’t know what to believe. I do maintain my skepticism for GMO because it is an extraordinary claim and act to produce such novel organisms. The burden of proof is on the industry and they have not proven anything with longterm study. I use common sense: think about it; we have created these plants to be resistant to a man-made pesticide. It’s just not kosher and I lean towards thinking that the studies actually do show some veritable proof. It will be sussed out in the years to come I hope.

          • Tom

            Are you more comfortable with crop varieties produced by random mutagenesis using either radiation or mutagenic chemicals?

          • Jack Weber

            No. I am comfortable with organic food and farming and am myself a farmer and a physician. I have seen the damage myself from pesticides in people and to the environment.

          • Tom

            Well, I hate to be the one to tell you this but crop varieties developed by so-called mutation breeding (radiation etc) are frequently used in organic farming and have not been as extensively tested for safety as GE crops. Which is notable since we have absolutely no idea what genetic changes have been introduced – these varieties typically have thousands of unknown mutations spread throughout their genomes.

          • Tom

            Speaking of pesticides and the damage they do – how do you feel about so-called organic pesticides?

          • Kevin Folta

            …. and how do you feel about Bt crops that cut pesticide use?

          • Kevin Folta

            Wow, there’s a moving goalpost. Jack, if you are a physician, and you lack the critical thinking to know scientific evidence from low-impact trivialities, I weep for your patients. The two sides are not proGM and antiGM. it is good science vs. shoddy science. It bothers me that you accept the latter as reasonable and more meaningful than the former, and shun critics of the junk. A first year grad student can tell you why Seralini and Carman’s work is incomplete, insignificant and deserves being buried in low-level journals. I’m not sure what our med schools are turning out when a physician stands by these data and interpretations.

          • TechNyou

            Jack, we have also created conventionally bred plants to be resistant to
            toxic herbicides (most of the canola grown in Australia is non-GM
            herbicide tolerant (HT) canola. So why is this any different to GM HT
            canola? The non-GM canola is also novel – one variety was bred by
            mutagenesis which disrupts the genome in far more random and
            unpredictable ways than transgenics. One of non-GM canola also carries the same risk of spreadiing its resistant genes to other related plants…and so on. Jason Major, TechNyou, University of Melbourne

          • Jack Weber

            First, the canola you mention initially does not have genes from another species.

            Second, I do not consume nor do I like canola generally. I am familiar with its dubious genesis.

          • TechNyou

            What is it about the genes from another species that bothers you? Jason

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

            It is not in Science or Nature, or any journal with an impact factor (that’s telling) because it has major problems. I suspect they tried getting it accepted in a real journal and kept getting rejected until it stuck in an obscure organic crop journal. My guess.

            There is reason to doubt the data. They are fine for a single-year, single set replicate, but are not reproduced independently. I could NEVER publish that. They also use unconventional statistics, that they think are fine. They find tiny differences that are clinically insignificant and then give them huge weight in the press.

            Seralini’s work is nine months old and they have not produced a follow up. That’s okay. You will not see a follow up from their lab or any other that expands the findings. For instance, if they found a hard mechanism that induced neoplastic growth, say connection of the EPSPS protein (the RR product) to a cell cycle protein or tumor suppressor, then it would be cool data worthy of a second look, and third look!

            But the pigs in this long-term study didn’t get gigantic tumors like the Seralini rats, so the data are non-translating to other species. So even if they are real, they don’t translate outside of rodents in this study.

            Again, I call it bad science because the interpretations hugely overstep the data, unconventional statistics are used and it is not-hypothesis driven. It is a fishing trip in finding minuscule differences and blowing them out of proportion to generate fear.

            My two cents as a scientific editor and reviewer for 15 years.

    • Jack Weber

      In fact, regarding the link to the first study I posted above mentioning funding from the Aussie government as being NOT subsidized by Big Ag….Australia’s Government is pro-GMO and they funded the study that found anti-GMO results.

      • Jack Weber

        the study is now “below”…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

        Jack, The work was not funded directly by the Australian Government. In the report it says, “This research was funded by the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER) and Verity Farms. Funding for IHER’s involvement came from the Government of Western Australia (WA) and George Kailis. Funding for Verity Farm’s involvement came from Verity Farms.”

        IHER get’s money from Gov’t Western Australia, but I that does not mean the Gov’t Western Australia funded the study. IHER is an activist organization.

        WORSE! The first author of the company is the first name in the Board of Directors for IHER! Verity Farms is the 2nd author’s own company!

        The first and second authors’ own organizations funded this work! (George Kallis looks like he runs a nice business free of public activist leanings)

        THAT SAID…

        I don’t care too much who funded it. People scream about this all the time, as you can see in the comments about me above.

        I just enjoy the hypocrisy. Most anti-GM folks, maybe you too, would not accept any data from Monsanto as valid. People invalidate the words of one of my colleagues all the time because he worked for MON in the early 90′s.

        Why would they believe the results from known anti-GM activists with a potential conflict of interest? Because they find them palatable.

        Me, I just say the science sucks and should be ignored. The fact that it was funded by the authors’ own activist organizations is no big deal– if the science was real I’d be glad they footed the bill.

        • Jack Weber

          Kevin, here is a statement from the author of the study:

          ML: Funding for the research was derived from anti-GM advocates and therefore biases the results.

          “Answer Summary: Funding for the study was actually derived from a current supporter of GM technologies.

          Detailed answer: It is clearly stated in the paper that the major funder of IHER’s involvement in the study is the Government of Western Australia, and the current governmentt is a supporter of GM crops.”

          You can say the science sucks, which is fine. But I don’t see the grounds for that. It’s your opinion. The author gives comprehensive rebuttals to the criticisms. It’s also peer reviewed.

          I imagine that more and more tests are going to be done in the near future and soon I hope all the scientists who do the studies will consult with the critics first and make sure all the parameters are met prior to testing, or some similar pre-communication. Anyway, cheers…

          http://gmojudycarman.org/category/critics-answered/

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

            Yup, cheers. History is the ultimate critic. Incorrect stuff passes peer-review all the time. While the gold-standard, it has its holes, and when a paper on toxicology and pathology gets through an editor and reviewers at an insignificant organic food journal then the red light might go on. When the data are massacred and results not clinically relevant from a single replicate, then that study sucks.

            Their rebuttals are juvenile, defensive and non-scientific.

            These results, like all anti-GM results, will disappear into the past with no replication outside, even in the same couple of goofy labs that produce them. The intent is to scare people into hating biotech, not to publish great science in excellent journals.

            Yes, these are my opinions, but they are consistent with journal editor and peer-review conventions. I’ve edited and reviewed for journals for 15 years. Carman is an exploitation of the system.

            But, it is okay. Defend it in public places, place great weight in its findings. Stand by them and defend them. All good. Collectively these reports are developing even stronger reactions from independent scientists that don’t care about biotech, but do care about the peer-reviewed system being trashed to forward agenda-driven science.

    • Kito

      ‘I’m a shill’
      you could have just left it at that.

      • Hayden Smith

        Wow, you are a jackass…

  • mem_somerville

    Dude. Brace yourself. You’re totally about to get an RFKjr-esque phone call from Tom Laskawy.

  • Buddy199

    This is starting to sound like a series in The Onion.

  • Joshua

    I try to avoid writing much
    about the deranged wing of the anti-GMO movement.

    This is a joke, right?

    What they say is so absurd that you can’t treat them seriously, so you end up lampooning them.

    Oh. I understand now. It isn’t that you want to engage the debate at a juvenile level – it’s that they make you do it. You have no choice.

    Oh, and Keith – more work by Kahan that explodes your whole guilt-by-association on the left:

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2013/6/13/science-literacy-cultural-polarization-it-doesnt-happen-just.html

    Note his data showing the lack of ideological distinction in views on GMOs. But, of course, don’t let that get in the way of your data-less fear-mongering about fear-mongering.

    Here we see the impact of science literacy, generally and with respect to the cutural groiups (this time egalitarian communitarians and hierarch individualists) who are most “divided,” on GM foods and childhood vaccination.

