“They’ll always want more studies. They call themselves skeptics. But when you cling to an unsubstantiated belief, even after two decades of research and experience, that’s not skepticism. It’s dogma.”
This is an excerpt from a feature story published last week in the online current affairs and culture magazine Slate on the hypocrisy and immoral tactics used by anti-GMO activists on the dangers of genetically modified organisms. The story, called an Unhealthy Fixation, has been making a storm on social media. It puts a high-resolution magnifying glass on the blatant fear mongering, error and fraud tactics uses by activists.
For example, while anti-GMO zealots paradoxically communicate the message that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria crops are hazardous, they encourage you to buy organic failing to mention that dozens of Bt insecticides are approved for use in organic agriculture, where Bt sprays are routinely used. Activists seem to ignore the fact that many scientific studies have found that Bt is one of the world’s safest pesticides.
The story also highlights the plight of Golden Rice. The world’s first beta carotene rice, which former US President Bill Clinton said would have saved, tens of thousands of lives per day, those suffering from Vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin A deficiency causes 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind every year. Within a year, half of these blinded children die. After years of campaigning from organisations such as Greenpeace, Golden Rice is still unavailable — and a million more children are dead according to the story’s journalist, Will Saletan (@saletan).
Saletan spent one year researching evidence on the GMO debate, including getting Slate magazine interns to contact the manufacturers of 15 corn products bearing the non-GMO project label, asking each company whether its product included any ingredients sprayed with biopesticides. None of the contacted manufacturers could give a clear assurance that their products hadn’t been exposed to Bt.
At the time of posting this blog post the Slate story has received more than 136,000 shares on Facebook and 5,000 on Twitter — receiving outspoken support from a farmer, the general public and websites that support scientific literacy and are against junk science. The story’s a long read, but worth it to reach the end, especially if you’re not sure about GMOs.
To give you a taste, here are some key paragraphs:
“The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all declared that there’s no good evidence GMOs are unsafe. Hundreds of studies back up that conclusion. But many of us don’t trust these assurances. We’re drawn to skeptics who say that there’s more to the story,”
“The more you learn about herbicide resistance, the more you come to understand how complicated the truth about GMOs is. First you discover that they aren’t evil. Then you learn that they aren’t perfectly innocent. Then you realize that nothing is perfectly innocent.”
“It [the GE papaya] had been created by public-sector scientists, not by a corporation. It had saved a beloved crop. It had passed extensive scrutiny in Japan and the U.S. It didn’t cross-pollinate nearby fields. It also reduced pesticide use, because farmers no longer had to exterminate the aphids that spread the virus.”
“But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust… Second, the central argument of the anti-GMO movement—that prudence and caution are reasons to avoid genetically engineered, or GE, food—is a sham. ”
“That’s the fundamental flaw in the anti-GMO movement. It only pretends to inform you. When you push past its dogmas and examine the evidence, you realize that the movement’s fixation on genetic engineering has been an enormous mistake. The principles it claims to stand for—environmental protection, public health, community agriculture—are better served by considering the facts of each case than by treating GMOs, categorically, as a proxy for all that’s wrong with the world. That’s the truth, in all its messy complexity. Too bad it won’t fit on a label.”
Slate magazine story webpage: