Progressives Have a Science Battle to Wage

When the crusade against evolution emerged, scientists and educators and the skeptic movement rose to the battle.

When the crusade against vaccines was in full throttle, scientists and the skeptic movement confronted the fear-mongering campaign, (while the media fed it).

When the crusade against climate science got ugly, scientists fought back and when political action on climate change stalled, greens rallied to the issue.

Today, the hostile forces arrayed against evolution, vaccines and climate science are marginalized. They are not tolerated in the least by the scientific community and their pseudoscience does not go unchallenged in the media or science blogosphere. True, these unscientific forces still have have a hold on some segments of the public, but that’s always going to be the case. After all, 28% of American voters still believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks and 13% of voters think that President Obama is the anti-Christ. There’s never going to be a 100% rational-minded populace. The best we can do is keep the crazy in check and not let it infect the mainstream.

Which brings me to the insanity of the GMO debate. Why is it so unhinged? There’s a convergence of forces, of which these are representative: We have popular environmental media websites that play up asinine frankenfood tropes; we have popular food writers and scholars that wink at the anti-GMO movement’s distortion of science; we have a big environmental group that vandalizes research and whips up anti-GMO hysteria around the world; we have fringe types legitimized by a popular talk show host; we have a Pulitzer prize winning investigative journalist (who has written a best-selling book on food) who says of GMOs: “People are realizing, this is really scary stuff.”

So who are these people, by and large? Well, as numerous skeptic bloggers have started noting, including PZ Myers recently:

This strange unfounded fear of GMOs is unfortunately most strongly expressed in the political left. It’s embarrassing that political progressives are being made to look bad by raging superstition and unscientific claims.

It’s more than embarrassing. It’s downright hypocritical of progressives and enviros to call out others for “anti-science” behavior–be it denial of climate change or evolution–when they are the ones leading the crusade against biotech research and GMOs.

It’s like Newt Gingrich preaching family values. If progressives want to remain a credible voice on science, they’re going to have marginalize the growing forces in their midst that have strayed into the world of biotech pseudoscience and fear-mongering.

Green Party activists going about their business

 [Activists ripping up a genetically modified crop. Photo via the Telegraph]

93 Responses to “Progressives Have a Science Battle to Wage”

  1. Testify. I waged this one for years at DailyKos. Got nowhere, the site’s foodie darlings (without scientific background) had full sway on this.

    And it’s really helped to push me away from wanting to work with liberals on other issues too. And for many of them I don’t think their grasp of science is real–it just happens to coincide with what they want to accomplish. And people that lightly tethered to science and facts don’t make very good allies in the long run.

    It doesn’t seem to bother them that scientists–like PZ and most others I know in the mainstream of biology–are mocking them. Do they really want to push us away?

    And it’s unfortunate. Because if they could hear us (instead of the foodies) we could explain to them how this works. How that if they banned or labeled GMOs tomorrow, not a single thing they claim to want they’ll get:

    *reduced herbicide use
    *disappearance of patents
    *stopping monocultures

    But they don’t want us to be part of the conversation.

  2. Steve Crook says:

    It’s no mystery really, it’s all about belief systems. The science is irrelevant, it;s just a weapon being used by political groups that will pick whatever ‘facts’ they need to support their argument.

    My real concern is that at some point no-one will believe anything a scientist reports because they will have completely lost that aura of an impartial seeker after truth. It will automatically be assumed that they’re merely trying for another grant or sock pupetting for their employer or an NGO.

    The scientist as activist has done no-one any favours.

  3. Robert Wilson says:

    I was recently re-reading Stewart Brand’s “4 environmental heresies” piece from 2005. In it he predicted that the environmental movement would change their views on GM within a decade. Well, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

    At least the discussion has changed a lot in the UK in the last year. Greens now appear reticent to express views on the issue. Consider that Mark Lynas’s speech was roundly ignored. The same happened with the attempt to destroy a GM trial last year. Total silence. So, at least UK Greens have learned to pipe down about the issue. My guess is that the same irrational opinions hold, but for public relations purposes they aren’t as willing to express their real views.

    The same does not seem to hold in the US, where things are going backwards. Publicly expressed stupidity does not seem to have any bound, and so maybe Brand’s prediction that things should change by 2015 should be revised. How about 2115?

  4. kkloor says:

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking that Americans are becoming what Europeans were in the late 1990s to early 2000s–just batshit on GMOs. So weird that it’s happening now.