    In fact, the division is exceedingly modest. I think, in fact, to
    characterize the levels of disagreement seen here as reflecting
    “cultural polarization” would be extravagant. As I’ve emphasized
    before, I see little evidence — as opposed to casual assertions by commentators who I think should be more careful not to confuse agitation among subsegments of the population who are disposed to dramatic, noisy gestures but who are actually very small and
    quite remote from the attention of the ordinary, nonpolitical member of the public–that these are culturally polarizing issues in the U.S., at least for the time being.

    Once again, Keith – if you’re going to make reference to Kahan’s work, you might at least consider speak to how his analysis of the situation is so contradictory to your own.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      Once again, Joshua, if you’re gonna troll me, at least correctly represent what I write and don’t carry over your pet grudges from a post I wrote from one month or six months ago.

      People aren’t going to understand what you’re talking about.

      As for your first crack (“Is this a joke?”), the vast majority of my GMO related posts discuss how mainstream influentials (thought leaders) wink at/encourage the junk science/fear-mongering that has now become part of the mainstream debate on GMOs.

      It is a point I underscored in this post–it is recurrent theme in much of what I write on this subject–which you never, ever engage– choosing instead to indulge your pet peeves on issues unrelated to my posts.

      Mark Hoofnagle in his recent post calling out Bittman and Pollan is also underscoring this theme.
      http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2013/06/12/pollan-and-bittman-the-morano-and-milloy-of-gmo-anti-science/

      Now, there is a question raised from this (the matter of influentials influencing the public debate) that should be asked in relation to Kahan’s post, which is something I’ll be tackling next week.

      I’ll look forward to your usual temper tantrums when that post is out.

      • Rob Bright

        There is no ‘mainstream’ debate on GMOs. The vast majority of people in North America only stare blankly if the term ‘GMO’ is ever used in conversation.

        • Kito

          Definitely was the norm for sure, but that’s quickly changing.
          And from what I’ve seen, people are none to pleased once ‘awoken’

    • mem_somerville

      So is your claim that the left is just as bad on the right on this science? That’s where you want to stand?

      Okey-dokey.

      But I thought Keith was referring to not going after the pure nuttery which is Mercola, Mike Adams, David Icke, and Alex Jones clown cars. As fun as it is to tie the left with them, it’s so fringy it just doesn’t matter.

      • Joshua

        So is your claim that the left is just as bad on the right on this science? That’s where you want to stand?

        Well, actually, freakin’ yes, that is exactly my point. The biasing influences on how we reason in these kinds of controversies is not attributable to political affiliation – it is attributable to the characteristic traits of human cognition. Read the article Keith linked by Cami – and the reference therein to the biasing influence of pattern recognition, for example.

        It should be a starting point for all of us that the left and the right are “just as bad…on the science.” Anyone who argues otherwise is merely falling prey to their own biases. IMO, an examination of the mechanisms underlying the polarization is more valuable than finger-pointing, name-calling, and twitter handbag fights.

        IMO, Keith fairly regularly engages at the junior high school food fight level, and focuses on superficial aspects of these controversies (and then calls me a “troll” when I note my observations) – which is unfortunate IMO, because it detracts from his solid journalism that accompanies the juvenility. But hey – he’s just one of many Jell-o flingers. Same ol’ same ol’. But if he’s going to enage at the food fight level of discourse, he should at least just be straight up about it.

        • mem_somerville

          Ok then. I’ll happily note that the left is as bad as creationists and the GOP on women’s health whenever the opportunity comes up.

          I always thought that it wasn’t merely that the left was abandoning the science–but that they pretended to cling to it on other issues. It’s the hypocrisy that was so galling.

          • Joshua

            See – here’s the thing. I see people complaining about “pseudoscience” and then I see those same folks practicing piss-poor analysis such as what you just wrote:

            Ok then. I’ll happily note that the left is as bad as creationists and
            the GOP on women’s health whenever the opportunity comes up.

            No, “the left” is not as bad as creationists and “the GOP” on women’s health….

            Your characterization of “the left” is equally bad as your characterization of “the right.” In multiple ways. And then, you sloppily misconsrtued my point.

            You are confusing some folks on the left with “the left.” So, you cruised right past my point. Yes, there are folks on the left who are strongly anti-GMO. Now I wouldn’t be as vitriolic and holier-than-though in characterizing them as Keith is regularly, but just because there are some on “the left” who are strongly anti-GMO does not mean that “the left” is on the whole “bad on science” or “batshit crazy” (one of Keith’s favored expressions).

            Second, it seems you might be conflating analysis about science with straight political opinions. It is one thing to compare anti-GMOers on the left to creationists on the right. Maybe that is a valid comparison as both groups are out of the mainstream of scientific perspective. I’d say that you are probably placing the emphasis in the wrong place; i.e., on the political orientation of those groups when in fact, political orientation is relevant in the sense of tribal affiliation but mostly irrelevant as a matter of an influence on analysis of the science. But to compare anti-GMOers on the left to the entire GOP on the right is a non-parallel comparison (a sub-set compared to a set), it is an overly broad characterization of “the GOP,” and you fail to distinguish “women’s health.” If you are referring to that specific component of the GOP that claim that women who are raped are less likely to get pregnant, then your comparison might be valid.

            People who live in glass houses….

          • Joshua

            I always thought that it wasn’t merely that the left was abandoning the
            science–but that they pretended to cling to it on other issues. It’s
            the hypocrisy that was so galling.

            That is not a characteristic trait of “the left” or of “the right.” It is a human trait. We all use selective reasoning in dealing with controversies that overlap with our cultural, political, ideological, philosophical, or personal identifications.

            The point is that it isn’t only those that you disagree with who are subject to that kind of bias, and a specific political identification doesn’t explain the phenomenon in any way. That you obsessively focus on outliers (most people are fairly indifferent on the issue of GMOs), and seek out patterns to characterize them w/o substantiating the validity of your criteria, reveals that you are, in fact, doing exactly what so animates you about the behavior in others.

          • bobito

            I think the biased reasoning is more noticeable from the left due to mainstream media and entertainment leaning heavily left.

            You can argue that this means that the left’s bugaboos are more dangerous.

            I will concede that you can also argue the right may have enough skewed media and entertainment to get the job of indoctrination done…

          • Joshua

            “…due to mainstream media and entertainment leaning heavily left.”

            Prove it. With verified data please. Many have tried, and no efforts I’ve seen have been successful. Perhaps you have links to something I haven’t seen?

            I come from the left and I see the “MSM” as being biased to my right. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that you come from the right, and see the “MSM” as being biased to your left. I would suggest that as evidence that the “MSM” is biased towards the mainstream.

            Keep in mind that unless you are wedded to arbitrary criteria, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Savage, Medved, Inghram, Miller, Bennett, the WSJ, Fox etc., are all mainstream media (just as are MSNBC, the NYT, Stewart, etc.)

          • bobito

            “biased towards the mainstream”

            Polls show that the US leans slightly right. I will not accept that MSM, and certainly the entertainment industry, leans right at all.

            Define mainstream?

          • bobito

            Sorry, but just realized you did define mainstream, I had misread…

            News is certainly better represented on the right than in the entertainment industry.

          • Rob Bright

            Do you mean ‘news’ like Fox News? lol!

          • jh

            Joshua! Long time, no trash talking! Good to see you back, mon frere. A little color to liven up the place.

          • Rob Bright

            Except the mainstream media doesn’t even touch stories on GMOs, Monsanto etc. (Though this may be changing, thankfully, after the successful, international marches against Monsanto that may finally bring some awareness to this issue.)

          • Rob Bright

            Well said.

        • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

          “IMO, Keith fairly regularly engages at the junior high school food fight level, and focuses on superficial aspects of these controversies.”

          I think you should leave that opinion in the comment thread of science journalists who seen fit to call attention to my posts.

