Want to make yourself public enemy number one in an instant? Say something, anything, that might be construed as a case for GMOs and it is a foregone conclusion.
Are you a popular celebrity?
Are you a household name?
Has your knowledge and expertise been highly regarded in every other way up until now?
Are you funny? Entertaining?
Are you an astrophysicist who breaks complex topics about the universe down into manageable pieces so regular folks can understand them?
Have you been a strong voice for logic, reason and rationality on several well-known television shows?
Are you one of the most recognized science communicators of our time?
Did you have to gently break the news to children far and wide that Pluto isn’t really a planet?
You might be Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The new Cosmos guy. The old Nova guy. The insert-science-channel-here, cutesy astrophysicist guy who makes everything fun and digestible, with graphics and special effects and stuff. You used to want to have him over for dinner and pick his brain.
Until he told you to chill out about GMOs. Now he works for Monsanto. Bastard!
(The creationists must be having a field day with this!)
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Even as I write this I laugh but I also know there is truth to it. The anti-GMO public has turned on a dime to rally against Tyson because of his admonition to “chill out” about GMOs.
In case you haven’t seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvJKDIxuSmQ
Below are a few excerpts from his facebook page, followed by selected comments:
Interesting to see the range of reaction to my GMO remarks. One blog proclaimed “Tyson tells Liberals to Chill Out”. When in fact I never mentioned anything about politics or political affiliations at all. Other blogs proclaimed that I supported GMOs, asking if I was paid by Monsanto. And in other places, the reaction could only be described as virulent.
As in all new foods, transgenic or otherwise, they should be tested for safety. [how many times do I need to say that?] And they should be tested for their effect on the environment. If the regulatory system is failing at this then it should be modified. And if the tests indicate a risk to the health of some humans and a benefit to others, then this should appear on the labeling. By the way, we already do this for peanuts, to protect people from peanut allergies. But there’s no talk of banning them.
Imagine if today, scientists showed you the Aurochs Wild Ox, and said — “Give us time. In just a few years, we will genetically modify this wild animal, turning it into a different sub species whose sole purpose is to provide vast quantities of milk for humans to drink. They will produce 10x as much milk as did the original animal. But they will require vast grasslands to sustain. And some of you will get sick because you won’t be able to digest the lactose. But no need to label this fact. People will just figure this out on their own. The rest of you will be fine. We’ll call the result a Holstein Milk Cow.”
What would anti GMO-laboratory people say this story? Would they embrace it or reject it? Of course, over the past 10,000 years, this is exactly what we’ve done to that Ox – or whatever is the agreed-upon origin of the domesticated Cow. Call it GMO-agriculture. If you reject GMOs you fundamentally reject it all.
Finally, I found it odd that people presumed I was taking sides. As an educator, my priority is to make sure people are informed — accurately and honestly. For the purposes of general enlightenment, but especially before drawing policy or legislation that could affect us all.
I have nothing more to add. Or to subtract. On to other topics for me.
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Now some of the most misinformed comments.
Hybridization is vastly different from GMOs. Hybridization can naturally occur in nature, the act of the breeder choosing one mother over another because of a certain characteristic. GMOs are taking genes from a different species and splicing them in to the DNA creating something unnatural. Some of these have been found to cause cancer or diabetes in lab animals. We deserve to know when we’re being experimented on and the products should be labeled…
People who don’t get physically ill from eating GMOs can naysay all day long, but it does not change the fact that many humans cannot digest these types of foods, and they are making a lot of us sick.
Well alls I can say is that we clearly fucked with wheat too much. Even just 20 years ago people didn’t have the problems with it that they have now. It makes me break out terribly, I avoid it like the plague.
I trust that Mother Nature knows best. Monsanto can suck it – evil bastards!
Perhaps your name should be Neil Idigress Tyson?
By the way maybe you should be as explicit in your conversation as you are in your back-pedaling, Hmmm?
There were of course serious pleas with links to articles by the likes of Thierry Vrain and, ugh, the ‘expert’ among experts Jeffrey Smith’s Institute for Responsible Technology. In case you are reading this and don’t know, Jeffrey Smith has ZERO background in science, biology or genetics. He is an activist with an agenda.
Then out of the darkness a refreshing voice of reason:
Thank you for taking the time time to explain the details. In a soundbite-driven world, the facts get twisted and moved so easily because people just skim the headlines. Thank you for working to fix it and also for being ready to move on instead of engaging in endless, unwinnable debates.
S4H: I especially like that this last commenter mentioned that Tyson is ready to move on to new topics. He is not obsessed with defending his position. He doesn’t have to be because he knows he is right.
The maelstrom of comments go on to fry in their own grease and I notice Tyson isn’t engaging. He really has moved on.