Why Do Greens Reject the Science on GMOs?

By Keith Kloor | February 3, 2014 1:54 pm

Last month, I got a chuckle out of this silver lining from a New Republic article:

The liberals who rant about genetically modified food may be pushing a point of view that is objectively as crazy as believing carbon emissions are not causing global warming; but liberals are still more likely (and willing) to get their news from places that tell them the truth.

Others, such as the The Economist, have lately noted the hypocrisy of greens, in particular those who stand up for climate science but also aim to destroy a field of agricultural science. I realize that green-friendly progressives chafe when folks like me point out the similarities between climate skeptics and GMO skeptics. But there is no denying the commonalities, as British environmentalist Mark Lynas writes in the current issue of Cosmos magazine:

It is obviously inconsistent on the part of environmental groups such as Greenpeace to trumpet the importance of the worldwide scientific consensus on climate change while at the same time denying the validity of an equally strong scientific consensus on the safety of GMO crops. Indeed, nearly identical tactics are frequently used both by climate change deniers and anti-GMO campaigners: politically skewed misinformation is spread via the internet and social networks; science in general and individual scientists are attacked and bullied as biased or as pawns of their paymasters; and the voices of a tiny minority of contrarian academics are aggressively promoted to give the public the false impression that “experts disagree”.

In green circles, contrarian climate “experts” are renounced, but GMO contrarian “experts” are embraced. Similarly, greens accept the consensus scientific judgement on climate change but reject it on GMOs. Why is that? Lynas scratches the surface in his short opinion piece. What do you think?

  • Mesmer7

    Climate scientists observe and measure the climate. They do not manipulate the climate. GMO scientists manipulate our food supply. People distrust GMOs because the entire food processing industry has a long history of misinforming the public about the health impacts of their ingredients and processing methods. It’s bad enough that I had to stop eating chocolate because the chips were manufactured on the same equipment as peanut products. But if the food companies splice peanut genes into the wheat supply and don’t tell us (and you know they won’t tell us), I’ll never be able to identify the source of the allergic reaction.

    • BryanCooper

      Trust is the key question. When the food industry is told they MUST label foods with MSG, what do they do? Hide it under ‘natural flavor’, ‘yeast extract’, etc. Not legal to do in Europe with its clearly superior labeling system, but the US regulatory authorities gladly allow this charade.
      Fukushima is the proof that the nuclear power industry cannot be trusted.

      • BluebirdofUnhappiness

        Except yeast extract is not Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) anymore than soy sauce or tomato paste or breast milk is. Natural flavor might be lemon extract. Not a free glutamate to be seen in it.

        • BryanCooper

          Yeast extract is glutamic acid without the sodium found in msg. (eg without salt). Food ‘scientists’ also use the term natural flavor for glutamic acid in the US because our FDA is a failed regulatory body controlled by big business and does not protect the truth.

          here’s a very clear picture from Eden foods about what is going on in this section of the food ‘industry’:

          http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=207

          • BluebirdofUnhappiness

            Sure, let’s listen to misinformation from someone that markets “we don’t have any MSG or free glutamate in OUR products”.

            Chirality. 1994;6(4):277-82.
            Evaluation of free D-glutamate in processed foods.

            Abstract:
            Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added to many processed foods at significant levels for flavor enhancement. It is also naturally occurring at high levels in some foods. The enantiomeric composition of free glutamate in foods was examined and all foods analyzed were found to contain D-glutamate. (etc.)
            Why do greens reject science when it doesn’t reinforce their misconceptions?

    • Loren Eaton

      ‘GMO scientists manipulate our food supply.’ So do plant breeders. This has been going on for 10,000 years. And I’m not just talking about programs that use crossing and selection. Many of the foods in that supply chain, including organic, use material that has been bred using radiation or chemical mutagenesis.
      As far as allergens go, you should look up the Allergenonline site at the University of Nebraska and see what the industry is doing to keep known allergens out of the food supply.
      BTW, food processors like ADM and Cargill DO NOT do genetic engineering. Just curious, which peanut protein are you allergic to?

      • Mesmer7

        The allergy tests (or the allergist who conducted the tests) didn’t specify which peanut protein. They just said I was allergic to peanuts.

        • mem_somerville

          Peanut allergens are actually pretty well studied, and I have good news for you: they are working on peanuts that remove allergens. I am also allergic, and I await the new and improved Reese’s.