          You could start at CJR:

          http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/keith_kloor_genetically_modifi.php?page=all

          You could glance at some of the recent mentions at MIT’s Tracker, such as here:

          http://ksj.mit.edu/tracker/2013/04/discover-blogger-keith-kloor-stumbles-ne

          and here:

          http://ksj.mit.edu/tracker/2013/03/demolishing-myth-monsantos-engineered-cr

          You could also plug in my name there to see other citations.

          The point here isn’t to pat myself on the back, but to contrast your characterization of this blog with that by some of my science journalism colleagues.

          This is why I take issue with you repeatedly mischaracterizing what I write.

  • RobertWager

    Can I get a six pack of Abs like that by eating more GM foods?

    • Buddy199

      GMO abs and hot GMO chicks, what’s not to like?

      • Wil Post

        Where do I sign up to GM my O?

    • Kito

      Maybe, but I hear the severe inflammation is to die for…

  • Timothy J. Rogers

    I’m never sure on what to believe when opinions of GMOs are always considered scholarly on both sides. I really wish I had the means of just seeing experiments to prove either way with my own eyes and see if I produce the same outcome, like GMO corn fed rats developing tumors or becoming sterile. I think the way the facts being laid out to journalist could be part of a form of bipolar propaganda to simply observe it’s outcome on the public, Sorry if I come off paranoid I’m just of the opinion that the facts are being skewed for some reason and it seems intentional like for example spreading paranoia about GMO foods creates a focus group of people that don’t eat GMO food, everyone else eats food no matter how it is produced, sometime later there may appear results and they might not be good but maybe thats been part of the plan all along. I just want to become a scientist and see facts for myself with my own eyes it’s the only way I’d ever actually develop an opinion. I watch both sides of the fence until then I just don’t want to be the one to put the foot in my mouth.

    • Buddy199

      Alcohol plus driving equals lots of accidents. We don’t need to do controlled studies to determine that. Millions of people consuming alcohol, then driving, produces a very obvious result. Millions of people eating GMO food should produce an equally obvious result if such food is deleterious.

      • Robert

        Unless it takes several decades for those results to appear.

    • Tom

      Hi Timothy. This publication (free pdf download) by the National Academy of Sciences is a good place to start (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10977). Contains a lot of primary sources if you feel like digging further. You can also have a look at the EFSA report from 2008 (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/1057.pdf).

      • Timothy J. Rogers

        I’ve downloaded the Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects I’ve put it on my desktop made it easy to find so I will read through it. I’ve read a little bit of it that they go through a process of getting rid of any genetic specimen that could harm the public, which is good. These genetically altered plants how will they respond to an open environment? What if along the way they mutated into a form that is harmful? Right now I’m reading The Eighth Day of Creation, came recommended in a Discover magazine, I found to be amazingly informative on genetics to be honest it’s mostly an introduction for me, though some I covered in high school. I keep picking it up and putting it down I need to go back over chemistry and I have a book to refer to. My major is more geared toward the mechanical and electrical though I carry fascination for all of the sciences, especially the kind on the fringe, seeing that I have nothing better to do anyhow.

        • Tom

          “Eighth day of creation” is a classic but it’s mainly about the history of molecular biology. If you want to get a better sense of what genetic engineering is, I can recommend the small-ish textbook “Gene cloning and DNA analysis” by T. A. Brown (which has a really good chapter on plant biotech). If you really feel like digging in, the ultimate text for me is Lubert Stryer’s “Biochemistry”, which (as the title indicates) also goes into the nitty-gritty of enzymes and metabolism. It might seem daunting but it’s actually very readable even to the non-specialist (especially if you’ve already had an intro in high school). Lots of pretty pictures too!

          Regarding your concerns about GE crops mutating, the two current traits (glyphosate resistance and insecticidal Bt toxin) have no obvious way of mutating into a form that would be harmful. Or to be specific, I would say that the chance is just as big (or small) as any of the other 30,000 genes in the plant mutating in an undesirable fashion. So for example some minor amino acid change in the Bt toxin could make it allergenic but the same holds true for the other tens of thousands of genes (and corresponding proteins) found “naturally” in the plant. It’s also worth remembering that a lot of our domestic crops still produce toxic compounds albeit in very small quantities (e.g. solanine glycoalkaloids in potatoes, psoralens in celery). Still, there is always the possibility that a new crop variety will have elevated levels of these toxins independent of how they were developed (conventional breeding, random mutagenesis or molecular methods).

