Why GMOs Matter

By Keith Kloor | January 24, 2014 4:10 pm

Several weeks ago, Nathanael Johnson at Grist reflected on what he had learned after spending half a year dissecting all the major claims and counter-claims that dominated the GMO debate. It was a very thoughtful post with a jarring headline:

What I learned from six months of GMO research: None of it matters

Many smart people nodded along, which blew my mind, but also made me realize just how narrowly this discussion has been framed. (More on that in in a minute.)

In his piece–as he did in his six-month series–Johnson waxed Solomonic about the pros and cons of crop biotechnology, ultimately concluding:

The most astonishing thing about the vicious public brawl over GMOs is that the stakes are so low.

This struck me as astonishing, especially coming from someone who had just spent six months deeply immersed in biotech research and application. My own foray into this world has led me to the opposite conclusion. (The same goes for Amy Harmon.) As I was doodling with a response to Johnson’s “none of it matters” hand wave, several notable rebuttals poured forth. The first was from University of Wyoming’s Andrew Kniss, who made this excellent point:

While activist groups, scientists, and journalists yell past each other in this debate, the people who are actually using and benefiting from the technology are largely ignored. So too are the potential beneficiaries of the future.

Next followed Berkley’s Michael Eisen, who felt that Johnson let GMO opponents off the hook:

What is most disturbing about the GMO debate – and why it matters – is that the anti-GMO movement at almost every turn rejects empiricism as a means of understanding the world and making decisions about it.

This matters because the anti-GMO movement shapes the public discourse. It is their ideology, worldview and claims that set the terms of the debate. The scientists merely play defense, batting back a torrent of misinformation and never-ending urban myths (terminators! Indian farmer suicides!), much in the way that climate scientists are forever rebutting cherry-picked stats and pseudoscience from climate skeptics. What’s truly disconcerting about the GMO debate is that influential thought leaders and public figures have legitimized the anti-empirical voices instead of disavowing them. (This mostly doesn’t happen in public dialogues involving climate change or vaccine safety–where the evidence-defiant fringe are marginalized).

Such mainstreaming–how it plays out– is illustrated in my recent piece in Issues in Science and Technology, which is about how a popular  GMO myth has been credulously accepted, amplified, and disseminated. To a much larger degree, the endorsement and propagation of misleading information and outright falsehoods by influential thought leaders is the elephant in the room that Johnson, Grist and many progressives dance around. They need to own it, not ignore it, because there are consequences when influentials play footsies with the fringe, just as there are consequences when popular talk show hosts give a forum to anecdotal anti-vaccine arguments and phony experts falsely claiming health dangers from GMOs.

Eisen speaks to why the behavior of GMO opponents matters (my emphasis):

The anti-GMO movement is an anti-empirical movement. It relies on the rejection of evidence about the risks and benefits of extant GMOs. And it relies on the rejection of an understanding about molecular biology. And it’s triumph would be a disaster not just because we would miss out on future innovations in agriculture – but because the rejection of GMOs would all but banish the last vestige of empiricism from political life. The world faces so many challenges now, and we can only solve them if we believe that the world can be understood by studying it, that we can think up and generate possible solutions to the challenges we face, and that we can make rational decisions about which ones to use or not to use. The anti-GMO movement rejects each piece of this – it rejects decades of research aimed at understanding molecular biology, it rejects technology as a way to solve problems and more than anything it rejects our ability to make rational assessments of risk and value.

Another noteworthy rebuttal to Johnson was penned by Ramez Naam, who argues that GMOs matter very much for the developing world. Indeed, this is an aspect of the debate that is largely ignored. I was thrilled to see Naam use the example of India’s Bt cotton farmers, which really does illustrate the value of biotechnology for smallholders. (This is something I get into in my Issues in Science and Technology piece.)

So why does cotton engineered with the pest-resistant Bt trait matter in the developing world? After all, people don’t eat cotton! And as smart GMO skeptics like to point out, most biotech crops, like soybean, corn, and cotton, are commodity cash crops. They don’t feed people.

Here’s Naam:

There are 7 million cotton farmers in India. Several peer reviewed studies have found that, because Bt cotton increases the amount of crop they have to sell, it raises their farm profits by as much as 50 percent, helps lift them out of poverty and reduces their risk of falling into hunger. By reducing the amount of insecticide used (which, in India, is mostly sprayed by hand) Bt cotton has also massively reduced insecticide poisoning to farm workers there — to the tune of 2.4 million cases per year.

So here we have an example where GMOs help people rise out of poverty. The Indian farmers make more money with genetically modified cotton, which means they have more money to purchase food and clothes and everyday items that anti-GMO westerners take for granted. That’s not a hypothetical benefit of GMOs. It’s real. And it matters.

Now there are some, like the anthropologist Glenn Davis Stone, who take issue with what he derides as the “triumphalist narrative” of Bt cotton in India. And there are those who, in response, throw up their hands in exasperation. I’ll get into this quicksand in my next post. (Look for it Monday.) I should also point out that Johnson has just written a follow-up to his “none of it matters” post, where he concedes to overgeneralizing. In his latest, Johnson concludes that

the symbol of GMOs has eclipsed the causes it symbolizes. Our urgent needs are to alleviate poverty, improve the environment, and face the fact that many of us no longer trust the people who bring us our food. Right now, our political capital is misspent if we’re only addressing GMOs narrowly without touching those larger issues.

I entirely agree.

MORE ABOUT: biotechnology, GMOs, science
  • Jennifer Reschan

    More pro-GMO propaganda. If you, Amy Harmon, and Nathanael Johnson weren’t so lazy you could write a factual, balanced article. Perhaps the corruption of the science and journalism by industry pressure?

    Supreme Court rules in favor of Monsanto against conventional and organic farmers
    “Indeed, in light of the Court of Appeals decision, Monsanto may not sue any contaminated farmer for patent infringement if the level of contamination is less than 1 percent.” BUT…

    http://beachvethospital.blogspot.com/2014/01/dear-food-and-chemical-toxicology.html

    http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/in-india-gm-crops-come-at-a-high-price/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

    http://madeleinelove.newsvine.com/_news/2013/09/18/20568345-my-great-big-list-of-studies-intro

    • Physics Police

      1. This blog post rightly points out flaws in Hammond 2004. However, the same team went on to publish 3 better studies. You haven’t contradicted weight of the scientific evidence shows GMO is as safe as conventional.

      You haven’t contradicted Keith Kloor said about the consequences when phony experts falsely claiming health dangers from GMOs. You’ve exemplified it.

      • Jennifer Reschan

        The other 3 studies are based on the same flawed experimental design, which is why they are linked in the blog. What exactly is the “weight of evidence” on safety of GMOs besides the meme “trillions of meals served without a single incidence of illness” backed by zero empirical evidence in the form of data?

        • Physics Police

          No. The other 3 studies use increased sample size and monitoring duration.

          The weight of evidence is the lack of credible proof of harm, plus the lack of any reasonable theory that would lead us to suspect undiscovered harm.

          You can go on special pleading, that GMO isn’t proven safe. That doesn’t prove it’s dangerous.

          You don’t need to serve meals to humans to identify biological risk, potential or actual.

          It’s clear you have made up your mind out of fear and without regard to evidence. I don’t want to tell you how to think, but insist you have no right to bring this unbridled ignorance into a discussion of GMO policy.

        • Physics Police

          Jennifer, would you not also make the argument?

          What exactly is the “weight of evidence” on safety of conventionally bred tomatoes besides the
          meme “trillions of cans of soup served before 1994 without a single incidence of illness”
          backed by zero empirical evidence in the form of data?

          Did you know, there has never been a study looking to see if conventionally bred tomatoes are safe to eat, or not? Not one!

    • Physics Police
      • Jennifer Reschan

        Keith Kloor writes “So here we have an example where GMOs help people rise out of poverty. The Indian farmers make more money with genetically modified cotton, which means they have more money to purchase food and clothes and everyday items that anti-GMO westerners take for granted. That’s not a hypothetical benefit of GMOs. It’s real. And it matters.”

        But if you read the article I linked to it says: ““We’re getting higher yields, but we’re not better off,” said T. Venkatesh, one of the cotton farmers, in an interview. “Our costs have gone up much faster than the price of cotton.”

        Srinivas Reddy, another farmer, said, “We buy our seeds on the black market now, and we pay three times, sometimes five times, as much as we did for the normal seeds. But nobody is selling non-Bt seeds anymore.” Mr. Reddy said he was also paying more for farmhands and pesticides. Bt cotton is currently India’s only genetically modified crop, but it accounts for 95 percent of all cotton farming in the country. The seeds can cost anywhere between 700 to 2,000 rupees ($38) per packet, or about three to eight times the cost of conventional seeds.”

        Where is the evidence backing up Keith Kloor’s statement?

        • Physics Police

          Srinivas Reddy is wrong. It’s inconsistent with basic economics to claim a demand for conventional cotton seeds, while complaining that Bt cotton seeds cost more.

          Prices reflect supply and demand.

          Venkatesh is making Bt cotton his scape goat.

          Bt cotton has become popular due to its advantage over conventional. Not because these farmers have been somehow duped.

          It’s convenient to blame Monsanto for seed prices than overproduction for low cotton prices. It’s also irresponsible and unjust.

    • Physics Police

      3. This project by Madeleine Love is an example of the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy.

      https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/no-true-scotsman

      The Biofortified list contains studies that test different GMO crops under different conditions. The hypothesis that GMO is inherently more dangerous than conventional is easily rejected by this collective body of evidence.

      Madeleine Love claims that “… there has never been a study looking to see if GM food [is]
      safe to eat…” which is an unreasonable and unscientific appeal to purity.

      This is exactly what Keith Kloor means by shaping public discourse.

      • Jennifer Reschan

        Her point is that the “600 studies showing the safety of GE crops” that pro- industry people love to quote is false.

        ” It contains a number of animal production studies performed by the GM companies, these presumably to demonstrate to the meat industries that their animals will survive to slaughter with an acceptable meat product. A number of the studies on the list report changes, findings of harm, or findings that contradict assumptions made by regulators when they approved GM food for consumption. There are studies on experimental GM crops that produced adverse health outcomes in animals. Other ‘studies’ are opinion based discussions founded on a priori assumptions, their validity yet to be demonstrated. Some are simply irrelevant to human food safety.”

        • Karl Haro von Mogel

          The “list” is now a database with more than 1,000 studies. Madeleine Love attempts to undercut the value of the science, and constantly move the goalposts. She admitted in her response to us that the same study if it found no problems is irrelevant, but if it did find problems has human health implications. This is illogical and unscientific. I would rather trust the body of scientific research and the collective conclusions of experts in the field.

        • Physics Police

          I’m not pro-industry. I’m anti-anti-science.

  • mem_somerville

    It was disappointing and surprising that he didn’t touch on that Eisen perspective at all, and I it noted in the comments over there.

    I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationships with the fringy chemtrailz | troofer | NWO | altmed | Illuminati | cherry-picking | mysogynist | conspiracy | faces of this–because it makes it so easy to dismiss the crackpottery. And the humor value is so high. But you can’t ally with people who aren’t tethered to facts–they are
    not trustworthy in the long run to get to long-term goals like Johnson lists.

    The scientists and farmers I know also want to alleviate poverty, improve the environment, and ensure safe and abundant food for everyone. But not one of them is trying to prevent anyone else from using any tool or method or technology that they want to use to get there.

  • Amy Kathlene

    Thats great to have GMO cotton and all, but what about the stuff we do eat? This article did not address my fear of EATING corn, just using it as a non food product. “most biotech crops, like soybean, corn, and cotton, are commodity cash crops. They don’t feed people.” So whats with all the corn and soy products at the supermarket? Are those supposed to be novety items for our pantries?

    • Nerdsamwich

      What specific trait worries you? The term “GMO” doesn’t really mean anything. All domestic species have had their genetics modified by humans. And a good thing, too. Ever tried to eat wild cabbage?

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        Selective breeding and mixing different species at the genetic level is not the same thing. Your argument is a canard.

        • Buddy199

          Why would mixing chemicals from different species necessarily be a bad thing in and of itself, other than an affront to a romanticized nostalgia for “Nature”?

          • Amy Kathlene

            Its not, and I don’t even believe all GMO’s are bad. The ones that supposedly have poisons in them, like corn, are what worry me.

          • Nerdsamwich

            All members of the nightshade family–potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and tobacco–produce a poison called nicotine to keep the bugs away. The hot substance in peppers, capsaicin, is also a pesticide. So is aspirin, and THC, and just about everything we grow plants for. Bt toxin doesn’t really affect mammals, just insects, especially in the amounts present in a potato or an ear of corn.

            As the article states, it’s all a bunch of urban legends stirred up by some wingnut who’s off his meds and thinks “the scientists” are out to enslave humanity.

          • Amy Kathlene

            Thank you for taking the time t

          • Nerdsamwich

            Fortunately for your addiction management, the nicotine is only produced in the leaves. So unless your potato salad is radically different from mine, you’re probably safe on that front. :)

          • Smurt52

            Well you definitely nailed my main concern. The effects of these ‘insecticides’ brought into the genetics of corn and other corps and their affect on the bee populations of the United States.

            You guys can’t have it both ways. We both agree that it’s an insecticide affecting those pesky insects.

            Anyone care to tell me how your going to get cross pollination of crops once the bee population of the US is 0 ?

            Oh, and before you go there we’re not speaking of those natural pesticides built into plants which bees have already adapted too over eons. We’re speaking of these man made changes shoved into these crops at the genetic level.

          • Nerdsamwich

            It’s the same chemical. The one that you yourself claim the bees have adapted to. That said, corn is not pollinated by bees, but by the wind. And Bt toxin only affects those insects that eat the plant, not pollen or nectar. Also, colony collapse has largely been pinned down to a fungal infection. There is evidence that the bees are made more susceptible to the fungus by exposure to Roundup, but that’s not what we’re talking about at the moment.

        • Bernie Mooney

          Actually, it is. The methods may be different but both are genetic modification.

      • Amy Kathlene

        What specific trait worries me? The one where pesticides are built in. I’m not sure I’m comfortable eating food with built-in pesticides that I can’t wash away.

        • mem_somerville

          Oh oh. I hate to break this to you, but all plants make pesticides. http://www.pnas.org/content/87/19/7777.abstract

          • Amy Kathlene

            //I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationships with the fringy chemtrailz | troofer | NWO | altmed | Illuminati | cherry-picking | mysogynist | conspiracy | faces of this–because it makes it so easy to dismiss the crackpottery. And the humor value is so high.//
            Oh I see. Everyone who questions GMO’s is a crackpot. Hence the sarcasm.

          • Robert Smithers

            Ya they all make 2 4D and bt, etc! Get real dear.

          • Amy Kathlene

            Robert Smithers Karl Haro von Mogel • a day ago
            So your saying that if a farmers crops were contaminated (conventional/organic) they can sue the company?
            •Reply•Share ›
            Avatar
            Pamela Wright Robert Smithers • a day ago
            Yes, Judge Brown specifically said they have that right. People have been lying to you. The fact is, there hasn’t been any such case. But if you were upset that your crops were “contaminated” by GM seeds from a nearby farm, you could sue that OTHER FARMER and possibly the seed producer. You know, corn doesn’t easily transfer its seeds. They’re really big and quite tightly contained. What crop do you grow?
            3 •Reply•Share ›
            Avatar
            Robert Smithers Pamela Wright • 20 hours ago
            No I wasn’t upset or had any preconceived idea on this one….truly didn’t know the answer. Thanks!
            •Reply•Share ›

            What seems like common knowledge to one can be completely new information to another. I see you don’t know everythingeverything about GMOs, but are telling me to get real about my questions?

          • Smurt52

            So what part do bees play in their cross pollination activities between GMO and non-GMO crops.

            Aside from being poisoned along with the harmful pests by the GMO crops ?

