Because I speak favorably about GMOs and how promising I believe transgenic technology is, I get a lot of push back from vehement anti-GMO types – here at the blog and on my sleuth4health facebook and twitter pages.
I frequently make the point that the technology is not only acceptable or tolerable to me, it excites me – not just for crops and food but in the field of medicine and across all of the life sciences. There are yet countless undiscovered ways to improve living organisms by changing DNA, with the precision of a surgeon. I know this frightens some but I’m thinking – how cool is that?
I am also often criticized because I once joined the ranks of the anti-GMO front, believing I was doing the right thing. I learned fairly quickly that I wasn’t. I was flat out wrong. Some say I caved or was won-over by greedy, corporate evildoers and what-have-you.
No, that’s not it. I just got better information.
But every now and again I get a supportive, zinger of a letter in my inbox and it reminds me that this volunteer blog that I do, this time-eater that nets me no cash and often a lot of flack, is really a good thing.
I’d like to post such a letter that I recently received and it meant a lot to me because obviously by its length, some time and thought was put into it. It’s from Stephen E. Cerier and he gave his consent for me to both post his letter and use his name.
He doesn’t mince words, and with the tone of a preacher calls out those who would ignore science. He manages to encapsulate a big chunk of the whole anti-science movement, and many of its subheadings, into this one letter. (I think the only groups he didn’t mention are the climate and evolution deniers and the chem-trail people – but then that is a bit far afield from GMOs.)
Thank you Mr. Cerier!
June 21, 2015
Dear Julee K:
I recently listened to the first podcast of Talking Biotech with Kevin Folta in which you were the guest. The podcast led me to your blog “Sleuth4Health.” I am very glad that you had the intellectual flexibility to admit you were wrong about GMOs and to recognize their potential to revolutionize the way we grow food.
I first learned about GMO technology in the late nineties and at the time I thought it was just another example of man’s ingenuity and ability to apply science and technology to increase food production and reduce the use of pesticides. I must admit though that I have been completely shocked and disturbed by the animosity that this technology has provoked. To a certain extent the bio-tech and seed companies and the scientists involved in developing GMOs and bringing them to market are to blame because they did not adequately explain the science behind genetically engineering. They should have been aware that anything involving modifying genes with regard to food would raise concerns and suspicions among the public. As a result, science has had to play catch up with the fear-mongers.
In your podcast, you indicated that the anti-GMO advocates rely upon scare tactics to spread their message. This is a classic strategy whenever the facts are not are on your side. It is much easier in this regard to frighten people then to reassure them and to claim the risks are much higher than they actually are. Who after all wants to take a risk with their health and put their loved ones in possible danger? But the reality is that the anti-GMO forces are misperceiving risk on a grand scale. We are about twenty years into the age of GMOs and there has not been one reported case of death or an allergic reaction caused by genetically modified food. Yet there are many people who want to ban it. The reality is that many of the opponents of GMOs engage in activities everyday that are much more dangerous than eating genetically modified food like performing yoga exercises, playing tennis and taking herbs, such as kava and comfrey that potentially have negative health effects. In 2013, 32,719 people died in motor vehicle accidents, yet no one would seriously argue that cars should be banned. The CDC has estimated that more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking, yet the opponents of GMOs seem to believe it is more dangerous than cigarettes.
The adversaries of GMOs deliberately choose for ideological reasons to ignore the strong scientific consensus behind GMOs. The most prestigious scientific institutions and academies in the world have endorsed the safety of GMOs. Among them are the Continental International Society of African Scientists, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian Academy of Sciences, the French National Academy of Sciences, the German Academy of Sciences, the Italian National Academy of Sciences, The Royal Society of London, the British Medical Association, the European Academies Science Advisory Council, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Cell Biology, the Australian Academy of Sciences, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. In other words the collective wisdom of the scientific community has endorsed GMOs. That alone would be enough for me to believe in their safety.
For the opponents of GMOs the endorsement of the world’s most prestige scientific organizations however is proof of a grand conspiracy that involves governments, the scientific community, the medical profession and agri-business. It is a conspiracy that is so vast as to defy belief and of course it is all controlled by the master puppeteer Monsanto whose revenue is actually slightly smaller than Whole Foods. Of course this does not make sense but then again it does not have to make sense because facts do not matter to the opponents of GMOs. Instead all that matters is maintaining their ideological purity and that ideological purity pertains not just to GMOs but to an agenda that is fervently anti-science. It is not surprising in this regard that many of the people and the organizations that strongly oppose GMOs also are against vaccinations, are proponents of so-called alternative medicine, promote all sorts of fad diets, including demonizing gluten, which have no basis in science, believe that organic food is healthier than conventionally grown food, for which there is also no scientific evidence and endorse bizarre detoxification regimes such as chelation. The Organic Consumer Organization for instance, which is notoriously anti-GMO, has posted articles on their website that are anti-vaccine, promote homeopathy and indicate there is a natural cure for Ebola.
One of the reasons that I am optimistic about GM technology is that there has never been an advance in science that has been stymied and bottled up. At times such advances have been slowed and delayed but they have never been stopped in their tracks. Imagine if the same objections that are being raised about GMOs had been raised about the polio or measles vaccine. Mankind would have been worse off if such luddites had won. When GM technology proves of great value in saving the orange crop in Florida and the cassava and banana crops in Africa from the ravages of disease, as was the case with the papaya crop in Hawaii, and providing Vitamin A rice and bananas in the Philippines and Uganda, the opponents of GMO technology will look awfully foolish and irresponsible.
Steven E. Cerier