139 comments on “Science Is Laughing At Us

  1. The Non-GMO Project certifies and labels non-GMO products. There is no reason to require everything with GMOs to be labeled. If people want to rely on fearmongerers to make their food choices then they can just buy certified non-GMO products.

    Great post by the way. The recent surge in the anti-GMO movement is what prompted me to do research on it as well. And I went from being part of wanting labels to wondering how the eff so many people got so convinced of such nonsense.

    Now I understand where that came from as well. Follow the money:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2012/10/22/the-roots-of-the-anti-genetic-engineering-movement-follow-the-money/

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  3. I cannot express my thoughts any better than the comment section on that last link. Read on….

  4. Very brave and smart post! I am impressed! What if we all could be as open minded and fair and seek the truth, not propaganda, like this.

  5. There is no proven harm from eat GMOs. Who said that was the only issue? There are huge issue about how Monsanto treats farmers. Some pollen blows into your field from a neighboring farm, presto lawsuit, you have stolen from Monsanto. Plants that create non-viable seeds to prevent theft from Monsanto, what happens if those genes end up in native flora due to cross pollination. Etc. Not everyone is against GMOs because they think they are unsafe to eat. They think GMOs are creating food supply issues where only a few corporations control a basic human need (food), and a potential ecological disaster. Imagine if one or two companies in the world were making moves to control the water supply.

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  10. Steve, then the issue is not about GMOs, but about stopping some companies’ strategies in the food market. But those kind of behaviors you fear occur in many markets, since the start of capitalism after the Middle Age. It’s everybody’s duty to choose laws and governments that protect people from the big companies’ lawyers and from them trying to control and monopolize strategic markets and needs (food, medicines, etc).
    Besides, plants that create non-viable seeds are often the best choice for farmers, but that variety, in the case of invading native ecosystems, would surely dissapear and replaced by wild varieties for obvious reasons.
    Sorry for my english.

  11. It’s always a great thing to be honest about changing your mind on a given issue, so first of all, well done for voicing your concerns.

    You may have already seen this (apologies if so) but I thought it was worth sharing. Mark Lynas went through a similar transition not too long ago, from being a strong anti-GM activist, to caring about what the evidence says; his post here is quite long, but you might find a lot of the content interesting and relevant to this topic http://www.marklynas.org/2013/01/lecture-to-oxford-farming-conference-3-january-2013/

  12. This statement is false. I’m having trouble understanding how something this blatantly false seemed acceptable for print.
    “SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE DOES NOT SHOW HARM FROM EATING GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD. Science tells us that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

    • @David
      There was a time I couldn’t have said it but after researching the topic, talking to scientists, farmers, and seeing what the real science says, there is no harm shown by evidence alone. Don’t just go by what activists say and renegade scientists who don’t like GMOs or have a belief that they are dangerous, go to your local university and talk with someone in plant genetics. Do it. Find out what they think, what they KNOW. Or just keep believing activists. It’s your choice.

  13. Thank you so much, Julee. I am a plant biologist who is deeply suspicious of Corporate influence on our society. Over the past few years, I have become utterly dismayed at the irrationality exhibited by the anti-GMO movement. None of the people in that movement seem willing to listen to academic scientists like myself who are shocked at the levels of ignorance that seem to be acceptable by otherwise intelligent people. When we try to object, we are inevitably called corporate shills, which is hilarious, since most of us could make far more money working for industry. As scientists, our job is to ferret out the truth, and we are deeply offended by people that favor propaganda and flat out lies. I’ve pretty much given up trying to argue about this, because it feels very much like arguing with Creationists or climate change denialists. We aren’t laughing, Julee, we are crying.

    • Amaize: I had to get to a place where I realized my beliefs were far-fetched, silly, ridiculous, and just that – beliefs – before I could change my thinking and accept reason and evidence, hence the use of the word ‘laughing’.

      I know it is frustrating and insulting for science to have to deal with people who refuse to see the truth.

      Thanks for your comment!

    • It’s also scary. Irrationality is inherently unpredictable and, when encouraged, can lead to violence. It’s why i, and possibly why others, have compared the anti-gmo movement to the witch hunts of the 12th through 17th centuries.

  14. Great post, one must give you props for intellectual honesty (disclaimer: I’m a scientist).

    I think the anti-GMO movement is a classical case of “Throw out the baby with the bath water”. I too am suspicious of big companies like Monsanto, but the problem is economic, it’s not an health issue, nor an environmental issue. Those big companies are making big bucks, because they have an unfair advantage, a system or regulations that protects them. This doesn’t mean GMO food is bad for our health, those are completely separate issues. The irony of it is that anti-GMO movement leads politicians to reinforce regulation that favors the big GMO companies (in general those regulations increase the costs of production, thus small farmers can not afford to compete with big companies, they can continue with traditional agriculture, but that’s not competitive – either way they go out of business).

    And like you say “well meaning folks can, unbeknownst, do more harm than good”

    • “The irony of it is that anti-GMO movement leads politicians to reinforce regulation that favors the big GMO companies (in general those regulations increase the costs of production, thus small farmers can not afford to compete with big companies, they can continue with traditional agriculture, but that’s not competitive – either way they go out of business).”

      Zed, You are very correct. Thanks so much for your input.

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  17. Dear Julie,
    Thanks for your post and perspectives on turning away from the anti-GMO movement. Regarding labeling, I have a hypothetical question for you. What it a group of people were convinced that harvesting crops on nights with a full moon was bad for you. The extra light would increase the production of toxins, leading to cancer and other ills. This group was demanding that foods harvested under the full moon would have to be labeled as such so that people not wanting to eat them would be able to avoid them. Can you imagine the effort that would have to go into labeling these foods on all products used with them down the food production chain, ensuring that they are not mixed with other (indistinguishable) foods, all for a reason that makes very little sense? And knowing that once labeled as such, people would be less inclined to actually purchase the food, and all producers would have to avoid harvesting with the full moon? This is what GMO labeling seems like to me. A pointless exercise that will only increase the cost of food for consumers. Maybe you should also think about the impact on GMO labeling and whether a simple label will allow people to assess whether that food is potentially harmful.

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    • Thanks for your comment. Once I had better information, I felt I had no choice but to moderate my views. It was painful at first but it got easier and now, from the vantage point of the every day consumer, I try to present the facts, the real truth as my subheading states.

  19. julie……can you please provide us with good science that shows the escape and spread of transgenes into the ecosystem is good for the environment and for all life in general…..i have yet to discover a good answer to this question…can you help?

  20. Shakti, as a non-scientist, I trust that scientists, specifically plant geneticists, know what they’re doing in the same way I trust that lawyers, accountants and hair-stylists know what they’re doing. They are the experts and no one understands the evidence regarding GMOs better than they do. They spend a lifetime studying this stuff. Research. Grants. Papers. Journals. Reputations. Careers. If the spread of transgenes into the environment were a great risk it would be commonly reported, discussed, repeatedly studied and written about. Moreover, specific solutions would be heavily sought after. This would be huge news. Don’t you think there would be a large group of scientists who would want to find answers to this dillemma? It would be career-making and fodder for the cover of imprortant science journals. Humans have manipulated plants for centuries and if anything, the process has become more precise, not less so. That is what the evidence shows. Science tells us that the benefits of trangenics outweigh the risks. Think of driving: you could get in an accident. Do you still drive? Does the benefit outweigh the risk? So though I can’t claim to understand or even be aware of every bit of science that speaks to the safety of GMOs, I regularly consult websites like Biofortified and GMOanswers when I need information.
    That’s all I have. I hope if was helpful.

  21. julee…..actually, i did not learn anything from your reply….my question is….what does science say about the benefits and safety of release of transgenes into the ecosystem? I am looking for the science….how can i “trust scientists” without being shown the science? Again, what are the benefits and why should I support this unprecedented release of transgenes into the wild….how will the ecosystem benefit??

    • The truth is, Shakti, I probably can’t answer your question in a way that will provide you the satisfaction you desire. As my own knowledge regarding GMOs has grown out of reading articles, consulting with scientists and occasionally looking at data, I have come to understand that traditional plant breeding is far more unpredictable than transgenics. I am comfortable with this fact but my knowledge is broad based. The specific information you seek requires one of two things: consulting reputable scientific journals (pubmed is a good start) for studies that have been conducted along these lines OR you can ask a scientist directly. I could ask for you, and am willing to do so, but the answer would not be my own. As I suggested in my last reply to you, I would directly pose the question in writing at one or both of these websites: http://www.biofortified.org/ or http://gmoanswers.com/

    • The benefits for us are increased yield and/or increased nutrition and/or fewer inputs for that yield. They are as safe as any other organism we have released into the exosystem. You have to remember that mutagenesis also introduces genes that never existed before in the mutated organism. It does this by directly mutating what genes are there. We have been doing this for many decades now. Nature also continuously introduces new genes, via mutations, into the ecosystem and does so randomly. We would not be here if this did not occur. Yes, Nature’s average rate is slow, but that is only an average. Nature can cause two or more mutations in quick succession, much like rolling snake eyes twice or more in a row. Notice that the ecosystem does just fine with the modified organisms we have introduced. They are not taking over the world, not even RR rapeseed, which only has an advantage if you spray glyphosate on it and it’s competitors. I don’t remember the ecosystem spraying glyphosate in the wild. If you have ever noticed a recently abondoned farm (i have), the ecosystem makes rather quick work (a couple of decades) of succeeding the area back to the prevailing growth that existed before.