      • HoundsOArtemiss

        Allergens are the real problem here, and a plant’s individual proteins aren’t tested independently for allergenic response in a clinical setting, there are too many and it would be too costly. The modification of a plant’s expressed protein structure NEEDS to be known to the consumer, as does the source of the introduced protein for this reason alone.
        Many of the introduced genes create proteins that have a known beneficial effect, such as pesticide or pest resistance, but those same expressed proteins could, and likely DO end up causing problematic reactions in the susceptible portion of the population.
        I find it highly likely that a person broadly sensitized to a certain plant’s proteins would have a similar reaction when those same proteins are encountered from another source. Even if not completely identical, all it takes is for the active site to be similar enough, and I suspect if it’s enough to dissuade a hungry insect or confer an expressed phenotype, it’s going to be similar enough to trigger a response in susceptible individuals.

      • Keith Lanfear

        Have giant corporations been patenting and controlling our food supply for 10,000 years?? Why do you people always try to dodge the issue?? Or do you just not understand it? Up until the last few decades farmers could just collect the seeds from what they grew to plant for their next crop, rely on their own work and diligence, but with GMO’s that ability has been rapidly disappearing, and big corporations like Monsanto are working to make sure that no one can grow anything without paying them. THAT is the future people like you are helping Monstanto to create. which begs the question, what do YOU have to gain? Who do YOU work for?

        • Jim

          Why yes they have. There would be a lot fewer St Patrick’s day parades in America if there was not british control over agriculture. Just one example of course here. I could name many more from Rome to well any point in time you would like.
          That is just not true. Seeds have been patent since 1920 in the US. Hybrids where basically the first and still only terminator seed because replanting their offspring means horrible yields.

        • Loren Eaton

          I make a living at this, not for Monsanto. Beyond that, it is none of your business. And as Jim says, farmers don’t save the next generation of hybrids. And it has nothing to do with any patents. Farmers keep going back for new seed every year because the performance is that good.

        • FosterBoondoggle

          Patents last for 20 years, not 10,000. No issue is being dodged. If you don’t like the patent system, argue about that. Glyphosate is already off-patent, and the earliest RR seed varieties will be off-patent soon. So if that’s really your concern, it goes away very shortly. Otherwise this looks a lot like concern-trolling.

    • dljvjbsl

      Of course climate scientists manipulate the climate or at least they want to. The IPCC is all about “climate mitigation”. They want to manipulate the climate to overcome what they see are issues with what used to be called AGW but is now called, after many other iterations, “carbon pollution”.

      • JH

        Yes, the climateers certainly have kept the Totally Ineffective Renaming Department busy over the last ten years.

    • JH

      “Climate scientists observe and measure the climate. They do not manipulate the climate. GMO scientists manipulate our food supply.”

      In fact, this is exactly why GMO science is far, far stronger than climate science.

      GMO scientists can test what they create, both in the lab and in the field, for almost any conceivable impact. Climate scientists can’t even manipulate the natural climate, let alone create controlled tests in a lab.

  • mem_somerville

    Last month I saw EarthOpenSource flogging Michael Crichton’s views on “consensus” science: https://twitter.com/EarthOpenSource/status/420915976629022721

    But they refused to answer when I asked them about whether they agreed with Crichton, oddly enough.

    What do I think? Ha ha ha ha ha ha….

  • Loren Eaton

    Hi Keith,
    I don’t think the greens necessarily reject the science on GMO. They merely ignore several hundred studies at a time until the right outlier shows up (Carman, Seralini, Pusztai, etc). Then the public relations snow job starts to convince people of the qualitative equivalence between these studies and those they choose to ignore.

  • Joshua

    > I realize that green-friendly progressives chafe when folks like me point out the similarities between climate skeptics and GMO skeptics. But there is no denying the commonalities, as British environmentalist Mark Lynas writes in the current issue of Cosmos magazine:

    Don’t ever let a lack of evidence get in the way of repeating the same evidence-less argument over and over. Will you ever get tired of writing the same post?:

    –snip–

    Indeed, if you regularly read this blog (why do you? weird!), then you know that the claim “GM foods are to liberals what climate change is to conservatives!!” is an internet meme with no genuine empirical substance. I’ve reported data multiple times showing that GM foods do not meaningfully divide ordinary members of the public along partisan or cultural lines.

    –snip–

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/1/21/mapkia-episode-31-answer-culturally-programmed-risk-predispo.html

    What’s particularly interesting is that you pay lip-service to Kahan’s work on cultural cognition, but keep conveniently ignoring his work to push your trope about progressives, environmentalists, and GMOs

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

      Joshua, you’re conflating, which means you’re misrepresenting my post–as usual.

      Dan argues-persuasively–that there is no empirical evidence showing that GMOs have become a polarized issue in the public body. Dan also argues that the GMO issue is not yet associated in a cultural/political context the way climate change is. Fair enough. I think it’s trending this way, but I’m not going to argue against the data.