  5. bobito says:

    It’s the media, stupid!!! 😉

  6. Anon says:

    The worst attacks on science during the 20th century were from leftist governments, such as the Soviet’s Lysenkoism, where geneticists were executed and millions starved due to crop failure based on junk science and Lysenko’s rejection of Mendelian genetics.

    Both the Soviets and Maoists banned teaching of Big Bang Theory even after the POPE had accepted it.

    Leftists have never had a monopoly on sound science–they only like it when it suits them (control of economy due to climate change) but reject it when they don’t like it (GMO bad because associated with large corporations which leftists don’t like).

  7. Robert Ford says:

    Some call them “Left Wing Creationists.”

  8. Robert Wilson says:

    Indeed, why is it happening now? I can’t see any reason for it. It’s not as if there have been major scares over GM food, quite the contrary. It’s maybe the PuffHo factor. A sector of American liberalism has been made dumb by reading the PuffHo too much. At least that’s my saloon bar sociologist answer.

  9. Chris Allen says:

    Why don’t you go tell that to all those Indian farmers who were guaranteed crops better resistant to drought and with higher yield, who were lured into take out huge loans to pay for higher-priced seed… that FAILED and left them so deep in debt? You’ll have to hurry, because a great many of them SUICIDED over this.

    Why don’t you go tell this to the Canadian and American small farmers who’ve been put out of business by big Ags like Monsanto because patented GMO seed blew into their fields and grew there without their knowledge?

    Why don’t you go tell this to farmers who have traditionally saved seed for replanting (and traded or sold it) for *generations*—who are now under attack, again, by Big Ag companies (Monsanto and others) because Big Ag companies are attempting to monopolize the food market?

    Why don’t you go tell that to farmers who *used* to be able to save some seed and replant, but now are *forced* to buy new seed every year—because Monsanto and other Big Ag companies have created GMO seed that WILL NOT PRODUCE VIABLE OFFSPRING SEED—thus necessitating buying seed from them every year. (It’s much the same as if a car manufacturer created vehicles that would only run for 12 months and then fall apart—you’re saying you wouldn’t be upset to be FORCED to buy a new car every year, because the manufacturers rigged the system?)

    Why don’t you go tell that to scientists who are ever more concerned at how our food supply is relying more and more on less than a handfull of varietals in key crops, making us far more vulnerable to an entire crop being wiped out by disease? (Go study the Irish Potato Famine, and *why* it didn’t reach the same catastrophic levels in South America.)

    Why aren’t you discussing how claims that these GMOs will be more disease and pest resistant are false, how claims that they would reduce the need and use of pesticides and herbicides was not only false, but instead these GMO crops have created an INCREASE in the use of these chemicals? Why aren’t you talking about how the growth and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds has resulted in Monsanto, Du Pont, Bayer, and others creating even *stronger* chemicals as herbicides? Why aren’t you discussing the actual numbers of chemical use in farming, and how they’ve continued going UP?

    I’m sick and tired of shills and Big Ag supporters pretending the GMO argument is all about whether or not the various clinical trials and medical tests on how some GMO’s may or may not affect the human body are true or false! While you’re busy attempting to debunk that issue, there are many OTHER issues involved that you’re dancing over with perfume and rose petals, ignoring that they’re even THERE.

  10. kkloor says:

    Chris Allen,

    Where are you getting all this horribly wrong information? For example, you cite the Indian farmer suicide-GMO story. This is an oft-repeated myth, that I’ve discussed numerous times, including recently here:

  11. Buddy199 says:

    “It’s like Newt Gingrich preaching family values.”

    As hilarious as “the most transparent Administration in history” or Ted Kennedy promoting swimming lessons.

  12. Buddy199 says:

    The stereotype of the scientist as impartial truth seeker has gone the way of the I.R.S. employee as a green eye-shaded, apolitical public servant.

  13. factcheck says:

    There’s an interesting book on this very topic.

  14. kkloor says:

    Not exactly. Newt Gingrich really had the gumption to try and brand himself as the family values candidate. The Kennedy/swimming lessons crack is offensive (making a joke of someone’s death) and not analogous.

    But the Obama “most transparent Administration in history” reference would not only be accurately analogous and an accurate example of Obama’s hypocrisy.

  15. Buddy199 says:

    I take your point about Kennedy, as repulsive as I found him and what he did to that girl, off topic. I can’t stand hypocrites either.

  16. Robert Ford says:

    but that doesn’t really answer anything so that’s why it’s still a mystery. the mystery is why they believe this in the first place. I propose it’s because they don’t like things that aren’t “natural.”
    (fundamentally, i believe there are certain people with genotypes that are drawn to believe these things. with “extreme” mutations pushing people to believe in “crazy” conspiracy theories and ones that are more mild.) once one understands a little behavior genetics people seem like characters playing a role and the plot is very predictable.

  17. It actually existed way back. You can look through old posts of mine at DailyKos and see that it was going on. I think it just got amplified with better tools lately.

    The people who hate GMOs here are networked together and pretty good at social media. I think that’s true of the left here on other issues too. They are better than the right at social media tools.

    I can’t understand why the science and food writers went off the rails though.

  18. bobito says:

    Social Media is a good point, it’s fantastic at indoctrination since you are generally getting the information by way of “friends”.

    My wife recently read something on facebook (posted by a friend of a friend) about a lady that got breast cancer in the breast next to the front pocket where she always kept her phone. My wife will no longer put a phone in her pocket, even though I assured her that there is basically 0 chance it can give her cancer.

    I’m just waiting for a GMO post to hit her feed… our grocery bill is going to skyrocket when we switch to shopping at Whole Foods…

  19. Tom Scharf says:

    Don’t forget about nuclear power. Another bastion of anti-science thought on the left.

  20. Robert Wilson says:

    Yeah, possibly. Strangely the converse is probably true in the UK. Twitter response to Take the Flour Back and Lynas’s speech probably made UK greens wary of talking about the subject, aware that there will be immediate pushback. The UK anti-GM people are pretty silent. In fact I’ve pretty much not heard a single person from FoE or Greenpeace say a thing about Lynas’s speech. Mind you, I recall hearing that Greenpeace had an official policy of not talking about it, so maybe FoE do as well.

  21. Steve Crook says:

    Generally, those on the left don’t like corporate (big whatever). So climate change is Big Oil and GMO is big agribusiness. Exxon, Kochs or Monsanto grinding the faces of Indian peasants into the dirt.

  22. NeuronMD says:

    Or the compassionate conservatism that ended up committing war crimes and torture.

  23. NeuronMD says:

    All this doesn’t explain why many countries ban GMO like corn and wheat.

    Are they all “ignorant rubes”?

    BTW, some links to reputable studies on GMOs would be much appreciated. It’s one thing to rant against those who despise all things GMO, but that doesn’t make a more solid case in favor without some, I don’t know…data?

  24. Stefan Parol says:

    What utter crap. I now realize what this magazine is about- certainly not science, but progress as a holy grale. This smells like GMO lobbyism and 19th century. You stay away from our european acres!

  25. Wendy Redal says:

    Keith, I’m curious: do you think ALL the points this respondent raises are flawed (not just the Indian farmer suicide story)? I’d be interested in sources that refute some of his other points, if they are out there, because I thought there were legitimate scientific grounds to be concerned about stuff like increased pesticide resistance, seeds that won’t reproduce naturally (requiring farmers to buy new patented seeds each year), vulnerability of fewer diverse crop varieties, etc.

  26. Leonard Weinstein says:


    I think you will find that those who are skeptics on the issue of CAGW (not climate science-a red herring term) are in fact often those who support the validity of evolution, vaccines, and even that smoking is bad for you. Throwing the climate debate in with the others is junk thinking. In fact, the arguments are not on climate change (climate does changes, and always has) ), but the extent of the human contribution, and long term extent of the effects. The supporters of the extreme view of climate change as human caused and a major problem are in fact mostly in retreat, and many now admit the problem does not seem as bad as previously thought, and in fact climate may be mainly controlled by natural variation. To say otherwise shows ignorance of the present state of the debate, and of the data. The number of major scientists who are skeptics of the extreme position, including real climate scientists, is actually a large number, and most have actually independently looked at the issue in depth. In fact, a study showed that most who profess to support the extreme position are either part of a small group whose funding depends on their being a problem, or a large number of people (including scientists) who admit to not having personally studied the issue in depth, and they depend on that small group for information. I would be glad to give references to my comments, or to debate you on the issue. BTW, I agree with your position on most issues such as on GMO’s. It is only the issue of CAGW where you are on the wrong side of the issue.

  27. Robert Ford says:

    i guess it could all boil down to being “for the people.” Question for everyone: what is the most common denominator for these types? Populism and being for the People? Being a reactionary or contrarian? Equality at any cost?

  28. Debbie Friedman says:

    Please provide us with your list of independent long term health studies proving that ingesting GMOs is safe. Independent research does not include research at departments of academic institutions funded in large part by Monsanto, Bayer or other companies that stand to profit from the sale of GMOs and the herbicides sprayed on them. And can we also discount scientists such as Stephanie Seneff from MIT who recently published a study in Entropy linking glypohsate, which is the active ingredient in Roundup – which GMO crops are soaked with – to interference with enzymes in the body in such as way as to disrupt the gut bacteria and impair serum sulfate transport, meaning it may be behind the rise in diseases associated with a Western diet, such as gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease? Also, why is it that in the peer reviewed study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, scientists from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, detected the insecticidal protein, Cry1Ab, circulating in the blood of pregnant as well as non-pregnant women.
    They also detected the toxin in fetal blood, implying it could pass on to the next generation. Have scientists performed extensive long term health studies about how this is affecting our health or the health of our next generation? I’d like to see those studies as well. Before you marginalize people, including scientists and physicians, concerned about the safety of GMOs, and the herbicides they are sprayed with, on our health – please do your homework. The two physicians on the advisory board of the environmental health nonprofit I co-chair are Ivy League educated and long practicing physicians who both recommend that their patients avoid GMOs based on lack of long term health and safety testing and actual health and safety testing that is linking GMOs and the herbicides sprayed on them to serious chronic disease. Are they just flaming liberals with no scientific basis for those conclusions also?

  29. obamalover20122 says:

    I’m honored to be mentioned in both yours and PZ Meyers blog. Alas I was banned from the DKos. I genuinely believed my fellow Progressives would be swayed by the scientific one-sidedness of this issue. When they weren’t I was both shocked and angry and went on an angry rant, which resulted in my banning.

    I came to the realization that Progressives don’t care as much about the facts as they say they do…

  30. maroku says:

    The reason why the GMO debate is different than the other issues you’ve cited is that, although anti GMO activists are all too often pushing crap science, I agree with banning GMOs pushed by these huge corporations. Not because of possible health concerns, but because they bleed the small farmer dry. They force mono-cropping of cash crops. Farmer’s aren’t allowed to keep their own seeds. This is a huge issue in the global south. Indian farmers have committed suicide en masse due to these predatory practices. Farmers who have been able to feed their families and provide a variety of food to market for generations have been ruined by the silver-tongued promise of security through monocropping with plants that require the farmer to buy fertilizer or herbicides from the same company that makes the seeds. And they can’t keep the seeds for next year, either – they are copywrite material.

    So although I agree that it is an un-scientific viewpoint being pushed, I approve of big agribusiness being taken down. It is really, really hard to be heard when you’re trying to tell people that they’re wrong, never mind when you’re trying to tell them that they’re fighting the right people, just for the wrong reason. There’s no allies on either side. And I’ve got to say, in this case I’ll take the pragmatist view. Yes, the science is wrong, but they’re getting the work done. The Civil War was about trade issues and state’s rights, but it ended slavery. I don’t think you’d find too many abolitionists complaining.

  31. Oh, jeez, you got banned? I’m sorry. I left before that became my situation.

    But, as I said above–I tried the same thing there long ago. It only got worse as they drove out sane folks on several topics (econ was another one; there was one paleo diet fact piece by an archaeologist that was awesome, but they periodically drove her insane too).

    It would be nice to have them come around. But for now they aren’t worth it. CTers make terrible allies.

  32. dogctor says:

    Science is banished from this blog– it gets deleted.

    Keith is not here to educate the public.
    He is like a used car salesman… only he isn’t selling beat up Pontiacs, he is pushing GMOs.

  33. dogctor says:

    Please. You are not progressives and you are not even scientists– you are basically spinners and professional liars.
    Cry me a river.

  34. kkloor says:

    Browse around this post, which contains many good sources and links, particularly at bottom.

  35. kkloor says:

    Intelligence and Ivy League educations do not prevent someone from viewing this issue through a skewed lens. See, for example, climate change, where many educated and intelligence people think it’s a big hoax.

    Sorry, but I don’t take Stephanie Seneff seriously.

  36. kkloor says:

    “Science is banished from this blog–it gets deleted.”

    Absolutely untrue, but if you keep lying like that, I will banish you.

    Feel free to call me anything you like, but if you lie again like that, I will ban you. The only comments I have deleted (there were two in a post a few weeks back) was because of their repulsive, offensive content, not because of anything science-related. If anything, I err on the the side of freedom of speech, until someone becomes beyond the pale offensive and abusive.

