When Journalists Say Really Stupid Stuff About GMOs

By Keith Kloor | June 3, 2013 11:52 am

I’ve been arguing that the worst misinformation and myths about genetically modified foods has spread from the anti-GMO fringes to the mainstream. A jaw-dropping example of this is provided by Michael Moss, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, who was recently interviewed by Marcus Mabry, a NYT colleague about the Monsanto protests that took place last weekend.

The interview lasts only a few minutes. Listen to the whole thing to fully appreciate its inanity. I’ve transcribed the exchanges that will blow your mind.

MABRY: In Europe, genetically modified organisms are actually banned. In the United States, quite decidedly they are not. Why that difference?

MOSS: I have family in Europe. They’ve been talking to me about GMOs for years and years. I think they decided that even though there is no hard science showing long-term health problems with GMOs, they also point out that the research really hasn’t been done. So for them the glass is half empty, rather than half full. They’re saying, ‘look, until proven safe, we’re gonna, like, avoid this stuff.’

You gotta love it when an investigative reporter listens more to his family than to what scientists say. As I’ve done before, I’ll quote from University of California plant geneticist Pam Ronald’s article in Scientific American:

There is broad scientific consensus that genetically engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat. After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of 2 billion acres planted, no adverse health or environmental effects have resulted from commercialization of genetically engineered crops (Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Committee on Environmental Impacts Associated with Commercialization of Transgenic Plants, National Research Council and Division on Earth and Life Studies 2002). Both the U.S. National Research Council and the Joint Research Centre (the European Union’s scientific and technical research laboratory and an integral part of the European Commission) have concluded that there is a comprehensive body of knowledge that adequately addresses the food safety issue of genetically engineered crops (Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health and National Research Council 2004; European Commission Joint Research Centre 2008).

Or to put it more succinctly, as Christy Wilcox, my Discover blogging colleague says:

The simple fact is that there is no evidence that GMOs, as a blanket group, are dangerous.

Let’s move on to the next exchange, where Moss sounds more like an anti-GMO activist than a reporter.

MABRY: Until recently, there hasn’t been much concern from the public in the U.S. at all though [about GMOs]. Is that because we’re not so worried about it, or because we just don’t know.

MOSS: I think it’s been under the radar a bit. In increasing mood, people are concerned about it. Those [anti-Monsanto] rallies over the weekend were amazing. So many people hit the streets and I think part of the thing happening here is people are realizing, this is really scary stuff. I mean, Just consider the name, right. Genetically modified organisms. This isn’t like taking one apple and crossing it with another and gettting a redder, shinier apple. This is extracting genetic material from one living creature and putting it another. And that’s really disturbing to people.

There is much to to take issue with there, but I bolded the part that to me, is truly scary coming from an investigative reporter at the New York Times. Is Moss for real? Instead of perhaps educating the public about  genetic modification and why it isn’t scary at all, he’s reinforcing the biggest bogeyman fear of all, the one that inspires every Frankenfood headline.

In a lecture last year, Michael Pollan, who, like Mark Bittman, plays footsie with the fringe elements of the anti-GMO crowd, acknowledged that science did not support the concerns people had about genetically modified foods. He also said:

Fear is not a basis to rally people against GMOs.

Maybe he’s wrong. Fear seems to be the greatest motivator. When a NYT investigative reporter reinforces the biggest myths and fears pushed by the anti-GMO movement, I don’t see how it’s possible to have a constructive, science-based discourse about genetically modified foods.

[Many people exhibit a potato head understanding of GMOs. Source for image.]

  • Karl Haro von Mogel

    This is the same Michael Moss who made these claims in CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper. In contrast to his claim about the research not being done, there are literally hundreds (and maybe a thousand) of peer reviewed studies on genetically engineered crops. http://www.biofortified.org/genera/ Simply put, he has no idea what he is talking about.

  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    Hard-hitting family anecdotes. Substantive claims–oh, wait, no–wrong claims. Fear-mongering.

    Seriously–how can academic scientists tell their side when these guys with big platforms have scared everyone?

    • kkloor

      It looks like an uphill climb. As Karl noted, Moss said pretty much the same thing last week on CNN.

  • http://twitter.com/r343l Rachael Ludwick

    One problem with the first excerpt you quote is that it has a second falsehood that actually plays into a narrative about GMO safety that is very coherent and compelling. I often read variations of this:

    “If GMOs are so safe to eat, then why are they banned in Europe?”

    Of course they aren’t banned in Europe. Food products for humans that contain more than trace amounts (I believe the threshold is 0.9% or something) must be labeled and there are few products on the market with them (manufacturers fear consumer rejection), but they aren’t banned. Europe is one of the largest importers of GMO corn and soy animal feed as well. Cultivation of most GMOs are severely restricted in many European countries but that is not the same as a ban. The claim of a ban in combination with an inaccurate claim about health risks just reinforces the narrative. At least claims about health risks are arguable — there are studies, albeit poor ones, and the balance of evidence suggests current transgenic foods are safe to eat. But the claim that GMOs are banned in Europe is just completely false.

  • Steve Crook

    Not all the press is bad. Try listening to the BBC Costing The Earth programme Pig 26 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01sj1t8

    I thought it was pretty balanced, and managed to concentrate on the science and potential for GMO animals.

  • Alexander J. Stein
  • Ron_Peters

    The public must be careful about what it concludes from this article. Kloor knocks down a straw man — finding the worst arguments being made against GMOs, and mocking them — leaving people to conclude that, therefore, anyone who doesn’t love GMOs must be a flake. This does not follow.

    • Val Giddings

      if you have any good arguments against “GMOs” bring them on. I’ve yet to encounter any that stand up even to gentle scrutiny. Jeffrey Smith gave it his best shot, but when subjected to peer-review the result is smoking rubble — see http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-content/genetic-roulette/

      even the EU has concluded they’re safe (never mind the politics): http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/pdf/a_decade_of_eu-funded_gmo_research.pdf

      this of course sets aside the fundamental irrationality of the opponents, which denies the inarguable fact that EVERYTHING we eat is genetically modified; the only Q is whether by crude historical methods (which gave us maize, wheat, sheep, cattle, and virtually everything we grow to eat) or by modern techniques, which humans learned how to use by observing what we find in nature, and harnessing that to deliver the most precise, predictable, and safest genetic improvements in human history. With an unblemished safety record after billions upon billions of meals consumed by humans and livestock throughout the world for years. (a safety record organic/biodynamic advocates can only envy)

      Oppose biotech if you wish, but don’t pretend science gives any safety related justification for doing so.

      and as to “banned in Europe” – Ludwick’s post above is correct, and the NYT is wrong on biotech as usual. Europe is required now to take to court Austria, Greece, and other countries refusing to respect EU approvals for transgenic crops in defiance of European law. This will be interesting…

      • Stefan Parol

        If the “EU” considers something to be save, or to be done, it is, I dare say mostly, not mirroring the public feel, seldom enough the attitude of it´s member states. The Comissions in charge of thus statements are a big subject to lobbyism.

      • Hugo Skoppek

        How can you state “With an unblemished safety record after billions upon billions of meals consumed”, if there is no way to trace GMO ingredients in our foods. In the absence of labelling, it is impossible to make any claims about the danger or safety about GMO crops.

        • Val Giddings

          you have labeling in most jurisdictions. labeled foods are not associated with any spikes in health problems of unexplained etiology consistent with consumption of foods derived from crops improved through biotechnology. and don’t give me the rise in allergies as an attempted example. the mechanism of food allergenicity is well known, and abundant data demonstrate biotech foods are NOT involved — people with food allergies are demonstrably NOT allergic to the proteins added to biotech foods. We know precisely, in unprecedented detail, exactly what differences there are between biotech derived foods and other else. We know precisely what constituents are found in one and not the other. and we know exactly what happens when they are exposed to the digestive systems in humans or livestock: nutrition. There are no mysteries here. The protein encoded by the pest resistance imparting genes is the same protein that is so safe organic growers use it. It’s toxicity is no different. How opponents can claim one is toxic and the other is not requires them to assume laws of physics, chemistry, and biology vary in time and space. we know they do not. Fail. The fate of the protein encoded by the herbicide tolerance gene when exposed to mammalian digestive systems is very well understood: it’s nutrition. No foods in history have been subjected to more scrutiny, in advance, in depth and detail than those derived from crops improved through biotechnology. Don’t take my word for it — start reading here: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Biotechnology/ucm096126.htm Even European scientists AND regulatory authorities grant that biotech foods are either as safe, or safer than other foods, and they’ve looked hard to try and find problems, without success:http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/pdf/a_decade_of_eu-funded_gmo_research.pdf

          Now, shall we talk about the number of people who have died ingesting pathogens from organic food?

          • Hugo Skoppek

            “nutrition. There are no mysteries here.” Last time I checked, nutritionists still had not figured out what exactly happens when food get digested, i.e. what leaves the gut is not what enters the bloodstream at the other side of the cellwall. There are all kinds of assumptions and theories about and you seem to cling to a diferent one from me. That’s fine.

      • Guest

        1. You are naive if you never mind the politics of something.
        2. If we should wash our produce before consumption (because chemicals that kill things, i.e. pesticides, aren’t on the food pyramid any way you cut it), then Roundup ready corn seed should only be used for ethanol, if at all.

        Biological sciences aren’t all that matters – economics and long-term feasibility matter as well. Science has been wrong as well, and let’s hope problems don’t show up later, in some way you didn’t think of. It won’t be anyone’s fault of course.

    • Steve Crook

      The trouble with the GMO ‘debate’ is that mostly it’s the flake arguments that appear in the MSM.

      I don’t doubt that there are risks associated with GMO. After all, each modification has it’s own risk/benefit analysis. If through genetic modification we could make all pigs resistant to African Swine Fever (listen to Pig 26) that would be a good thing.

      My main concern with GMOs are that we don’t end up with a GMO equivalent of Chernobyl or Fukushima. Neither was directly a problem with the technology or even an ‘act of god’, they were caused by people not doing what they were supposed to be doing.

      Many years ago I read of an aeroplane that made an emergency landing because of a fault in the fuel line. It turned out that an engineer had fitted a valve in the fuel line the wrong way round. The valve was marked with the direction of fitting and shaped so that it could only be fitted in the correct direction. The engineer had clamped the part in a vice and bent it out of shape so he could fit it the wrong way…

      We are fallible.

  • Schratboy

    Keith does smarmy like Monsanto does GMO.

    Everyone says stupid stuff, Keith. It’s part of the human experience. Your vaunted biotech corporate love interest has cut a decade plus swath across the US plains and directly through the heart of the US food supply…without any notice or warning. Sure, all the scientific justifications have been published and bleated repeatedly: safety tested, sameness, anti-science and so forth to support the GMO storyline, so for anybody to object to these actions, in your mind, has no merit. Like stepping on baby duckling’ heads or kicking puppies, some things don’t require reams of information or volumes of words. Wrong is just plain old wrong. GMOs are mutant science experiments. Having ‘science-based GMO discourse is like having a science-based discourse with Margaret Singer about cults. …wait a minute? Cults….GMOs….what’s the difference?

  • plutarchnet

    You were just talking about how knowledge deficit is not the problem on climate, and linking to Kahan who says quite often that knowledge deficit is not the problem http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/05/16/a-new-climate-survey-tells-us-what

    Thence to condemning scientists who attempted to address knowledge deficit.

    Yet here, knowledge deficit _is_ a problem, furthering knowledge deficit _is_ a problem.

    Why the different reaction?

  • Ron_Peters

    The Europeans have simply taken an approach that is closer to what a normal, sensible individual would take. When a certain amount of evidence accumulates suggesting that something is not good for you, it makes eminent sense to say “Well, then I’m not going to consume this thing until someone can show me that it isn’t harming me.” The North American approach is to say “Go for it until it can be irrefutably demonstrated that this is doing something bad.” Of course one never gets to the point where the evidence is considered irrefutable. This same tired way of framing the problem has been used relentlessly by Monsanto, climate change deniers, the tobacco industry, etc., etc.

    • bobito

      You are only considering the negative side of GMO.

      Why should we put off something that is safe (according to scientific consensus) and can help with the worlds hunger/nutrition problems, make crops more drought tolerant, allow for more output with less fertilizer and/or water? Aren’t these all good things? Isn’t it legitimate to take some risk when there is great reward?

      If you only focus on the negative you only see the downsides and not the possibilities.

      • Danielle

        The problem with this is that GMOs have NOT proved themselves to more drought tolerant and have, in fact, required much MORE fertilizer. The research abundant in proving that Monsanto has NOT outperformed conventional.

        Something like the Golden Rice project is an entirely different argument. If GMOs were used for THIS the conversation about GMOs would be drastically changed. The fact is, though, that companies like Monsanto aren’t operating to inject vitamin A into rice, but are operating to profit and are putting farmers out while they’re at it to boot.

        • bobito

          I’ll agree that you can find something to support all of your claims if you agree that I can find something to support all of mine…

          • Stefan Parol

            I am a rational mind but I have to support Danielle- GMOs are loosing it.

            Also, the way Monsanto acts against Farmers worldwide should fairly prove what this is all about: Money, surly not human benefit or health. This is certainly no argument against GMOs, but throws a certain light on the matter, wich for itself may for some be reason enough to boycot GMOs.

          • bobito

            So do you also boycott all cell phones because Apple has sub standard labor practices that were set in place purely for money and not human benefit (unless you call a cheaper phone a benefit)?

          • Stefan Parol

            No of course not. I am, however, supporting Daniels arguments.

            It is proven fact that genetically manipulated plants in longer terms are not doing better then traditional ones. Problems usually occure when farmers trust in monocultures- thats where we have to seek for answers.

            Also, I do disimprove in Monsantos practice- may it be the way they act against farmers, or simply the way they twist the truth as it is convenient.

            Anyway, Monsanto is just one, albeit the biggest, company doing research in this field. There are much more; and not all with such outsized economic interests. There is certainly a lot to this matter, and I am in no way reluctant to research and sciences. I am only being very sceptical about GMOs, the long term impact on nature and, most importantly, I doubt the need of haste in this matter, wich is in no way to be compared with cell phones and labour practices.

        • First Officer

          I’m sorry, but this is the, “farmers are too stupid to notice argument”.

      • Hugo Skoppek

        Where is the scientific consensus? Studies done by the University of Illinois show Roundup Ready 2 Yield has not delivered on its promise of higher yields. Please get your facts right.

        Can your refer us to any real life situations where GMO seeds have alleviated the worlds hunger/nutrition problems?

        • Val Giddings

          are you paying attention? come down off the cherry picker. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0064879 for a start.

          • Hugo Skoppek

            Yes I am. I have worked with farmers who have grown GMO crops and did not achieve the promised yields. Other trials confirm this and you refer me to a study which says: GM crops COULD contribute to food
            production increases and higher food availability. There MAY also be
            impacts on food quality and nutrient composition. Finally, growing GM
            crops MAY . . .

    • Val Giddings

      yeah… the problem with THAT argument is that every claim of possible harm that has been advanced has been shown to be contradicted by data. Puzstai, Ermakova, Seralini… none of their claims stand up even to gentle scrutiny. Meanwhile, compositional analysis shows no differences relevant to health, safety, or nutrition (or, where there are any differences, they are beneficial ones). And billions upon billions of meals consumed provide a robust empirical refutation of claims of possible harm. The real problem in this area is that there is a cadre of true believers who have their minds made up and cannot be disabused by data. Folks most opposed to biotech derived foods, on the other hand, seem besotted with organic/biodynamic, and never mind the body count. Go figure. This isn’t about data, it’s about religion.

  • August Pamplona

    Your link to Pamela Ronald’s article is broken.

  • jh

    NPR reported today on the appearance of GM wheat in Oregon, which has caused Japan and Europe to delay shipments. Although they didn’t say it outright, they played the “banned in Europe” card as well.

    What they don’t want to point out is that the ban in Europe is also a trade protection issue as much as a health issue.

    • Hugo Skoppek

      Trade protection for wheat. Be real man. Europeans would starve to death if they had to rely on the food they grow themselves.

  • Tracy Allen

    Am I the only one who wonders when it became newsworthy for reporters to interview other reporters instead of interviewing people who were actually knowledgeable on a given subject?

    • Tom

      It’s called “CNN”.

  • Danielle

    Are we not concerned about GM seeds resistance to pesticides and herbicides? Their resistance, and thusly the overuse of these poisons and the death of insects like the honeybee, is what concerns me the most, not to mention the death of heirlooms. Are GMO foods bad for you? Perhaps, under that coating of poison, the food isn’t bad itself. Are GMO foods bad for the you? Considering the pest and herbicides (and the run off of that into the ground and water) and the death of important insects and the extinction of heirloom foods, yes, GMOs are extremely scary.

    • Tom

      The supposed extreme toxicity of RoundUp and its active component glyphosate is a popular myth that you can easily debunk in your own back garden. Glyphosate herbicides can be bought at your local gardening outlet or Amazon (just search for glyphosate). Get two plastic tubs, one slightly larger than the other. Punch a few small holes in the bottom of the smaller tub and then fill it with soil from your garden. Now place the smaller tub inside the larger one but keep it slightly raised from the bottom (use a pair of bricks or equivalent). This ensures that the soil in the smaller tub will drain properly and not become water-logged. Now leave the tub outside until weeds start growing in it. Apply the glyphosate formulation according to the instructions provided along with it until the weeds die (Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate has expired some time ago so there are plenty of generic alternatives). Now leave the soil (and the microorganisms inside of it) to stand but keep it watered along with the rest of your garden. After some time you can start trying to plant seed in the glyphosate treated tub to see if the soil microbes have degraded it yet. Or simply wait until the weeds return. If the myth is true, nothing will ever grow in that tub again.

      • Danielle

        The fact that it kills a living organism has nothing to do with it, huh? I don’t care how many GMOs you want to shove in your mouth or how many science projects you want to win ribbons for; the rest of us want the option to eat food not altered by man and not coated something that was specifically intentioned to kill something else.

        • Tom

          Then stay out of Whole Foods. All their produce has been altered by man for thousands of years and it’s been coated with something that is specifically intentioned to kill something else (copper sulfate, rotenone, pyrethrin etc).

          • Danielle

            One does what one can. It’s almost impossible to not eat altered foods or foods not coated in a substance like this, not to mention bank-breaking, especially when you don’t have the time or means to garden your own produce to cut down on such alterations.

          • Tom

            No, take the time and grow some fruit and vegetables of your own. Then you will quickly realize why farmers use herbicides and insecticides.

          • Danielle

            I did edit it, I apologize. I was hoping you’d read it after the edit because my jerk level was off the charts.
            I grew up in the midwest, have farming friends and have family with large acreage. I’m not ignorant as to the need, but I do believe we are using them excessively. I cannot start a garden in my apartment. That is not logical.

          • Tom

            Cool, now I feel like we’re starting to have a proper discussion. Do you feel that GM crops are somehow more detrimental to the environment than conventionally grown crops? Keep in mind that with growing conventional crops comes more toxic herbicides (exposure to the farmer, groundwater); tilling of the soil leading to increased carbon release into the atmosphere; and spraying of insecticides that kill ALL insects in the field – not just the ones chewing on the crop (again the farmer also gets exposed). If we remove Monsanto from the equation (and I know that’s a pretty big “if”), then wouldn’t GM crops make a better alternative at least for the environment and above all the farmer? There ARE issues with GM crops – and the one that concerns me the most gene flow from crops to their wild relatives. But then we need to focus on those and not make up fantasy ones like the enormous toxicity of glyphosate. It’s possibly the “nicest” herbicide out there and soil microbes have no difficulty breaking it down. I work at a microbiology department in Scandinavia and some of my colleagues are developing ways of glyphosate spraying so that the glyphosate-degrading microbes are sprayed along with it. In that way the glyphosate quickly disappears after it has killed the weeds.

          • First Officer

            Once broken down, doesn’t it also provide a bit of phospherous?

          • Tom

            Soil microbes are crafty buggers and glyphosate is quite an attractive substrate. If you look at the structure of glyphosate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Glyphosate-2D-skeletal.png), it’s basically a molecule of sarcosine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sarcosine.png) with a phosphonate group on the end. Sarcosine is a commonly occurring molecule in nature. In fact, our own cells make it. Soil microbes normally break down glyphosate by first cleaving off the phosphonate group using the enzyme C-P lyase to give phosphate and sarcosine. The phosphate can then be used to synthesize nucleotides (like DNA or ATP), phosphoproteins or phospholipids. Sarcosine can be further converted to glycine, which is one of the 20 amino acids that all proteins are made from.

          • Danielle

            Thanks for that info, I haven’t researched glyphosate, I’ll have to read into that. Keeping on the topic of herb and pesticides: the growing resistance is what concerns me in GM plants. Too much of anything is a bad thing.
            In regards to the environment, I’m very concerned about cross-contamination as well as the run-off. I’m familiar with crop-rotation which seems to be effective, but haven’t heard much second hand about how GMOs have been affecting fields- my information has through internet reading.
            If GMOs worked as they are supposed to (lower pesticide and herbicide, drought-friendly, bringing vitamins into deficient areas of the world, etc.) and a companies like Monsanto weren’t putting it out (in regard to their suing/settling with farmers, monopolizing, etc.) I wouldn’t put up such a fight about it. Being a Christian I’d still have a hard time eating them without thought (willfully manipulating God’s creation to that extent, blah blah blah), but I wouldn’t protest them because as a citizen, it’d be stupid not to want something better for our country like that, but I still think they should be labeled.

          • Tom

            Danielle, all the concerns you mention are totally valid and it’s hard to find reliable information out there if you don’t know where to look (i.e. specialist scientific literature often not publicly available). I honestly can’t think of a good starting source for the non-specialist but there is a book by Mark Winston called “Travels in the genetically modified zone” that I find very balanced (although it’s getting slightly out of date). Regarding your point about GMOs working as they are supposed to – well, remember that Monsanto is a for-profit corporation and their costumers are farmers, not the everyday consumer. To a farmer the herbicide-resistance and built-in insecticide traits are very attractive but they don’t really make a difference for the consumer (except lower amounts of mycotoxins produced by molds that would normally contaminate crops by being brought there with pest insects). Drought tolerance and vitamin-enhanced varieties don’t really have a market in the US and so Monsanto haven’t been putting a lot of effort into them (only for what little goodwill they can get i.e. not much). You also need to consider how enormously expensive it is to develop, safety test and get a new GM variety approved. Monsanto will want a hefty return on that investment, hence their tough enforcement of not allowing farmers in the US to re-plant seeds. Drought tolerant and vitamin enriched varieties are a different matter. These are developed specifically for farmers in the developing world and farmers will be allowed to re-plant the seeds. But since Monsanto, Syngenta etc won’t make any return on those varieties, they are not in any hurry to develop them.

            Lastly, if you feel uncomfortable with the idea (as a Christian or otherwise) of genes being moved between completely unrelated organisms, don’t worry – it actually happens in nature as well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer). For example the regular yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that we use for brewing and baking contains two genes that its recent ancestor has acquired from bacteria somehow (http://ec.asm.org/content/4/6/1102.long). To put that into perspective, even though they might look alike, yeasts and bacteria have not had a common ancestor for something like two billion years.

          • Danielle

            Thanks Tom! I appreciate all that information! I’m bookmarking that link.

            Living in S.D and MN I see a lot of farming, but never investigated the science of it. I took a brief look at things like the effects of tilling and how Monsanto will help the soil in that regard and such and am excited to learn more. Thanks for being so patient with me.