          • Loren Eaton

            She’s right. Whether or not those natural insecticides are effective is a different issue. And just because they’ve lost their effectiveness against a pest doesn’t mean they can’t give YOU an upset tum-tum. Bt doesn’t operate in acidic environments.
            Oh, and tobacco makes an insecticide called nicotine… and it was used for a long time by organic farmers.

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    From what I can tell, the entire debate suffers from a horrific amount of equivocating. My concern with GMO products is the level of study on their effects. Of course, that’s the one issue where they will rebut the rat study, but fail to provide a study demonstrating safety. Just because the rat study was biased, doesn’t GMO’s are safe.

    As a consumer though, it runs deeper than that. Why are governments refusing to force food producers to label a product is GM? We have ingredient and nutrition information, we have a right to this as well. It’s entirely understandable for people to be suspicious in light of such activities.

    Further, trumpeting one off successes like Bt Cotton smacks of an equivalent amount of quackery. Success in creating a textile lends no credence to anything other than the success of that textile and the fact that there is potential in non-consumable GMO’s. It doesn’t mean we should be OK with consumables.

    And really, that’s the problem. There is a distinct lack of transparency and honesty on both sides of the debate. I suppose outrage and hysteria sell better, but I’d really just like solid studies that aren’t sponsored by involved industries and independent academic review.

    • Nerdsamwich

      It’s because “genetically modified” is a meaningless term. Every domesticated species has had its genetics modified by the hand of man. You have to be specific. To what, precisely, do you object? What trait do you doubt might be safe? When you can raise specific concerns, then you can make a meaningful argument.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        You seem to be confusing me with someone who is entirely against GMO. It’s very hard to discuss when the person you’re talking with treats you like a stereotype rather than a human being.

        I don’t have a specific trait I’m talking about just as I don’t know specifically what characteristic of arsenic is lethal or why specifically testosterone increases protein synthesis.

        What I do know however, is what constitutes a valid response to an argument. I also know what subversive behaviour looks like, and like I said, neither side seems much interested in transparent conversation.

        If someone makes the argument that there has been lack of long term studies on the health effects of GMOs, saying “Yeah but that rat study was a fraud” is not a valid response. Much like saying “what specific trait do you fear” is a rather absurd question that very few not intimately involved in the creation of said crops could answer.

        I fear what I do not know. Just like everyone else. Show me long term independent studies that demonstrate safety and I’ll gladly eat GMOs.

        • JH

          The “rat study” to which you refer has been lambasted by everyone except anti-GMO press and activists. The study was recently retracted by the scientific journal that published it. What more do you want? Who is it that you think should be this “independent authority”?

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Rodney Mangum

            I guess it could be coincidence that the editor who was hired in

          • Jason Hinchliffe

            Why are you bringing up that study as if I didn’t admit it was bunk? My problem (if you would please try to look at what I’m saying and stop responding to me as if I’m an anti-GMO alarmist) is that as a consumer, I’m bombarded by hostile voices from both sides. There was a bill put forward (that I believe failed to pass, but I have to follow up and find out) to restrict producers from labeling their products “GMO-Free”. Any thinking person would be alarmed by such an action.

            The fact is that we don’t all have time in the day to read up on 1783 studies to find the one on the particular type of GMO corn in our breakfast cereal. There are so many bloody “causes” out there I can’t keep up with all of them. Christ, I spend massive amounts of time reading up on climate change issues (as they directly affect my industry) and political issues, and so on and so forth 9and maybe I can slip in some time for some good old fiction?), this one I trusted the aggregators to inform me and apparently that may have been a mistake.

            My concerns are possibly brought on by activist media. The major issues I have, which I guess may or may not be valid (as I don’t know how much propaganda I’m dealing with here) is that (purportedly) the longest study conducted on the safety of any GMO food item is 2 years. (If this isn’t true, then I stand corrected, and would appreciate a link to said study), to me, this seems insufficient as health effects are frequently non-linear.

            Further, to sort of bring this back around, the larger discussion here goes well beyond the safety of GMO’s and into a deeper political discussion. The independence of our political institutions as a whole is an issue. We’ve seen what happens as our watch dogs are infiltrated by individuals with conflicts of interest. The FDA has already been victimized by this by the Pharmaceutical industry. So I guess it’s about “who should this authority be” but rather, how do we safeguard the independence of the authorities we have?

            The more I think about this, the more I realize it isn’t really an argument about the safety of GMO crops, but rather an argument of me as an ignorant consumer. I don’t feel comfortable with it. The industry hasn’t reached out to the consumer base to allay our fears but has taken the easier route of political manipulation to achieve their goals. At the end of the day, if you want me to buy something, you have to sell it to me. Objecting to my right to make an informed decision is alarming, as it should be for anyone.

            I guess I have to go read some studies on this. Not that I have time.

        • Skip Nordenholz

          The anti GMO argument is just naive about the science of food, they can take plants bombard them with radiation or chemicals to stress the plant and produce any number of random mutations, then sell the offspring of this as organic, but if the take one gene they have been studying and put into an organism, suddenly its franken food, GM has nothing to do with the level of risk, it has nothing to do with the amount of modification. The reason companies are interested in GM is so that an individual gene can be inserted with more predictable results, instead of just mash to organism together or sledge hammer the genes of a plants to see what happens. Nature is messy and dirty, gene are not pure.

        • Pamela Wright

          No, when they (or you) keep asking for long term studies when they have been told repeatedly that such studies *have* been done, and are continuing, they (or you) are being intentionally obtuse. It’s a tactic to avoid admitting the truth, These products have been shown to be safe, scientifically, and there is zero evidence for being anti-GMO in any measure. Try actually looking up the studies you have been told about. We cannot possibly post the thousands of links to all of them. Start by going to PubMed and entering “GMO” or “transgenic” or “genetically engineered crops”. Good luck and happy reading.

          • Jason Hinchliffe

            So I went and did some reading. I found a lovely little aggregation of results here:

            http://www.biosafety.ru/ftp/domingo.pdf

            And it more or less spoke to what my concerns were. Most of the studies indicate little to no harm, but they are short, and frequently not exhaustive. Understand, this is not saying “GMO is evil and we shouldn’t be doing this”, but I fail to see how studies of this sort are enough to say “We have nothing to worry about”.

            Given, this is only a small sampling, and I’m going to continue because hey, I guess there’s just no leisure time anymore if we want to be informed anymore as everyone is a bloody propagandist these days.

            It seems to me that companies like Monsanto want to reduce the investment required to bring such products to market. That’s understandable. However we have to realize their motive, (bring a product to market that will fill a consumer need at as affordable a price as possible) and ours (eat safe food) will occasionally be at odds.

          • FosterBoondoggle

            What most people do – or should do – is look to the experts. We can’t all be expert enough at statistics, biochemistry and veterinary medicine to understand what’s wrong with the Seralini and Carman studies. That leaves two choices:
            1. Succumb to the paranoid, conspiracy-promoting fringe and buy into the notion that one medium sized company with about the same revenue as Whole Foods (namely Monsanto) has somehow bought off the vast majority of the scientific community and the major government regulators, all of whom have — without exception that I’m aware of — acknowledged the safety of GM food (that is, “just as safe” as non-GM food) or
            2. Go with the scientists and regulators. You don’t have to become an expert yoursef. You just have to accept that expertise exists and is probably well represented in organizations like the WHO, the AAAS, the AMA and the EFSA, all of whom (as mentioned) have noted that GM products are no different from a consumer standpoint (vis a vis safety and nutritional quality) than non-GM ones. You can find their respective statements on the subject by googling the entity name and “GMO”.

          • Jason Hinchliffe

            Excellent point. Very well put. The most salient thing, and I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t think to go look myself, is the actual size of Monsanto. They’re presented as a massive corporation, and in reality, they are big, but they are dwarfed by even smaller Pharma companies, and utterly eclipsed by the energy sector.

    • JH

      “I’d really just like solid studies that aren’t sponsored by involved industries”

      PUUHLEEEEZZZZZ!!!!! There are thousands of academic studies looking at GMOs. Your suggestion that there aren’t enough studies funded by independent research is completely bogus. If you haven’t been able to find any publicly funded studies, it’s because you haven’t made even the smallest effort to find them.