      What this post is about and what I have repeatedly shown is that progressive/green interest groups have a blind spot on the GMO issue and that many of these interest groups/organizations ignore the consensus science on agricultural biotechnology, but accept it with respect to climate change.

      Greens/progressive interest groups. I’ll say it again: greens/progressive interest groups.The evidence is overwhelming. I link to it all the time. They pollute the public debate with their denialism. I’m fairly certain that Dan agrees with me on this point, but feel free to check with him.

  • Keith Lanfear

    This author is obviously an ally for those working to take away the right of people to grow their own food without having to go through a multi-billion dollar multi-national conglomerate, essentially positioning Monsanto and others in a position of deities who bestow the ability to live upon we mere mortals. Of course that is the same thing as accepting climate change so we can adjust our behavior to help prevent further adverse effects, isn’t it. Kloor is a sell-out, he is like a familiar in a vampire tale, his kind does the dirty work of their corporate masters, hoping to be thrown a crumb for their loyalty in working to screw over their fellow humans. Kloor is so blatantly dishonest he never even mentions the issue of seed and crop control by corporations as a reason for people to be against GMO, even though he KNOWS that is a big issue. Like many fundamentally dishonest people he attempts to use half-truth and omission of fact as a means to lie, probably rationalizing away the fact he is a liar by telling himself he isn’t actively telling lies, just leaving out the truth.

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

        Keith, for your reading pleasure…The Pharma Shill Gambit!!!

    • JH

      “This author is obviously an ally for those working to take away the
      right of people to grow their own food without having to go through a
      multi-billion dollar multi-national conglomerate”

      True. Keith, in cahoots with Monsanto, using the stupendous salary he earns as a writer, has purchased all the “natural” seed companies in the entire universe and is closing all of them down one by one! Mwahhhahhhhahhhhhahhhaaaa!

    • Matthew Slyfield

      “This author is obviously an ally for those working to take away the right of people to grow their own food”

      I hate to burst your bubble, but the vast majority of us don’t want to grow our own food.

      Subsistence farming is a harsh lifestyle that isn’t much fun.

  • Peoples Scientist

    I’m sorry to see this comparison over and over, as I know many “moderates” in the GMO debate (just want labeling) that actually do indeed believe in climate change! Are there any actual real published reports on this correlation? (pubmed, etc.) Now I am also fully aware that extremists in the GMO debate (anti) are just that and reject most science (vaccines, etc) So again, a survey or actual correlational study would be helpful instead of opinions, would help with my understanding.

    • Peoples Scientist

      :-) funny a down vote for a study request LOL

  • Keith Lanfear

    This is about those like Kloor working to corporatize every aspect of our lives, it isn’t about science. He willfully ignores the negative economic and cultural effects of corporate-controlled GMO’s because they aren’t important to him, at least not as important helping to protect big corporate profits, making sure that every single aspect of our lives is dependent upon buying something.

    • Jim

      What negative economic effects? Greater yields with less inputs equal more profits for much of the food chain while lower costs to the consumer.
      I do agree with you about the cultural effects. If I have to see one more horrible youtube documentary by a flying yoga I don’t know what I will do.

    • Thomas Fuller

      Yeah, Keith (Kloor), you’re a darn corporatizer you are. How dare you introduce logic into a sacred debate? Damn you.

      • Loren Eaton

        I concur….dammit!!

    • JH

      “This is about those…working to corporatize every aspect of our lives”

      You’re kind of right. Corporations, despite all of their imperfections, are far more efficient at producing anything – food included – than are little mom and pop shops. People that support GMOs are, at least indirectly, saying “I support large-scale, safe, efficient, low cost, well-regulated and ecologically sensitive farming operations.”

      OTOH, people that reject GMOs are saying “hey, we want to subsidize small-scale, technically backward, unsafe, inefficient, ecologically damaging and poorly regulated food production that keeps prices high and makes the worst possible use of resources”

    • Tom Scharf

      Yeah, I figure Keith has cashed as many checks from Monsanto as I have from Big Oil.

  • dljvjbsl

    The statement that greens accept the climate consensus is not quite accurate. They proclaim that they accept the consensus but in reality they only accept the things that they want to accept just like the dreaded deniers do. Roger Pielke Jr has a blog piece on his interactions with Henry Waxman during congressional testimony. Pielke accurately described the consensus on the incidence of extreme climate vents such as hurricanes. This is actually good news since the consensus is that extreme events such as hurricanes and droughts will not increase with AGW. This is inconvenient politically for green politicians like Waxman and it can be seen in the questioning of Pielke in which the green politicians attempt to “deny the climate consensus”. Note that they will do anything but acknowledge the veracity of Pielke’s description of the consensus. They even stoop to an attack on his qualifications. The consensus is an inconvenient truth for the greens.