      GMO’s can cross breed with wild relatives but the traits imbued into GMO’s wouldn’t confer any real advantage to the wild relaitves. Keep in mind that this cross breeding has always been happening with our hybrid and mutagenetic variations too and it’s also a two-way street. All of a sudden, when the particular trait involved happens to be from GE and not something else, it is made out to be a problem. I.e. DNA sequence changed from AGCT to ATCT from mutangenesis, no problem! DNA sequence changed from AGCT to ATCT from GE, Jeff Smith hits his head on the ceiling !

      By the way, every gene used in GE has been from something that is already in the wild.

      Am i a scientist? No. but i am an engineer with some familiarity with statistics.

  22. Genes that enter the wild from GMO’s may not confer advantages but they may persist anyway if they areneutral or vitually neutral for now. No one can say what effect these genes or desendants could have in the longer term. WHile it is true that natural mutations could also lead to issue further down the road that does not mean that GMO s are of the hook inthis regard. Saying they seem safe for now does not mean we KNOW they are safe and will always be safe. also if the creation of herbicide tolerant crops increases doesn’t it seem likely thatwe will see an increase of herbicide use?

    • I can say the exact same thing about any new hybrid or cultivar. So why is GE singled out? While it is true that herbicide resistance confered through GE will lead to some to overuse that herbicide, it is equally true that would happen if the that herbicide resistance was confered through older breeding methods. So why is GE singled out?

      And, so what if some GE genes persist in some of the wild relatives, especially if they are neutral? That, in of itself, is not a detriment.

      Since we can’t know with 100% certainty that anything we do will be safe for all time, then if we hold up all of our innovations to to that standard, we wouldn’t have even allowed the wheel to roll out !

  23. FO: great response and you articulated what I could not but wanted to. Many mutations release into our environment via mutagenesis (a traditional plant breeding technique) are less predictable than transgenes. We have been messing with plant genes for decades, even centuries. It is a fallacy to think that “natural” even exists at all. And THAT is what scientists know that non-scientists don’t.

    I also know and hear over and over that you can’t prove something is safe. You can only search for evidence that shows it is not. If the benefits outweigh the risks, you carry on. It’s called progress.

  24. First officer I dont say that GMO’s should be singled out we should be aware of possible problems from all angles.

  25. perhaps transgenes are singled out because they are transgenes…something that has never occurred in nature before….the artificial insertion of a gene from one species into a completely unrelated species….scorpion gene into cabbage….fish gene into tomato….natural mutations are very different than transgenes….it seems that it is almost impossible to predict the effect of the spread of these transgenes into the wild, since we have no history to look back upon for such a release….i think that is why there is a lack of scientific evidence that the spread of such genes into the ecosystem will bring benefits to humans and to the system itself

    • I’m sorry but there are no completely unrelated species on earth. The only difference between two species and two strains of the same species is simply the amount of divergent evolution. The genes manufactured in mutagenesis techniques were also never before seen in the species involved. And we do have models for gene spreading in the wild, from rice to wild rice and corn to it’s wild relative and so on. We’re all still here and so are they. The genes that are spreading don’t know they’re transgenic or not.

    • I think that is an excellent idea, along with the other techniques used for genetic modifcation used before GE.

  26. First officer- I’m glad you ae so condfident that there is not any possibilty of harm from Gmo organisms entering the environment. I do think that there is so far little evidence that GMOs are harmful to human health if consumed. However ecosystems and biodiversity can be quite fragile. Even introducing naturally evolved non-native organisms into some ecosystems has clearly and repeatedly been demonstrated to cause loss of biodiversity in some circumstances. This does noit mean I am advocating for the prohibition of GMOs or that people should sicken or starve to avoid their use- I am only (and IMO quite reasonably ) advocating for caution.

    • I really am. You mention that introducing a new species into a environment can have adverse affects. When i think about it, the only examples that come to mind are from naturally evolved organisms, from frogs to mice to cats, along with kudzu and other plants.* I really can’t think of any GE or mutagenetic organisms that have run amock. You might be tempted to mention rapeseed but, unless you are going to spray glyphosate all over the great wilds, RR rapeseed doesn’t act any differently than non-gmo rapeseed.

      You also speak for caution. With GE modifying far less genes than older methods plus affording the knowledge of knowing exactly what gene went where, coupled with all the testing done for allergens, animal studies and field testing, GMO’s are, by far the most heavily studied and safest technique used for developing new strains that is out there. So, you are getting the caution you advocate.

      *These, “non-native”, species introductions also occur naturally, through continental drift,climate changes and hitchhiking (seeds on birds, birds themselves, tsnunamis washing out animals and plants onto flottilas where some manage to survive long enough to make to another landmass. This is how animals and plants make it to new volcanic islands).

  27. Certainly could be perfectly safe or even an enhancement to biodiversity. My atttitude would be to watch carefully for signs of trouble- in direct contrast to what the usual natural resource management appoach has been whch is more like “I’m sure there will be no problems we’ll just wait for a cerisis before we adjustour strategies”!

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