        • Tom

          These reviews might be a quicker read than the NAS book (but less comprehensive obviously):
          http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/71/1/2.full
          http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-313X.2001.01119.x/full

  • srsll

    So, why not just label the damn things then? if they’re so great–let the world know so they can run right out and (knowingly) buy them! Right now, one can only guess whether or not they are getting all the wondrous benefits of GMO food! Silly me, but it just seems pretty shady to me when Monsanto and cronies are spending millions and millions to lobby and fight so hard to maintain their product as a “secret ingredient.”

    • Tom

      Just buy organic or certified non-GMO (http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/understanding-our-seal/) and consider everything else as “may contain GE ingredients”. In fact that’s how they should be labelled so we can finally stop having this argument.

    • nik

      The conclusion; if someone is trying to hide something at great expense, there must be something to hide. If there is, then its not likely to be beneficial, as if it was, there would be no need to hide it.

    • Rob Bright

      I totally agree. It’s funny (in a sad and alarming way) that all these pro-GMO folks stress how evidence-based their support for the technology is; but then they oppose a concept so inherently scientific (and crucial to science) as transparency. If everything with GMOs is as hunky dory as they propose, ‘just label the damn things!’

      • Jaime Moksha

        Because I like the idea of transparency, I wouldn’t care if they labeled GMO food. I am all for GMO and would certainly buy it..might even pay an extra penny or two to support it. My worry though is that the luddites would get it removed from the store and I wouldn’t even have an opportunity to make a choice at that point.

        • Robert

          We ‘luddites’ have no problem with you consuming GMOs. We simply want them labeled so WE don’t have to consume them. Yes, I know — just stick to ‘organic’ and we’ll avoid them; but if 80% or so of grocery store products contain them, and the labeling is so cryptic that you need a degree in bio-chemistry to figure them out, then that doesn’t help the vast majority of consumers who want to know what is in their food.

          I believe people should be allowed to consume gasoline if that is their desire; but I also believe that food ingredients should be properly labeled so we at least have the choice to avoid certain things.

  • phil tripe

    Keith Kloor is a freelance journalist and adjunct professor of journalism,He teaches magazine article writing for the Arthur L. Carter journalism institute at New York … he is NOT a scientist,NOT a doctor of any kind, …he is a professional troll with a political agenda…now lets watch and laugh as he tries to troll me and i dont reply for the win

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      Huh? I’m not getting your point. I never said I was a scientist. Could you offer a little more specifics (other than just stating it) that I have a political agenda?

      Or you could just not reply “for the win,” as you say.

    • Tom Scharf

      Wow, what a really compelling well constructed argument. Mom would be proud.

  • Tom Scharf

    I know the answer to this problem.

    All the GMO scientists should form a group, lets call it the IGMO, under some sort of respected international coalition. They could then produce an authoritative report which would clearly layout the science. Sounds good.

    This consensus could then be rigidly enforced by activists, with those loony outliers who disagree shunned to the fringe where they belong, starved of funding. Different ideas get to die their rightful early deaths at the hands of the all knowing consensus.

    This is how science should be run, and it has been so successful in other areas to drum up public support. We all know that continually bludgeoning detractors with the “saintly bat of my science” always builds a bigger tent in which political solutions can grow.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980613760 Kevin Folta

      Tom, you are right on. I think this is mostly how this plays out. I think things get pointy when volunteer communicators get smeared and even threatened. I don’t dare put my name on my lab.

      But for every time I, or any of us, get cranky there are 100 emails, posts or comments that are kind and in the interest of promoting science. If the science was not so cool and full of potential I wouldn’t get emotionally involved ever!

  • MarkH

    Keith, I’ve now discussed the Grist article as well, although I wasn’t as nice. I also found this interesting point at Terry daynards blog. Apparently that pathological scale of stomach inflammation wasn’t even based on tissue pathology. I improperly assumed this on my first read because that would basically be the only legitimate way to perform that assay. In fact, was based on “redness” by gross pathology.

    Pathetic.

  • Guest

    Some of us are tired of hearing from the deranged wing of the pro-GMO camp, too…

  • Rob Bright

    Some of us are tired of hearing from the deranged wing of the pro-GMO camp, too. (Often they are referred to as anti-intellectuals.)

    • Tom

      I never get tired of the deranged wing. All maniacal laughter and gratuitous twirling of mustaches. (And giant lasers!)

  • Jack Weber

    Pro-GMO folks are just as, if not more, knee-jerk and irrational than many anti-GMO people. Here is a quote from the article linked below.

    “Critics of GMOs are accused of letting ideology trump science. But watching the scathing, knee-jerk reactions to any new piece of research that shines a less-than-positive light on GMOs, it makes me think that the shrill has found itself on the other foot. As Michael Hansen, senior scientist of Consumers Union (the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports), put it to me: “This is something that needs to be followed up. It’s consistent with other findings. The critics of this study want to assume GE is safe and then try to tear down any study showing otherwise … This is an ideological position, not a good scientific one.”

    http://gmojudycarman.org/look-whos-squealing-now-gmo-lovers-freak-over-new-study-of-sick-pigs/

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      The article you link to is the Grist piece I discussed in my post. For a more definitive deconstruction of it, see this post by Mark Hoofnagle: http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2013/06/15/environmental-groups-must-face-down-the-anti-science-in-their-own-house/

    • Tom

      If Judy Carman knew anything about real science, she’d know that trying to tear down any novel hypothesis is what science is all about. If she had proper data instead of random noise and mistreated animals (whose stomachs were likely inflamed due to moldy feed) then maybe scientists would take her seriously.

  • Shadeburst

    That’s strange, I thought all the global warming loonies were anti-GMO loonies as well.

  • Çilingir

    Nice A Beatifull Maltepe Çilingir

  • David Zabrocki

    A little over a hundred years ago, scientists discovered a way to convert fossil fuels into mechanical motion and we were freed from arduous labor. Of course the machines smelled bad noisy but we were assured that the exhaust would disappear into our vast world and be unnoticed. Now, of course, we have found that the release of carbon dioxide is changing our environment to the point where life as we know it is at risk. Enter the possibility of genetically modified organisms. GMO’s can improve our food systems, produce novel and useful chemicals, and generally be a solution to contemporary problems. Scientists again tell us they are safe, they are sterile and of no risk in the environment……

    Given what has happened in past, how can Kloor be so certain of the safety of GMO’s?

    • Tom

      They. Are. Not. Sterile.

      Small risk is not the same as no risk.

  • Robert

    So here is a very thorough, Health Canada and CFIA requested examination of GMO technology in Canada. I would like to draw your attention, specifically, to Chapter 9 (the significant recommendations they provide regarding how GE and GMOs should be regulated, tested for safety, and/or approved by unbiased third parties:)

    http://www.canadians.org/food/documents/rsc_feb05.pdf

  • jinng

    Jack, if those data are real and properly obtained, and 70% of the US food supply is poison, then why is this not in Nature or Science? Why in an obscure journal without any impact factor?

    http://www.candybagfurla.com/81-furla-mini-candy-bag

  • http://qpr.ca/blog alqpr

    “There are two kinds of people who write about genetically modified foods: Those who believe that GMOs are bad and those who don’t.” That’s actually not true!
    Some people admit they don’t know (or maybe care) about the health effects but demand to be informed through labelling in case they later want to change their minds. And others, who do not believe that GMOs are bad, may be offended by what they perceive as predatory monopolistic business practices by those who produce them. Many people hate GMOs because they profit Monsanto and they hate Monsanto not because of the fact that it produces GMOs but because of how they see it it using them.

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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, 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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