    I find this quite frequently in my discussions with greens. There are many memes about climate disasters with AGW and mentioning that these are not supported by the IPCC consensus always brings a quick denial. They are immune to good news such as that measured climate sensitivity is on the low side and that the effect of aerosol forcing has been over estimated in previous research.

    Greens deny the climate consensus just the dreaded deniers to it when it is unfavorable to their preferred world view.

    Pielke’s blog posting is here.

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.ca/2014/01/science-and-politics-with-henry-waxman.html

  • dljvjbsl

    One simple way to solve the GMO denial problem is to label all anti-GMO activists “GMO deniers’. Calling people a vile name is a sure way to change their minds. It certainly has worked wonders in the climate debate. Millions of people who were troubled by the issue have found their way to the truth after being given a label linked to religious bigotry.

  • Kaushik

    I find this argument simplistic and reductive. It boils down opposition to GMOs to health concerns when in fact the reasons for opposition are much broader. I am prepared to accept that GM foods have no adverse health consequences. I am not prepared to accept that their impact on ecology and biodiversity has been adequately studied or that the science tells us anything about the economic impacts of patented biotechnology on agriculture.

    • Jim

      They have been studied and they are nearly all positive effects for the environment which includes ecology and biodiversity.
      Well science really would not tell you much about the economic impact seeing that would be job for accountants and economist. And in the case of accountants and economist they will come to the conclusion that most farmers have and that is GMO patent are awesome for their bottom line.

      • nemomen

        “They have been studied and they are nearly all positive effects for the environment which includes ecology and biodiversity.”

        Not so great for Monarchs:
        http://www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2014/UR_CONTENT_469850.html

        There are suspicions of effects on many pollinators, and I am not prepared to accept that their impact on ecology and biodiversity has been adequately studied. I don’t think the issue is GMOs per se, but the introduction of modified life forms into the ecosystem and the new patterns of large scale use of glyphosate do seem to be having unforeseen effects.

        • Jim

          The crop itself is not doing any damage to the Monarch butterfly. One of many of the reasons for the lower number of Monarch butterflies is the loss of a weed that they feed on. Along with the increased development of suburbs and exurbs. Oh and that their winter grounds went from hundreds of acres to less then 2 acres.
          The article though has a bit of insanity to it when it makes the claim that people are actually willing to spend 6.5 billion to save them.

          Of course you are not willing to accept the science on the issue because you don’t want to accept that GMO are anything but ebil. I love the vague suspicions on many pollinator comment too. I have suspicions that anti GMO people want African and Asian kids to go blind.

          • nemomen

            Wow. Way to champion “science,” there, dude.

          • Jim

            Where did I get the science wrong? I am willing to wait.

          • nemomen

            I was really just replying to this nonsense:
            “Of course you are not willing to accept the science on the issue because you don’t want to accept that GMO are anything but ebil. I love the vague suspicions on many pollinator comment too. I have suspicions that anti GMO people want African and Asian kids to go blind.”

          • Jim

            How is that nonsense? When a person puts out there that there is some kind of vague suspicions of harm without any evidence (which there is none in the peer reviewed journals) that is a person that is cherry picking evidence that GMO cause harm. I am calling them out so any person that reads this knows exactly what they are doing.
            As for my comment about African and Asian kids going blind that is the end result of being anti GMO. Golden Rice is the only “silver bullet” out there to reduce VAD. All of the other ideas suggested are already in use and barely make a dent.

          • nemomen

            “you don’t want to accept that GMO are anything but ebil.”

            Please, you just make yourself look stupid by ignorantly trying to portray me as your poorly conceived stereotype.

            “anti GMO people want African and Asian kids to go blind”

            Angrily imputing hate-mongering motives on people you disagree with is contrary to rational discourse. That kind of anti-intellectual name calling isn’t making a point, it’s just childishness. Grow up.

            ‘Golden Rice is the only “silver bullet”‘ This is black and white thinking, as well as abject intellectual dishonesty. You really should be ashamed of yourself for even writing something that completely dishonest. Research results of clinical trials have only begun to return in the last few years, and trials are still ongoing. There’s no cabal murdering children by preventing them access, it’s a new product still being researched and validated. The WHO’s study reported that supplements, fortification, and education were far more promising than golden rice.

            With respect to effects on pollinators, see:
            http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029268

            and
            http://www.entomology.umn.edu/cues/pollinators/pdf-BBcolony/2012Laycock.pdf

            Like the linkage to monarch population loss, the issue is systemic, GM isn’t the sole culprit, but a critical link in the causal chain. The move to Bt corn has resulted in much more widespread neonicotinoid use and much higher scales, which is a highly likely pollinator risk.

          • Jim

            No you do a fine job of making yourself out to be ignorant. You are using crank language. Its the same language used by 9/11 toofers, by evolution deniers, by global warming deniers, by the anti-vax groups and all the rest of the anti science groups out there.
            Read your own link. Round Up ready has nothing at all to do with the Monarch butterfly health. The loss of weeds is one minor part of the equation. The bigger ones are its wintering grounds are now less then 2 acres from the whole 4 that existed last year. That houses and strip malls are being built in former wild lands.
            Huh? Bt corn is used so that neonicotinoid and other insecticides are not used. Its the whole point of the product.

          • nemomen

            Good gravy, you knee-jerk pro GMO types are as bad as the anti-GMO cranks.

    • Tom Scharf

      You need to do better than “not adequately studied”. This is unactionable intelligence. This is just baseless fear mongering. It is not clear at what point you would be satisfied here, and the cynics here believe this would simply be “never”. Being more specific would help. What appears to be the case is that GMO products are “as safe” as naturally occurring products, and with added benefits.

  • Telemachus_1

    Greens, generally, are in many ways anti-progressive, and many are significantly more illiberal than others.

    In general, there is a broad lack of faith in science, which by and large has failed to deliver anything of any substance other than novel entertainment. Scientists have been promising us utopia from the beginning, but in reality – most of the world has descended into a barbaric hell.

    There is a reason stories like that of Icarus and Faust remain so powerful after so many centuries. The modern scientist is the pinnacle of hubris. What splendor they have wrought was at the expense of their souls, and now the devil is coming due.

    • Jim

      What? I don’t have polio or small pox. Yeah for science. I am able to travel across the country in 5 hours yeah for science.

    • Tom Scharf

      How about we transport you back a couple hundred years, have you live there a few decades, and come back and give us an update on your feelings?

      Maybe a close exposure to much worse child mortality rates and womens deaths during childbirth might revise your thinking. Or starvation. Or no access to healthcare. Or no law enforcement. Or living your entire life uneducated and never travelling further than 30 miles.

      • Matthew Slyfield

        “Or no access to healthcare.”

        What healthcare was there to have access to?

  • Dawnalysce Clifford

    I want my food the way nature designed it, not tinkered by some scientist. Leave nature alone, humans!

    • Jim

      So you only eat game and wild berries?

    • illumined
    • Jim

      I want to leave nature alone that is one of the biggest reasons I support GMO’s. Higher yields mean more acreage can be given back to nature. The best thing for nature is for humans to have nothing to do with it.

    • Matthew Slyfield

      “I want my food the way nature designed it”

      I assume from this that you believe in evolution. Nothing wrong with that, but how do you square that belief with the idea that humans are somehow separate from nature?

      • posthuman

        Humans do come from nature, from the evolutionary history of life on Earth!

        • Matthew Slyfield

          Right, but if we are part of nature, then we can’t leave nature alone and our “tinkering” is completely natural (since we are part of nature, anything we do is therefore natural).

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

    “I do doubt the effect of your methodology for achieving goals I agree with.”

    I have different objectives with this blog than I do with other outlets I publish in.

    Truth-telling can take different forms and work in different ways. You don’t have to agree with all of them.

  • illumined

    The greens will never tolerate anything that gives us abundance. They have an ideology of wanting an early 1900′s lifestyle while using artificial scarcity and scare tactics to force everyone to go along with their madness. This is not about science, this is about a religious agenda.

    • posthuman

      But the only problem is, there’s only so much much stuff on the planet, or in the universe for that matter. Peak oil, as a prime example, is a demonstration of that example. After which maximum output is reached, it’s all downhill from there, becoming a truly a negative-sum, beggar-thy-matter game of resource obtainment from thereon out. Thomas Malthus was among the 1st to recognize the issue of the limits of increasing food supply( a form of resource limitation)vs. increasing population.( more people fighting for the same resources), Yes, the Malthus equation has been hold back for a while,due to mechanization of agriculture, finding ways to extract water from non-renewable resources( like underground aquifers), pesticides,etc, but all the meanwhile, strongly increasing pollution & worsening human health as a result. But the day of reckoning has finally come @ last. Either we can come learn to live in a truly sustainable manner, doing such thing as recycling, making things last far longer, doing more or same with less(conservation, energy efficiency, multi-use tools), more public transportation options,etc. or else go back to living like cave people again, a truly horrible wave to live, or most ominously, the extinction of humankind!