            I’m okay with organisms evolving, or even evolving with selective breeding, it’s the invasiveness of genetically modifying the thing that seems to me blasphemous. Of course, in five years I might be praising God that He gave us the intelligence to do such things depending on how the situation evolves.

          • Tom

            Danielle, I’m very happy we had this conversation. I should mention that there is a website called http://www.biofortified.org/ run by Biology Fortified Inc, which is a non-profit organization that runs a lot of useful bulletins and stimulating discussions on GM technology with particular emphasis on agriculture. They might appear a bit biased for GM technology but all the people who run it are experts (mostly research scientists) in their field (genetic engineering, pesticide/herbicide use, environmental impact etc) and they’re always happy to explain and discuss these issues. Take care!

          • Andrew Kiener

            “Coated in a substance like this” is nonsense. Glyphosate is water-soluble; it’s functionally gone from the plant long before you touch it. If you’re worried about residue, wash your veggies and it’s gone. Plus, since it works by inhibiting the function of an enzyme specific to plant biology, eating a small amount won’t hurt you.

    • Phil P

      Are you aware that the resistant seeds mean LESS use of pesticides? Did you know that as insects have become adapted to the resistant plants the use of pesticides must increase? Are you aware that it is not pesticides but disease that is affecting our honeybees? Do you care that science shows your position to be a “scary” myth?

      • Danielle

        Naturally, Phil. The growing resistance is the concern where it doesn’t seem to be happening at such a rate with conventional crop.

        Thanks for your mention of the honeybee. I was aware it was disease, I had believed it was at least partially due to pesticides. I may have bought into a ‘scary myth’ and I may have not. There is certainly abundant information supporting a connection between their death and GM crop. I’ll definitely have to look deeper into it.

        I admit there is a lot of myth trying to demonize Monsanto. Everything deserves a second look (suicides in India, for example), but unfortunately the myths have a beginning for a reason.

        • Andrew Kiener

          No, there isn’t “abundant information” connecting honeybee problems and GMOs. There’s basically zero information. There’s a lot of completely unsupported speculation. The fact that so few people seem to care about the difference is what drives people like Kloor to write what they write.

          • Danielle

            I’m sorry, Andrew, doing a simple google search with GMO honey bees brings up pages of articles from various outlets sourcing GMOs as the culprits and far fewer articles stating they are not. It is useless for Kloor to write what he did because he points to nothing to show the ignorant why they are wrong. He is basically saying ‘this jerk is a moron and so is everyone else who listens to him’ and does not go into why enough to combat the overwhelming ‘myths’ out there. It just makes people who think GMOs are bad think that this guys is just another arrogant jerk when he really has the power to say ‘this guy is mislead, here’s why, this is the science, here are some links to reputable sources for you to check out yourselves’. You say there is a lot of completely unsupported speculation. This speculated information is coming from tons of sources and we see it so much more than anything else, I think it’s natural for us to start buying into it because of it’s abundance. People are concerned about what they put into their bodies and it’s much easier to believe that a corporation so vilified as Monsanto behaves unethically for profit than it is that companies like Monsanto are genetically mutating genes for our benefit. I honestly don’t believe it’s a fact of caring or not, it’s a fact of apparent rampant misinformation. I can’t begin to think of how to combat the anti-GMO campaign aside from getting the science-based information into the news or a meme-campaign on facebook as the anti-GMO seems so adept at. I know I’ve got a lot more to read and look into now after my discussions here, but I am lucky that some of these responders have been so unabrasive and respectful in the face of ignorance (especially mine). That’s not always the case and I was certainly on the defensive when I first responded because of all that misinformation and I care very much about what my family and I eat. With new children and work and keeping up our home I don’t have much time to research too deeply into these things and when I see friends and family post about the evils of GMOs and look it up I find just that: information to support the evils of GMOs. I think a lot of people are probably in my same situtation. We care very deeply, but the other information is not nearly as abundant when doing a google search between putting the kids to bed and walking the dog.