      Beyond that, many studies are sponsored by “involved industries” because that’s what’s required by the FDA for approval. The system was intentionally set up that way because (lefitsh) people felt that if the industry expects to make money on the products, they should pay for the research. The FDA is the public’s representative: it defines the acceptable methodologies and judges if studies have been properly carried out.

      If the public paid for the approval studies, you’d have a bunch of lefties screaming that we’re “socializing the costs and privatizing the benefits”.

      • Jennifer Reschan

        Which of those studies are independent, blinded, long term and how do they show the safety of GE crops?

        • JH

          How long is “long term”? 20 years? 50 years?

          Every technical innovation will reveal some negative impact, however small, over the “long term” (>20 years). But if you have to wait that long to find them, by definition they’re very small relative to the value of the innovation itself, and you’ve lost 20 years of benefits in the process.

          • Jason Hinchliffe

            I would think “longer than a few months” is a fair answer. How about 5 years? When dealing with food, especially staples, I think it’s fair to say that safety over a 13 week period isn’t particularly meaningful. I can ingest carcinogens daily for 13 weeks and not show “significant” signs of anything. Check me again in a couple of years and you have a different story. These things are consumed daily by people over years. The fact it didn’t seem to do anything significant to mice in 13 weeks isn’t comforting.

          • FosterBoondoggle

            But the problem is that there has to be a plausible mechanism to justify doing a longer term epidemiological study, which could be very expensive. The GMOs themselves just contain a couple of new proteins. So they’re tested for allergenicity, which doesn’t take very long. Proteins aren’t known to cause cancer — we digest them — so there’s no plausible hypothesis to test. You could equally well demand long-term safety testing of grains harvested with metal implements. No long term safety studies of organic corn in fields plowed with metal plows and harvested by combines have ever been done! Do you think they should be?

            Glyphosate, the other bogeyman of the anti-Monsanto crowd, has been extensively tested and is rated as very low toxicity by the EPA.

    • Pamela Wright

      911 studies on PubMed alone. 911 studies showing their safety. Go read them. Stop being lazy. Read the existing studies. They do not need to be labeled because there is nothing dangerous about them. We don’t force people to label for gluten either. Nor do they have to label for whether they use furrowless plowing, or drip watering, or fecal matter for fertilizer, or hire underpaid and undocumented farm workers to pick their crops. These are just not things you need to know as a matter of law. If you want non-GMO, just buy freaking organic produce, or food marked with the voluntary GMO free label which is already regulated by the FDA. If you ask most companies, they will provide you answers to your questions. You just want it all and you want it at someone else’s expense. Get over it.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        I just went and read a bunch of studies. Your willingness to say “There is nothing dangerous about them” is quite surprising seeing as many studies in fact did detect negative effects, and most were limited in their scope and/or duration. My impression upon reading the summaries of a couple of dozen was “There is a lot of potential here, and some areas may be hugely beneficial, but the data is insufficient to make sweeping claims”.

  • mkassowitz

    I think it’s amazing that Monsanto and company have managed the cause such a blurry view of what is a simple picture. It should not be surprising, however. There is a LOT of money at stake and that’s what the game is really about. The real noise in this scene is all about obfuscating that point. GMOs have always been about money: seeds as an intellectual property are the first step. Next comes traits to allow for increased use of pesticides and herbicides. Then come the sales pitches that paint GMOs as some sort of potential savior for the future feeding of the human race and a means to lower chemical use in farming. Whoops. None of the sales pitches have turned out to be true. Yields are not higher, but pesticide use sure is. Next the public cries foul because the approvals were political, not science based—the FDAs own scientists were the first skeptics. Enter the PR machine which now paints criticism of GMOs as a Luddite, “ideological” rant. GMOs helping people out of poverty? We know where that ones going to go next. Anyone calling that one a fake will be branded as an organic “elitist.” All this obfuscation is borne of a real and logical terror on the part of biotech companies. The fact is that no real documentation of the novel proteins and potential allergens in GMOs has been conducted. Biotech’s claims of studies proving their safety is just plain bunk, since no independent studies have been done—other than those ruthlessly quashed by said biotech giants. What’s the real fear? Accountability and potential liability. Monsanto, et al, have spent tens of millions to quash labeling of GMOs to forestall the eventual accounting of the effects on the environment and people that labeling will make possible. If these products are so “demonstrably” safe, why the terror. Robyn O’Brien, a former food industry analyst, makes a much better case for this. http://organicconnectmag.com/accountability-food-industry-fears-gmo-labeling/

    • Gerry Roe

      Exactly. I don’t have the scientific chops to determine whether GMOs are safe, but I can see that the multinational corporations want very badly for everybody to believe they are, while they simultaneously refuse to label them as such. They also want to patent everything in the world and sue me if their patented genes contaminate my crops. The issue here is not only about empiricism. It’s about well-founded suspicion. Follow the money.

      • Jennifer Reschan

        As a farmer, I find it disturbing that the Supreme Court has decided that conventional and organic farmers have no legal recourse if their crops are contaminated with patented technology.

        • Karl Haro von Mogel

          That is not what they determined. In fact the lower courts determined that the farmers in question were NOT in danger of lawsuits, and had presented zero evidence that they were. The supreme court, by not hearing the case, affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

          • Robert Smithers

            So your saying that if a farmers crops were contaminated (conventional/organic) they can sue the company?

          • Pamela Wright

            Yes, Judge Brown specifically said they have that right. People have been lying to you. The fact is, there hasn’t been any such case. But if you were upset that your crops were “contaminated” by GM seeds from a nearby farm, you could sue that OTHER FARMER and possibly the seed producer. You know, corn doesn’t easily transfer its seeds. They’re really big and quite tightly contained. What crop do you grow?

          • Robert Smithers

            No I wasn’t upset or had any preconceived idea on this one….truly didn’t know the answer. Thanks!

          • Smurt52

            Yeah, it’s not like plants ever spread their DNA via pollen carried by the bees or anything like that.

            Poor bees, they are insects and just like the pests these insects killed they are also affected.

          • Karl Haro von Mogel

            That’s not supported by legal precedent. It’s an issue that we haven’t yet had a level-headed discussion about, and does need discussing. It’s not the same as other kinds of spillover effects, as it takes two gametes to make a seed, and both affecting and affected farmers can take action to prevent it from occurring, and in some respects, so can the seed companies (but most of those methods are strongly objected to – such as sterile seeds).

    • Nerdsamwich

      Actually, RR crops have allowed for decreased herbicide use, just as Bt crops have allowed farmers to use far less pesticide.

  • Buddy199

    If GMO’s were as dangerous as the apocalyptics claim wouldn’t their effects be glaringly obvious at this point, what with 30 plus years in and the insatiable 24/7 news beast? Monsanto could be buying off all the scientists to produce phony studies. But I guess they’re also buying off all the families of the millions of children who died from GMO Frosted Flakes caused tumors. Jeez, give it a rest.

    • Jennifer Reschan

      Epidemiological studies on GMOs have never been done and because such foods are not labeled, it makes it more difficult for these studies to be completed. At the same time prevalence of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and kidney disease have skyrocketed since the introduction of GMOs.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Ben Buchanan

        Correlation does not equal causation. For example, as the consumption of organic foods has increased, so has the number of children diagnosed with Autism. This doesn’t mean that eating organic foods causes Autism.

        This article shows why further studies on the safety, specifically showing how safe GMO’s are, haven’t been done.

        http://www.ift.org/food-technology/past-issues/2014/january/features/gmos-a-plateful-of-promises.aspx?page=viewall

        • Gilbert

          I agree people have right to know what they are buying and are putting in their bodies. So, no matter what we think of these problems with GMO, people should know what exactly is inside of food. But if so many countries banned gmo food from USA, and also UE worry about cooperation with US farmers because of GMO (http://blog.pulawy.com/en/gmo-remains-a-bone-of-contention/ more about it) so maybe there are some real premises to worry about GMO and its consequences?

          • JH

            Environmental groups are working extremely hard to find a health reason to ban coal from being shipped through the Pacific Northwest. Is this because there is some real health reason?