      • illumined

        The Malthusians have been warning us of “imminent doom” for 200 years now. Time and again we see their predictions of doom from overpopulation and resource depletion that never came to pass. What happened to the predicted Great Erhlich Famine of the 1980′s? It didn’t happen, it never happens. It never happens because we as people can innovate, we find better ways of finding new resources and exploiting old ones. Running out of underground fresh water? Good thing we can make more through desalinization. What about energy? We have thousands of years worth of fissionables and millions of years of fusionables. What about oil? In 10-20 years batteries will be cost and performance competitive with gas engines, and frankly we have a lot more oil than 10-20 years worth. What about pesticide use? Genetic modification like BT corn makes it so we don’t have to use as much, if any at all.

        Indeed, if we choose to “live within limits”, we will go extinct through sheer entropy alone. Malthusian doom is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • martin j. scanlan iii

    Who do you trust?

    • Jim

      Studies in peer reviewed journals that have been repeated.

  • J M

    There seems to be an illusion that green ideology is somehow pure and free of prejudice, even that green ideology is based on science.

    Well, it is not. Like any other political movement, they embrace the kind of science that furthers their arguments and reject the kind of science does not fit in with the ideology.

    Despite their devotion to saving climate, greens attack nuclear power mercilessly and have succeeded to shut it down in several countries. So, even climate takes the second seat to their prejudices.

  • fourcultures

    Those interested in the science of science communication might like to look at the work of the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School. There is some interesting research showing how the US is less polarised over GMOs than about several other issues, including climate change. There have been attempts to polarise this issue (eg. ‘why does reject the science?’) but these have not yet succeeded.
    http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2013/11/5/we-arent-polarized-on-gm-foods-no-matter-what-the-result-in.html

    • fourcultures

      fwiw my own view is that there is a way of organising society for which ‘regulation is the solution, now what’s the problem?’. For this worldview it is entirely consistent to be anxious about climate change (solution: regulation) and also about GMOs (solution: regulation). There is another way of organising for which regulation itself is the chief problem and for which problems supposedly in need of regulation aren’t problems at all.
      http://www.fourcultures.com

  • Timothy James Rogers

    I don’t understand conservatives who put faith in bio-weapon companies like Monsanto to genetically modify our crops.

    • Jim

      I am a liberal that puts my trust into the 2 best and so far only tools that produce “truth” or as close to truth as we can get, reason and the scientific method. The by product of this is I have looked at the claims against both GMO and Monsanto and both come up lacking and/or are pure lies.

      • Timothy James Rogers

        Same here but you’re not going to get the straight truth from this guy. He thinks he’s a journalist, but he’s a tool.

  • Tom Scharf

    An important distinction should be made that while genetically modifying an organism could create a problem (I think this is beyond debate), the execution and testing used in the science makes it unlikely a big problem will ever occur. Rewards > Risks.

    “Natural” genetic modification also creates dangerous things all the time. Spanish flu, bird flu, swine flu, the plague, etc.

    For the most part, show me someone who is against the concept of genetic modification, and I will show you someone who has fallen under the spell of the naturalistic fallacy.

    Society does have a right to determine where lines are drawn though. Most people are innately against the concept of human cloning, even though there is no scientific reason why they should be. Genetically modifying a fetus for better attributes is also over the line. This is society’s moral judgment.

    Let’s just not obfuscate what is a science question with what is a moral question.

  • Fortis Saeculari Humanae

    I don’t oppose them based on safety grounds, I oppose them because they are a form of biological polution.

    • illumined

      By that definition so is virtually every staple food we have. Almost nothing we eat today exists as it originally did in nature. In fact some foods like cabbage don’t exist at all.

    • First Officer

      Heard that same kind of talk about people in the 1930′s and 40′s.

  • Anna Erishkigal

    Until my kid got sick, I was a proponent of the claims that we could end world hunger by tinkering with the genes in our plants and animals to create crops that will resist fungus and insects and grow in the desert, in icy climates, in salty soils, or anyplace where people don’t have enough food.p. I still want to believe in this today, and with responsible science, I believe that someday that dream might become a reality.

    However…

    Until my kid got sick, I always fluffed off the concerns of my earthy-crunchy friends as so much psuedo-science. After all, over 2,000 scientists in countries from all around the world studied these crops and said they were safe, right? I viewed their claims the same way I viewed all the anti-vaccination wingnuts, or the vegans, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or the people who claimed that Hale-Bop was really an alien spacecraft and drink the Koolaid, please, so you can hurry up and go meet your lizard-alien god.

    But then my kid got sick, and hundreds of doctors visits and tests couldn’t tell me why my kid was suffering all the symptoms of someone who had ingested a lifelong supply of neurotoxins…

    When you are desperate, you will grasp at straws, and the very last straw I grasped at was a friend’s claim that GMO’s had caused similar symptoms in her son and wny not try a GMO-free diet for a few weeks. Just eat organic food. Strip the questionable stuff out of his diet, and if it didn’t work, no harm, no fault. All we had to do was pay twice what we normally would for overpriced versions of what we ate anyways for two weeks, and if it didn’t work, we could go back to eating the way we always had. Faced with desperation, who wouldn’t try such a thing? Call me a wingnut, but I tried it. I drank the Koolaid. We visited Trader Joe’s and bought organic Twinkies instead instead of the regular ones. We sinned. We took a toke of the earthy-crunchy-wingnut stogie…

    And within two weeks, approximately 75% of my kids symptoms which had been plaguing us for the last 6 years simply disappeared…

    My day job is an attorney. I am a skeptic. If something is not backed up by science, or the science says one thing and reality says another, I want to know why. I started digging, and when I hit upon a video by a guy that discussed what the pig farmers knew, that the intestines of pigs fed GMO feed were so degraded that when they slaughtered them, the intestines simply turned to mush and couldn’t be used for sausages, it concerned me. You see … the symptoms mimicked my sons issues. Furthermore, having grown up on a farm where we raised, and slaughtered, our own pigs, I knew just what the pig farmers were talking about. The claim about the sausage casings was a fact I could easily look up. Go online and look up the major export crops of New Zealand and where those crops go. Wow! Even though all our pork comes from here, all our sausage casings come from New Zealand (which doesn’t allow GMO’s).

    There was another claim somebody made which I was able to look up on my own. They claimed there had been a prominent Russian scientist who found the GMO’s had adverse health effects, but the scientist was told to shut up and threatened (which in Russia is no laughing matter). I have a Russian friend who is a research scientist at the same institute. I emailed her and asked her if it was true. Her answer … ‘why do you think we all have dachas and grow all our own food?’ This comment is off the record. They are fearful of retaliation. But it is common knowledge in scientific circles.

    As for the rest of the claims, I don’t know. My kid was sick. He got a lot better. He is not 100% cured. Diet can only get you so far, especially when the damage is already done. But here is one more fact I was able to verify…

    Those 2,000 scientifically touted studies? Those are all industry-sponsored, 90-day SHORT TERM studies, not 3-year longitudinal studies. You ever meet somebody who picked up a cigarette and, within a couple of years (which is the ‘rat life equivalent’) got cancer and died? Nope. It takes years to wreak that kind of damage. It takes long-term studies to pick up the fact that long-term use will cause that kind of damage. The few LONG TERM studies out there (like the British or Russian ones that were suppressed) all point in the opposite direction, that there should be a lot more concern.

    So you can take your ‘all GMO avoiders are ignorant wingnuts’ speeches’ and stick it in your bank account, where my money will NOT be, because I now avoid (and will continue to avoid) all GMO foods. I am not an ignorant plebe … I have a doctorate in law … and I have the right to pick and choose where I will spend my money, and where I will spend it will NOT be for any organization which either tries to say I am stupid for believing the living proof my own child provided (that something in the food supply was making him sick) or any organization that tries to ram these foods down my throat. You get it? Free enterprise. It’s my money. I will spend it the way I want, and I will NOT spend it on YOU. Or GMO food. Or on any organization that tries to take shortcuts with my family’s health toting short-term studies and lobbying congress instead of just running the 2,000 LONG TERM studies a skeptic like me would require before ever believing people like you, or their GMO-profiting shadow-masters, again.

    Here … I have a gift for you. Here’s a nice box of regular, old-fashioned, GMO-laden soy and corn-syrup laden Twinkies. My kid can’t eat them without suffering thousands of dollars worth of gastrointestinal and neurological damage. Why don’t YOU eat them? Since you think they’re safe.

    Bug poison … yum!

    [*Oh ... did I mention the long-term studies also show they make you sterile? So keep eating? Within two generations, corporate-paid mis-informers such as yourself will have eliminated yourselves from our gene pool. Bon appetit!*]

    • Matthew Slyfield

      Of course none of that explains why the 99% of the US population that don’t eat GMO free aren’t suffering the same symptoms as your child.

      • Anna Erishkigal

        They -are-. Or have you been away onto some distant planet where you haven’t heard that as much as 1:54 boys and 1:84 girls is now being diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorders, ADHD, and other neurological disorders?