          • Val Giddings

            there are NO DATA supporting a link between biotech crops and CCD/honeybee decline. None. see http://www.usda.gov/documents/ReportHoneyBeeHealth.pdf CCD is a complicated problem, and we aren’t entirely sure what causes it (multiple factors) but we do know what doesn’t: biotech.

            You are quite right that a google search dredges up mountains of claims to the contrary. They are united by the absence of supporting data. too bad google doesn’t come with a built-in BS detector, but that’s an aftermarket add-on — you have to provide your own.

          • Andrew Kiener

            The problem here is that you are equating “number of google hits” with “information” – which was entirely my point. You’re reading “a lot of completely unsupported speculation”, endlessly repeated, and not realizing there’s no actual information there. You’re right that it’s a problem.

  • Stefan Parol

    As a european, I am astonished by the displayed indifference to this subject.
    In Europe, we already suffer from imported plants wich eventually will displace traditional ones. This, considering the possibility of uncontrolled cross-breedings of GMOs in future , could lead to all possible scenarios.
    Also, I truly see no benefit to GMOs in our western agricultural landscape. Our already existing plants are doing extremly well.

    • Tom

      As another European (we’re all the same y’know…) also living in Europe, I disagree. Europe is a net importer of food and we need to wake up and smell the organic coffee. The point of GM crops is not to enrich the evil Dr Monsanto, it’s to make agriculture more efficient and higher-yielding. Nutritional improvements like the low acrylamide potato (http://www.news.wisc.edu/19473) would be a nice bonus. Steve Savage has a really good summary of this on his blog here http://appliedmythology.blogspot.se/2013/05/should-world-keep-feeding-europe.html

      • Stefan Parol

        Well I do smell “organic coffee” every morning. Not for health or political reasons, just because it´s fair traded.

        I dont´t know what to answer about your argument- it´s plain wrong. We, as europeans, export food in a huge amount. If you wish to have a nutritional improvement, change your diet. Where are you actually DO your food shopping? Do you visit local markets?

        To turn the tables in such a way and somehow suggest that there is something like an “organic confederacy” against reason and GMOs is just awkward, when it is clear that Monsanto is a huge lobbyist.

        • First Officer

          Well, who’s idea was it that GM enhanced content in Organic products be mathematically zero? It was Organic food organizations that insisted on that. So any problems about traces of GM pollen, etc, so low that it would make a Homeopathic solution seem concentrated, is self inflicted.

        • Tom
        • Tom

          Net importer of food is not the same as not exporting any food at all. Europeans export huge amounts of food but import “huger” amounts of food. See the link I provided in the previous post.

        • Tom

          And who needs a local market? I just drink a Bt/RoundUp smoothie three times a day.

  • Debra

    It is profitable for some sectors to try to villainize GMOs. The testing and verification process is quite time consuming and consultants are flocking to this profit center. This is also a driving force to fueling the hype. Couple weeks ago a consultant comes to the office saying about verification of GMO-hybrids is required. Total BS!

  • Mike

    Re: “The simple fact is that there is no evidence that GMOs, as a blanket group, are dangerous.”

    As a blanket group? I guess I’ll just hope I’m lucky with the ones that make it onto my plate. You don’t have to be a lawyer to read between these lines. I haven’t heard many anti-GMO folks claim they are ALL dangerous, just that some likely are, given the research studies suggesting just that, Monsanto’s track record of deception, and the lack of long term studies.

    Do some independent long term studies on this stuff and we’ll eat it, until then, stay the F away from my food!

    • youredumb

      Dumb

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

    TWO THINGS FOR YOU….
    1) Over 800 scientists say its nothing but biowarfare on the human race….2) Look up a Cell Biologist who has been doing cell work since the 60s BRUCE LIPTON….On Utube….YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT….See what he says. Stop listening to stupid PAID OFF TV announcers and ask questions like….IF GMOs are so wonderful THEN WHY FIGHT TOOTH AND NAIL TO BLOCK THE LABELING OF GMO….YOU’RE GOING DOWN MONSANTO….VIA THE AMERICAN PUBLIC!!!

    • youredumb

      You’re dumb

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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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