            No. Not at all. Environmental groups oppose coal mining. They oppose coal burning. They support the wind and solar power industries. It’s a political ploy to protect their interests. It has nothing to do with health.

          • Buddy199

            On the other hand, if enough people come to believe that cameras steal your soul must we label
            all photographic equipment?

          • hmrhonda

            We should at least not put the cameras on the streets because they do “steal your soul” –they steal our right to privacy. That is our “soul” .

          • Nick

            All those countries who “banned” GM crops, are heavy importers

          • Rational_Db8

            Hi Nick,

            Do you by any chance have a good link showing that? I’ve got some neighbors who are anti-GMO, and they bring up other countries banning GMO’s all the time – they would be open to contradictory facts however. So I’d appreciate information that way if you happen to have it handy or can find it without too much hassle…

      • J M

        @Jennifer Reschan:
        “At the same time prevalence of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and kidney disease have skyrocketed since the introduction of GMOs.”
        This is also an argument forwarded by anti-vaxxers.
        Btw, regarding heart disease, diabetes…. do you really think that GMOs are to blame, rather than the obesity epidemic in America?

        • hmrhonda

          There are some people who are predisposed to being injured by vaccines too. After all, there is a disclaimer of “side effects” all parents have to sign, including the side effect of Guillain Barre Syndrome. Not all humans are the same and therefore should have the liberty to refuse to eat or get foreign substances introduced into their bodies.

      • mem_somerville

        I’m told continuously about the 60+ countries that label. We can agree on that, right?

        Can you show me a single incident from any of these countries where the GMOness has had a food safety consequence? Japan is very food safety conscious and very high-tech on this–and a major importer of GMO foods. Show me even a single case.

        [I'll wait...and wait....I've been asking this for a long time.]

        • Robert Smithers

          Until there is adequate tracking of the transgene there is no way to say that a GMO has caused any problem….but health issues cannot be ruled out either. So you will be waiting a very long time, until there is mandatory labeling for tracking and accountability. This lack of labeling keeps everyone in the dark, except those that want to promote and say “just accept, maybe yes, maybe no” we don’t want to give up control of the information.

          • mem_somerville

            But that’s the point–there is labeling in Japan, right? So show me the cases of GMO harm from there.

            Wait, what…you’ve got none….hmmm…..

          • Robert Smithers

            They don’t label the transgene for trackability dear. Nothing to account for or look for…the generic label is worthless.

          • mem_somerville

            I’ve never seen a label proposal that includes the transgene–have you darling? I actually agree that the label proposals are useless, but not merely because of the specific transgene. It’s because absence of the transgene in refined products would be mislabeled by just saying “contains GMO”.

            But I’m sorry about your failure to grasp how epidemiology works. You see–you can track down something harmful even if it is unlabeled. Let’s say, I don’t know, organic sprouts. They weren’t labeled that they could kill people with the specific item that’s harmful–but epidemiologists can still figure that out. Isn’t that impressive?

          • Steven Johnson

            Really now ….they can track something down & point it to a GMO issue without labeling or coding. Send me a link

          • David Thompson

            You’ll be waiting for that link a long time.

          • hmrhonda

            Since they are labeled in Japan, most would avoid them so what is there to study?

          • mem_somerville

            So you think that the largest per-capita importer of GMO foods is doing this because people avoid them? What a strange conclusion. But I’d be happy to look at your evidence if you offered any.

    • hmrhonda

      They are. Look at all the people with unexplained medical complaints and the increase in prescription drug use.

      • FosterBoondoggle

        Right… Unexplained medical problems and increased drug use can only be due to… GMOs! I mean, what else could it be?!?

        • hmrhonda

          The word “only” was not used in my post.

        • Pamela Wright

          I thought it was teh invaccinations and microwave ovens?

      • Loren Eaton

        So you’re explaining the unexplained by pointing out that two things are happening at the same time. No proof, certainly no mechanism. Corrleation does not equal casuation.

    • independent thinker

      I do not have the studies at hand but it has been shown that the inclusion of the BT gene in crops has contributed to the Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybees.

      • Nick

        that’s only one possible hypothesis. The true cause of CCD has not yet been identified, though the most supported hypothesis is a combination of poor management and a particularly nasty mite.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Artur Sixto

    This article is so completely biased in support of GMOs that it is not even worth discussing. I am a molecular biologist BTW. Since it would be boring to start a discussion on plant genetics, I will just remind you that physics and nuclear engineering are quite empirical as well, and in spite of all available knowledge (even knowledge of what we didn’t know, like how would we dispose of extremely long lasting radioisotopes), the nuclear industry was launched and it is an utter, worldwide disaster round the corner. Fukushima is a joke compared to the threat of several hundred reactors built so far, most of them getting quite old, without a clue of how we are going to deal with them and the radioactive waste. Ok, now let me tell you that molecular biology and environmental control are nowhere close to the level of understanding of nuclear matters when the industry got started.

    • Bernie Mooney

      No, let’s start a discussion on plant genetics. We want to know. Explain to us why it’s bad.

      • theLaplaceDemon

        Not only is it interesting, it is far more relevant than analogies to other industries. Please, do discuss.

    • mem_somerville

      Yeah, let’s have the discussion about plant genetics. Let’s use a specific example of herbicide tolerance.

      Now, you can get HT traits from conventional breeding, right? Clearfield is just one example. Or you can get HT traits from GE methods (everyone knows about Roundup).

      Do tell me: what are the differences in in the molecular and environmental concerns between these two strategies? Please be specific.

      And don’t be afraid to be all sciency, I can take it.

    • Broadnax

      Unfortunately for opponents, the science if very pro-GMO, so any article about science will be pro-GMO. The opponents need to look in the magic and superstition section of their bookstores.

    • JH

      “the nuclear industry…is an utter, worldwide disaster round the corner.” (emphasis mine).

      the usual….

    • Notfrom

      This was the best analysis I’ve read so far!

    • Robert Smithers

      Leaving our children with the scientists mess of cleaning up radioactive waste (figure that one out yet guys and gals) and GMO crops polluting the soil, conventional crops and organic (figure that one out yet guys and gals) And they wonder why we don’t appreciate this work! I love science but these two area’s are just insanity.

      • Rational_Db8

        There is no scientific or technical problem dealing with nuclear power radioactive wastes – only political problems. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t bothered to actually learn about the subject and is just responding to all the scaremongering out there.

        • Steven Johnson

          Enlighten me/us please…..what does society do with all the nuclear power plants that are aging & their wastes.. Please fix it for us. Oh obnoxious one!

          • Rational_Db8

            As I said, and as your response even indicates, the problems are political, not scientific or technical. For just one example, if the “spent” fuel is reprocessed and used in a breeder reactor, the volume is reduced to about 1/100th the current volume. Oh, and that current volume that you’re all hot about – not that this is the way it would be stored, but to put the volume into context, ALL of the spent nuclear fuel from over 60 years of producing about 20% of America’s electricity would fit into one football field stacked a few yards deep. Yucca Mountain would have worked just fine as a permanent storage facility – there was NO justification for shutting it down, other than, again, political ones. And as to those “aging” power plants – either they are in good enough condition to get extended licenses to operate and they keep generating massive amounts of lifesaving and standard of living improving electricity, or you decommission them. Takes time, but it’s not a big deal – again, scientifically and technically speaking.

            What’s really a problem for society, however, is clueless people like you who believe anyone presenting factual information are somehow “obnoxious” simply because you don’t know better and happen to disagree with their position.

          • Scientist Peoples

            Yes! Let’s bury the toxic waste!!! You’re at least a loose canon indeed! Let’s bury it all under a mountain or put it in a breeder. Oh wait, on second thought there might be other ways to supply energy with creating any toxic waste or pollution! Energy & Food. Delusional at best.

          • Rational_Db8

            Uh huh. Just what are those “other ways” to produce energy without creating any toxic waste or pollution? Talk about delusional!

          • David Thompson

            Ever hear of man made errors in construction, natural disasters or this possibly being a target for bombing from the crazies out in the world. Yes your thinking is not rational or logical.

          • Rational_Db8

            ROFL. Of course I’ve heard of those. Now just tell me what significant construction errors can occur in digging tunnels where dry high level waste would be stored in massively reinforced containers? Just what natural disaster do you see occurring out in the middle of nowhere in rank desert (averages all of a smidge over 4 inches of rain in a full YEAR), where tornadoes are exceedingly rare, and hurricanes never occur. And since the materials would be 800 ft. underground, just how is a tornado even going to cause harm? Which leaves earthquakes – only there is no major active fault line through the facility, and no record of any significant earthquakes in the area. Minor – heck even pretty major ones are easy enough to design for – after all the 60 year old design basis for Fukushima and other Japanese reactors were for up to either an 8 or 8.5ish earthquake – and they withstood the order of magnitude larger 9.0 without damaging key components. And what happens if the worst case earthquake even hit? MAYBE a tunnel MIGHT collapse. So what? What harm does that do, 800 ft underground, with containers that are fully able to take a nearby shoulder launched missile direct hit without damage, drops from height without damage, be slammed at speed into thick concrete walls and again, no significant damage and no breached container,, etc. So just where’s the harm again? All of this has been tested time and again, so this is nothing new and it’s not questionable results, it’s proven.

            Then There’s no nearby ocean, so no tsunami’s possible. No streams, and no upstream dams that could break and inundate the site. So flooding isn’t an issue either.

            So what natural disaster does that leave you? volcano I suppo9se – but there’s zero evidence of any active volcano geology for millions of years.

            So again, just where is all this risk you keep going on about from natural disasters, construction errors (which, by the way, if the least bit significant would be caught and repaired during the licensing inspections if not before…. so even that one is pretty tenuous and highly unlikely at best.

            And a target for bombing??? ROFL!! Just what bomb are terrorists or anyone else going to manage to get into the heart of our nation, far inland, in the rank desert in the middle of nowhere, mange to find the tunnel enterances, and somehow place a bomb that’s going to manage to do any damage to the stored materials 800 ft. below the ground? Pretty sure not even our biggest baddest bunker busters can do squat to that.

            Oh sure, if they land ‘em just right you could collapse the entrance or exit tunnel mouth. So what? It’s not like the high level materials are right there at the tunnel entrances/exits – they’re far back into the mountain well beyond the reach of a bomb. And the bomb would have to not only get the entrance, but manage to get WAY back into the mountain before it would even have a chance to damage a single storage canister. And those things are awfully robust. So yet again, so what? How are they going to manage to pull that one off?

            So you just open ‘em back up again. Takes time, is a hassle, but if you can dig the tunnels to begin with, you can certainly dig those openings back open again without too much trouble and not even all that much time.

            Yet again, a “so what.”

            So just what major disaster do you see as somehow likely?

            You finish with a nice little bit of psychological projection “Yes your thinking is not rational or logical” You do know what psychological projection means, right? Essentially it means that you are accusing others of what you yourself are in fact guilty of, and they are not.

            But hey, if you want to actually present some facts, science, logic, and rational debate on this issue, please do so. You clearly haven’t so far.

          • David Thompson

            This is just a rambling rant. Proving my point!

          • Rational_Db8

            I see, so you carry on about construction errors and natural disasters, and that’s all reasonable and rational. But when I address each in turn, including pretty much all of the major natural disasters possible, it’s “just rambling.”

            The point that’s been proved here quite clearly is that you are simply anti-nuclear without any technological, scientific, logical, or factual reasons to support such a position – and whenever anyone shows you that, you stick your fingers in your ears and yell LALALALALALALA!!! Then denigrate the other person’s points which were specifically addressing your stated concerns.

            You clearly could give a rip how reasonable the process is, you emotionally don’t like it, so you pretend there are problems where in fact there isn’t.

            Grow up, and face reality, and try actually being honest about your own feelings and motivations – unless you’re lying to yourself too and aren’t even able to recognize the problems you’re having here. Which is entirely possible I know. Still, grow up, face reality, and learn to have an actual meaningful debate in good faith.

          • David Thompson

            Ramble on….and on… and on…. forget your meds? Ever hear about this site possibly being a target for who knows, earthquakes are happening in many places now without faults, construction errors for security happen all the time. Get logical

          • Rational_Db8

            You’ve got a real problem with any sort of critical thinking and logic. Provide a reputable reference showing that earthquakes are now occurring in places where there are no faults. Be sure it also specifies the SIZE of those earthquakes.

            Meanwhile you just entirely ignore the fact that should an earthquake occur at Yucca Mountain, first it would have to be massive to overcome the design basis of the facility. Second, what’s pretty much the worst that could happen – a tunnel collapses. And if it does, so what? What’s the harm there? You simply ignored every question I posed you on these issues – probabaly because you know that in fact there are no answers that would support your position rather than mine.

            Construction errors for security with industrial radiological materials does NOT happen all the time. The rare times it does, it’s aught in the licensing process, and repaired before the facility can even get an operating license.

            And now you’re just becoming incoherent: “Get logical funny your sign in name is rationale …. a goal?”

          • Jason Priestly
          • Rational_Db8

            Um, dude – the fact that scientists weren’t previously AWARE that a fault existed, and it was later discovered, in no way means that earthquakes are happening where there are no faults. David’s claim was “earthquakes are happening in many places now without faults”

            And the extremely earthquake prone New Zealand is hardly a good example to make your case, particularly when that fact is even noted in the second paragraph of your link: “New Zealanders have long known that their mountainous country is acutely vulnerable to tectonic movements. Major fault lines dissect the nation, snaking up the western coast of the South Island before splitting in two just south of the capital Wellington.”

            None of which says anything about just what supposed major harm an earthquake at Yucca Mountain would cause… or the fact that considering the multi-decades long characterization of the site and region, and the design basis to handle earthquakes far larger than even the largest very improbable earthquake, the fact that it’s only handling dry waste, and it’s very remote location, it’s just not terribly conceivable that there’d be any risk to anyone offsite from even a massive earthquake there.

          • Christine B

            Pedantic…give it up you already lost the debate & points have been well made.

      • Loren Eaton

        Just curious…have you ever visited a lab that does plant transformation? The organic grower Rob Wallbridge did, his recent article is one you should read. You might appreciate it a bit more.

    • Rational_Db8

      You lost all credibility with your nuclear argument. In fact there is no scientific or technical problem with disposing of long lived radioisotopes or spent nuclear fuel for that matter. The only problems in that regard are entirely political. Nor is there any “utter worldwide disaster round the corner.” That’s nothing more than scaremongering and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). In fact, nuclear power has proven itself to be the safest method by far of producing large amounts of power – and one of the least polluting. And it’s waste is solid and very small volume compared to the lifecycle wastes produced by other methods of generating electricity.

  • johnwerneken

    Agree also.

    PUBLIC does not matter.

    Ignorant people and their ignorance are offensive.

    A GMO to eradicate both would be welcome

  • eamcallister

    So what about the farmers who have saved their seeds and regrown their crops year after year. Monsanto comes in, offers some free seed to try, but these new, wonderful plants like you mention above are mules. Instead of being able to save the seeds and replant, that farmer is now forced to buy seed from Monsanto since his seeds from two years ago are probably gone or no longer viable. Yes, I think that your spin makes GMO crops sound like the solution to all of our poverty woes, but these farmers become indentured, and much more is lost than gained. If there are some altruistic companies out there, great, but as another poster commented… why does (insert biotech company of choice here) have the right to sue a farmer for theft if their crops cross a contaminate that farmer’s crops … to the point where that farmer is ruined, but the farmer has no legal right to pursue damages when this occurs?

    • Broadnax

      Farmers who save their seeds will be using different varieties. If the costs of GMOs outweigh benefits, we need not discuss it. Farmers will not use them

    • mem_somerville

      So this fiction you have about the farmers being forced to buy seeds–what is your source of that? Because it’s not actual farmers. http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/01/21/view-from-an-iowa-farm-in-choosing-seeds-im-no-pawn-of-monsanto/#.UuPvFrQo74Y

      • deegeejay

        Their source is Food Inc. everyone who watched that piece of trash prop(aganda)umentary is poorly educated and it is their only knowledge of any of the issues.