        Perhaps you haven’t heard that in many school systems, the number of kids on an IEP has risen to 1:25 kids, and that the biggest cause of these problems is not things like Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or other inherited disorders anymore, but autism-spectrum disorders, ADHD, and behavioral disorders. Or maybe you haven’t heard that in some inner city schools, where the kids are most vulnerable, those numbers have risen to 1:40 … all paid for by TAXPAYER dollars.

        Yes … the TAXPAYERS are paying for this increase in sick kids with their hard-earned property taxes and, now, increased health care costs (the last neurologists visit cost over $5,800 … and that was just one visit).

        Oh? What was that? (I can here the -reply- button already). What is it you’re about to say? It’s the parents fault? Parents just aren’t good parents anymore. They don’t ___ (fill in the blank) anymore. All these illnesses are made up. Kids aren’t really developing food allergies. They aren’t really developing autism. They aren’t really developing ADHD in unprecedented numbers. The statistics are lying. The parents are lying. The schools are lying. The special education departments are lying. The pediatricians are lying. It’s the television. It’s the internet. It’s a change in the way the DSM-5 categorizes illnesses. It’s a liberal conspiracy. It’s a conservative conspiracy. It’s a terrorist conspiracy. It’s aliens floating around in a UFO beaming death-rays to our children, making them sick, you say. Did I make the argument well enough for you (since most trolls hit ‘reply’ before they’ve even read the argument)? That it’s everybody else’s fault except for the most likely problem … that there is a widespread environmental toxin in the food supply and that toxin is impacting our most vulnerable citizens, our children?

        But really, it doesn’t matter what YOU think. Because my kid is sick, my neighbor across the kid’s kid is sick, the kid the next street over is sick, and we have all stripped GMO food out of our diets and their symptoms have greatly alleviated. Not 100%. But enough that my kid doesn’t need a 1:1 aid 24:7 at school, but can now function with an aid shared between 3 kids. Poof! Change diet. 70% of symptoms gone almost overnight. So either my 7-year-old son has been involved with an elaborate conspiracy to mimic gastrointestinal and neurological disorders for the past 6 years (all unbeknownst to me), or there is something wrong with the food, because the only thing we have changed is switching from GMO-Twinkies to non-GMO Twinkies, and he’s gotten drastically better.

        Who will I believe? You? A troll (likely paid by a corporation) who preys upon a mother with a sick child and tells me my 7-year-old son is just an actor? Or calls -me- a liar (perhaps you should have me disbarred? I am a lawyer, after all, and an officer of the court). Or my own son, who in a matter of weeks has had a drastic improvement of symptoms by the simple act of stripping out the GMOs?

        I don’t care -what- people like you say. It’s my money. I don’t want to spend it on GMO products and you can’t MAKE me spend it on GMO products. I don’t BELIEVE you anymore. I want the GMO’s labelled. I will keep writing to my congressman until they are. And I want to let the market decide. Yes. I am a conservative/Libertarian voter. Just like Adam Smith says in the Wealth of Nations. It’s my money … I shall spend it the way I want it … and if it doesn’t say ‘USDA Certified Organic’ or didn’t come from a local farmer who I know and trust, I won’t buy it.

        Does GMO food make my food better?
        Does GMO food make my food safer?
        Does GMO food make my food taste better?
        Doest GMO food make my hair shiny, my eyes sparkle, and my waist grow slimmer?
        Does GMO food energize me and make me perky and attentive?

        What, you say? All it does is make food a few pennies cheaper? That’s not much of a benefit. The first week we stripped out GMO’s our food bill tripled, but now that we know what -has- to be organic versus what is not GMO-contaminated and safe to eat, and found places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and the local farmer’s market, our food bill dropped right back down to only a few dollars more than we were already spending. So honestly, GMO-food isn’t even really saving people a lot of money. So why do we need it? Huh?

        People with sick children … we don’t believe you anymore. And the more you flout statistics such as ’99% of people aren’t sick’ when, in fact, that is not true, the less and less people will believe you.

        So go ahead…
        Hit reply…
        Keep making claims people know aren’t true based on their own, first-hand experience…
        Call all the moms and dads with sick kids liars…
        Start digging…

        We don’t believe you anymore. And we are voting with our dollars.

  • laursaurus

    GMO’s are man-made just like AGW. The environmentalist zealots only embrace the “science” of climate change because it confirms their confirmation-bias that man is a blight on the face of the Earth. Playing with mother nature so that we can feed more people is making their imaginary problem worse. Hunger is good because it controls the population.
    Seems like Marc is on to this in his article. He didn’t come right out and say that Greens put their ideology first along with any “science” that supports it. When science explicitly debunks their ideology, they outright reject it.

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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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