      • Robert Smithers

        I believe the problem is that once the farmers grow the seed and are unhappy wanting to go back to conventional or organic the soil will take a few seasons for the land to return to a non gmo condition. Therefore if they choose to grow conventional that food will have traces of the previous years GMO. (Organic option is out)

        • mem_somerville

          What you “believe” and what are facts are not the same thing, are they?

          • Robert Smithers

            You again are wrong meme_ facts are it does take the soil a few seasons to re-coop.

          • mem_somerville

            This may help you to understand logic better: “Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

            Farmers are always monitoring their land for many things–but you’ll have to actually deliver a source for your claim that to go back to growing something else takes years because of a GMO trait.

            If you are, though, moving the goalposts to talk about pesticides instead, you’ll also need to cite why that’s unique to GMOs and not any pesticide that can have absolutely nothing to do with GMOs.

          • Steven Johnson

            Learn how to debate …. it’s the left over pesticide in the soil because the farmer used a gmo seed & he irresponsibly sprayed like a madman. He can not go Organic for a while. Aside from the fact that the farmer might have had to buy new equipment to use GMO seed…it isn’t that easy to transition back. Get your scientists head out the sand!

            Let the Monsanto propaganda machine begin

          • FosterBoondoggle

            You’re saying it yourself. That’s not a problem with the GMO, it’s an issue with pesticide use. Any farmer who wants to switch from farming by non-organic-approved methods to organic has to pass a certification process with some number of years since the last non-approved pesticide application. That has absolutely nothing to do with GMOs. (Also, it’s really just some arbitrary rule made up by the organic certifiers. It’s not based on any actual empirical facts about persistence of the chemicals in the soil.)

          • David Thompson

            Are you aware that most GMO crops are spliced with a herbicide….the two are most definitely linked. Now let’s see how long 2 4D will be left in the soil after the GMO seed is planted and how much damage it will cause from drift when sprayed

          • Loren Eaton

            Geez…5 lines of type and 2 brain farts. No GMO on the PLANET has a herbicide spliced into it. (BTW, no one says spliced anymore, its so 80′s.) Genes for resistance to the herbicides are TRANFORMED into the plants. And there are no 2,4-D tolerant plants on the market yet.

          • Guest

            Yes it’s real easy. The 2 4-D crops are on their way this year. And you’re also very ignorant of the topic! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4#t=23

          • Loren Eaton

            I’m ignorant!! That’s a good one. I’ve made thousands of these plants in my career, and you think there’s a herbicide spliced into the plant.

          • Pamela Wright

            You assume the only other option to GMO is full organic. That is not true. He can sew non-GMO seed in a conventional manner. In fact, hundreds of farmers who use crop rotation as part of their land management plan do exactly that. They do not have to wait any period of time to do so. Also, whether or not a farmer is growing GMO seed, he may overspray herbacides or pesticides. Some do. It’s a human factor. Outlawing GMO’s won’t decrease pesticide or herbacide use. They were used even more widely in the decade right before GMO’s were introduced. Look it up. The Department of Agriculture keeps record of this stuff.

      • Steven Johnson

        The man you site has no science background & is a clone of the industry.

      • Amy Kathlene

        How about personal expirence as a source? I may not know much about plant genetics, but I do know that seeds from GMO crops are useless and you have to buy more GMO seeds if you want to grow that specific crop again.The seeds you save are sterile. I grew white pumpkin one year, saved the seeds, and not one grew the next year. So yes, farmers have a choice in who and where they get seeds from, and they’re not forced to buy GMO, but if they WANT GMO, they are forced to buy the seeds because the GMO seeds don’t reproduce.

    • Rational_Db8

      Oh please! Your argument is that a farmer is too stupid to realize that if he uses someone’s free seeds this year, he won’t be able to go back to his old seed source? And he’s too stupid to store his seeds properly to be able to use them in the future? Give me a break. Farmers have to plan around those sorts of things every single year – they’re not somehow being duped and forced into growing monsanto seeds by getting an offer of a free year of seeds. That’s absurd on the face of it.

      • Steven Johnson

        How about his bins, trackers, trucks and all other equipment that may need serious cleaning…you make it sound so simple in such an arrogant fashion. Who would listen to you??? Hmm who except those of your own kind.

        • Rational_Db8

          Those of my own kind? Yes, other human beings, that’s right. And you think a farmer is unable to clean his own equipment? And just why would that even be such a huge problem? You think the genetic alterations linger on surfaces like an infection or something, just waiting to “infect” any other grains or seeds that the equipment is used on? What, a rogue GM seed or two will magically take over and pass on the genetic modifications to all other seeds that ever come in contact with those containers or equipment? Please.

          • Scientist Peoples

            You truly are ignorant…do a google search of cry proteins left in soil http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2955116/

            Not worth any more of my time.

          • Rational_Db8

            Talk about ignorant. Just what do you think the huge harm is in the detruis from the transgenic crop still having some of the protein in it? It doesn’t magically jump into every other seed it contacts, let alone entire trucks and containers full. Talk about ignorant – try learning some actual science and genetics yourself.

          • David Thompson

            Continue to spin your fable. The land will be riddled with the bt or pesticide for a long time

          • Rational_Db8

            OOOOOoooooOOOOO – I’m tewwified!

            So a little bt protein winds up lying around. So what? Haven’t seen you answer that yet.

          • Jason Priestly

            The point is he is correct! And the point is you don’t care.

          • Rational_Db8

            The point is, you don’t know what you’re talking about with regard to what does or doesn’t matter to me – and the point is, he hasn’t in any way supported his sensationalist assertion that there is any harm in very small amounts of dead GMO plant material existing in the environment. If you’re so sure he’s correct, why didn’t YOU bother to show why, instead of simply spewing out an attack on me and my motives?

  • aed939

    I am OK with GMOs as long as you label them so it is straightforward for me to avoid buying them. It is my choice to buy whatever I want and I do not have to explain why.

    • deegeejay

      Why label them? Everything you buy to eat is a GMO. You do know mankind has been selectively breeding since the ag. rev. don’t you?

      • Smurt52

        That’s an apples vs oranges comparison. Selective breading vs splicing in genes is not the same thing.

        By the way, how are the GMO’d insecticides working out for the US bee population ?

        Is there any reason to believe that bees are not just affected as the targeted pests ?

        • deegeejay

          I don’t usually link Wikipedia but there are direct links to primary sources – so you can do a little homework – ok?

          “There is no data in the scientific literature supporting direct or indirect damage to bees caused by currently approved GM crops engineered to make Bt proteins. For example, in 2008 a meta-analysis[147] of 25 independent studies assessing effects of Bt Cry proteins on honeybee survival (mortality) showed that Bt proteins used in commercialized GE crops to control lepidopteran and coleopteran pests do not negatively impact the survival of honeybee larvae or adults. Additionally, larvae consume only a small percent of their protein from pollen, and there is also a lack of geographic correlation between GM crop locations and regions where CCD occurs.[148]“

      • aed939

        Agreed that the semantics are not accurate. I am OK with breeding and grafting (including hybrids and triploids). I think what people want labeled is transgenic gene insertion.

    • FosterBoondoggle

      So stick to organic and GMO-free labeled and stop making demands of everyone else. Observant Jews who want to keep kosher don’t demand that the government require everything to be labeled to meet their needs. Why is your requirement special?

  • J M

    It is sort of tragicomical that the greatest opposition to GMOs comes from countries where people are suffering from diseases related to overconsumption of food rather than hunger and malnutrition.
    Kids going blind from Vitamin A deficiency or starving people in African countries that reject food aid because they are told it contains dangerous genes are the ones who are getting a raw deal.

    • Jeremy Rawley

      It goes to show that anti-GMO’ers are among the most racist people in the world.

    • Robert Smithers

      Bringing up GR is a tragic comedy. Not on the market until at least 2016, these kids should be getting supplements. And in the Phillipines they are already solving the problem on their own.

      Now let’s not talk about the Tufts shady, unethical testing will we? Let’s not talk about the amount of betacarotine and probably insuffiency. I’m sure they will work that out, despite having to nudge these kids into eating a weird appearing food that is foreign to their culture. Get real ….we’ve seen no benefit of any kind of GMO food…just environmental and social problems, galore! Mandatory labels & scientists should begin to support this idea before they entirely defame the technology.

      • FosterBoondoggle

        So if it’s approved and starts getting grown and eaten, are you going to revise your views?

      • Pamela Wright

        “… weird appearing food foreign to their culture” What culture would find orange rice so weird? Really? They eat purple corn because it’s pretty. Rice is often golden yellow-orange from the addition of saffron anyway, so this will seem like yummy food, not weird at all. Also, it’s a bit on the condescending side to suggest people in poor countries can’t possbily adapt to new foods like we can. We can add acai berries and passion fruit, and kiwi and think it’s a cool new food fad, but they’ll be frightened of it and turn up their noses. Snob. We’ve already added hundreds of foods to their diets. They didn’t eat peanut butter before the Americans invented it. Do you suppose it’s easier to get kids to take pills (supplements) than to eat yellow rice? Moreover, if you’re hungry, you don’t want a pill, you want FOOD. Suppliements are a poor replacement for food. Food that can be grown locally, putting the control of hunger in the hands of local farmers, not foreign aid workers.

        • David Thompson

          Yes I do think children will take a supplement before eating this food especially in countries where rice is a part of their culture. Watch your mouth (type).

          Now the Golden Rice facts

          Currently, it is not even known how much vitamin A the genetically engineered rice will produce. The goal is 33.3% micrograms/100g of rice. Even if this goal is reached after a few years, it will be totally ineffective in removing VAD.

          Since the daily average requirement of vitamin A is 750 micrograms of vitamin A and 1 serving contains 30g rice according to dry weight basis, vitamin A rice would only provide 9.9 micrograms which is 1.32% of the required allowance. Even taking the 100g figure of daily consumption of rice used in the technology transfer paper would only provide 4.4% of
          the RDA which is 1 cup cooked. In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vitamin A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day or 2 and 2/3rds cup per day.

          This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it.” A single serving of rice for most weighs 50 grams that makes a half/cup cooked.

          Looks like there is a lot of work to do with this Golden product, just google search and look on pub med

      • Loren Eaton

        ‘…these kids should be getting supplements. And in the Phillipines they are already solving the problem on their own.’
        Realy??
        …from the UN Standing Committee:
        ‘Vitamin A deficiency affects some
        160 million preschool children in low-income countries,
        with prevalence estimated at about 30%. This
        prevalence – measured as low serum retinol – is improving at somewhat less than 0.5 percentage points per year. At that rate, it will take low-income countries more than 50 years to get to levels typical of industrialized
        countries.’
        Let them eat cake.

        • Christine B

          Point is GR won’t be available until 2016 & after 20 yrs this product still has a long way to go to help anyone. This is not about saving children at this point….it was/is simply a good that is not holding up to any hype or promises. (Let them find a realistic goal….gr is cake)

  • scientist

    I had a different take on NJ’s post. I wonder if he faced the visceral response by each side in the debate and consciously or subconsciously took the only position that he thought could salvage his reputation as the food writer at an environmentalist website. He probably realized most of the anti-GMO dogma is wrong, but what was he going to do? Keep getting 300 livid comments from readers on every article he posts? How long could he keep working like that? It sounded like he desperately wanted to de-escalate and move on. And maybe he felt like the only thing he could conclude that might accomplish that is if it “didn’t matter.” That is probably a less harmful position than bowing to propaganda. Anyway, I can appreciate he’s in a tough spot.

    • Robert Smithers

      I have a different take and read NJ series. He has “hippie roots” and agreed with labeling, at least. I think being the new man at Grist who was given a huge assignment took him into a world of cognitive dissonance and he wanted to please. Throughout the series he received many Kudo’s and strokes from the pro gmo scientists & that affected his writing ability, which were maybe not his true beliefs, so he had to support his “roots” a bit, stating “it really doesn’t matter”. These strokes interfered with his objectively (as one scientist reported NJ comments as being totally off track) do to his wanting to “make friends” with the pro gmo scientists. Makes sense, especially with the unexpected last article & now currently he shifts again to OK they are important. Cognitive Dissonance….classic. It might be true for Keith too, but I haven’t read much of his work to say.

      • scientist

        I think I pretty much meant what you are saying. Maybe by the end he wasn’t sure what he believed. Rather than spend more time sorting it out, he bailed.

  • Shan Swami

    The spread of transgenes to non target organisms are the main cause of concern to activists and farmers who save seed. An alternative to the subjugation of having to buy patented transgenes every year needs to exist for farmers that do not follow the established norm.

    • Pamela Wright

      Your second point is a much better issue to debate. There is some risk of over reliance on the manufactured seeds of a praticular company… the old company store routine we remember from our hillbilly past. But the answer to that is not fewer choices, but more. The more companies producing seeds, the more choices the consumer farmer has, and less the company store can control his purchasing power.

      In this regard, it’s good news that many of the old patents are expiring. Once they expire, these seeds can no longer be rigourously controlled by their creators. More freedom for farmers.

      Secondly, Monsanto has been convinced to stop producing sterile seeds (“mules” or “suicide seeds”). They have kept their word in that regard.. That means it becomes harder and harder for them to control who breeds or rebreeds these seeds, thus taking more of their power away.

      Lastly, more and more GMO seed is being produced by companies who are not patenting them. That puts control firmly in the hands of the purchaser. If you have bought the seed, and there is no patent, you are free to save seed and replant as you would any other seed. I know this is a nightmare for those who hate GMO’s on general grounds, but for the rest of us who actually care about farmers, this is the holy grail of free and improved farming.

  • Shan Swami

    Buddy199, the effects of transgenes upon non target organisms and additional fx upon the agricultural ecosystem need to be studied b4 transgenes are inadvertently released upon the world that may effect future food sustainability… sound science needs to not only be about money for research for a profitable motive but be more about the common good and making an informed policy decision in an objective manner instead of being forcefed profit inspired ‘truths’ proven by greed…. where is the control group? , where is the money? Where is the truth???

  • Steven Johnson

    No one is benefiting from this tech., except those in the BUSINESS. The biggest accomplishment in food thus far might be the papaya (and some dispute that one). Let the Monsanto PR campaign begin which includes scientists that believe in this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism

  • Quek

    Its the liberal propaganda. Nothing made by man can be better than nature. No discrimination allowed about anything at all. Man made can’t be better it must be corrupt. Save lives? Can’t be judged better than condemning man made. Any problem is a reason to stop it. Equality to all. Saving lives not any more important than stopping GMO’s. It’s fantastic. May the world starve for the liberals.

    • David Thompson

      May the industry someday supply a crop….how long do we have to wait? How many problems do they have to solve? No consumer is profiting from GMO food, yet.

  • Smurt52

    Do the built in GMO insecticides which appear quite effective also play a part in the rapid decrease in domestic bee populations ?

    If not, then how are bees different then the pests ?

  • Smurt52

    What significance is the finding that there were two languages to the genetic code an not just the one we knew about when they were changing the genetics of these GMO crops ?

    Scientists discover double meaning in genetic code
    http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/12/12/scientists-discover-double-meaning-in-genetic-code/

  • Martin

    One of the many problems with these kinds of debates is the rejection of the ‘other’ views almost out of hand.

    There *is* evidence of harm for GMO (just as there is evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy, or the existence of ghosts) and to say it’s all ‘cherry picked’ by ‘anti-empiricists’ and *therefore* dismiss it is to select a tribal position of ‘them’ and ‘us’, and ‘safe’ or ‘not safe’, not a scientific position of evaluating competing hypothesis and risks and benefits.

    It’s the interpretation and combination of often heavily processed evidence that matters.

  • Guest

    Sure it’s easy

    GM Crops Farmer to Farmer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEX654gN3c4#t=23

  • cooldiscodon

    These anti-GMO people: What do they think of the responsible use of DDT? Just curious. I mean, are we dealing with two separate groups of de-facto mass murderers, or is there a lot of overlap?

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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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