    And what is that screenshot of, because I haven’t deleted any of your comments.

  37. kkloor says:


    Pesticide resistance is not unique to GMOs.

    As for some of the other points you echo from that commenter, I will instead refer to you this myth-busting post by NPR’s Dan Charles. That should answer most, if not all, of your questions.

  38. kkloor says:

    You are becoming abuse. You are testing my patience. I know how much you like to post at this blog, so you’re going to be really upset if I ban you. Don’t force my hand.

  39. kkloor says:

    It’s not clear to me what got you banned. I reread both posts and and can’t figure out what it is caused you to be banned.

  40. Joshua says:

    From just one paragraph:

    hostile, pseudoscience, unscientific, crazy, insanity

    That’s impressive, Keith. When are you planing your next post to complain about the polemics in the debates and to pledge to be more enlightened and move past the name-calling?

  41. dogctor says:

    Screenshots don’t lie–my posts with links to scientific articles are getting deleted by GMO advocates. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn how to do screenshots until recently, and usually don’t capture an image until after the posts are deleted.

    It started with Kevin Folta and Biofortified, before I knew about screenshots. Continued with Jon Entine’s blog- Genetic Illiteracy
    -your guest blogger Racheal Ludwig
    Yours is just the latest one.

    GMOs bring out the worst in “scientists”. They will smear any one, including Jane Goodall.

    They will NOT touch Monsanto’s studies suggesting they could be contributing to rising rates of kidney and liver disease, among others.

    And they will censor remarks stripping off the emperor’s clothes.

    It is perfectly OK for them to pile mud on venerable people, but while dishing out bile, criticism and verbal abuse–the hypocrites can not take it.

    April 1, 2013

    Dogctor/Ena, you’re banned. I’ve deleted your (multiple) cut and paste junk posts. Go away. I don’t need this to become a forum for childish invective.

    The censored ” junk” posts:

    The Physician’s Oath
    At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession:
    • I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
    • I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
    • I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
    • The health of my patients will be my number one consideration;
    • I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after my patient has died;
    • I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honor and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
    • My colleagues will be my brothers and sisters;
    • I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, gender, politics, socioeconomic standing, or sexual orientation to intervene between my duty and my patient;
    • I will maintain the utmost respect for human life; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;
    • I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.[6]

    Acute renal failure doubled over the last decade.

    CKD (chronic kidney disease) Prevalence
    • The prevalence of CKD is growing most rapidly in people ages 60 and older.
    • Between the 1988–1994 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study and the 2003–2006 NHANES study, the prevalence of CKD in people ages 60 and older jumped from 18.8 to 24.5 percent.
    ESRD Incident Rates by Race
    • ESRD incident rates are more than three times higher for African Americans than for Caucasians.

    ESRD ( End stage renal disease) Prevalence and Prevalent Rate
    • At the end of 2009, more than 871,000 people were being treated for ESRD.
    • Between 1980 and 2009, the prevalent rate for ESRD increased nearly 600 percent, from 290 to 1,738 cases per million.
    AKI Incidence
    • The number of hospitalizations that included an AKI diagnosis rose from 3,942 in 1996 to 23,052 in 2008.

    J Pediatr. 2013 Mar;162(3):496-500.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.08.043. Epub 2012 Oct 17.
    Increasing prevalence of nonalcoholic Fatty liver disease among United States adolescents, 1988-1994 to 2007-2010.
    Welsh JA, Karpen S, Vos MB.
    Department of Pediatrics, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA.
    To assess recent trends in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) prevalence among US adolescents.
    Prevalence of suspected NAFLD has more than doubled over the past 20 years and currently affects nearly 11% of adolescents and one-half of obese males. The rapid increase among those obese, independent of body mass index, suggests that other modifiable risk factors have influenced this trend.

    Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Is the number of EoE cases rising?
    Eosinophilic esophagitis is a disease that no one had heard of twenty years ago. Now although it is still not a household term, more and more people are becoming aware of this condition. So it does seem that EE has become more common over time. In fact, other allergic diseases such as food allergies, asthma, and eczema are becoming more frequent. The reason behind this rise is unclear, but there are a number of theories explaining why this has occurred such as Westernization of society, the hygiene hypothesis, or exposure to chemicals in our environment. None of thThis study noted an increase in prevalence over a three-year period from 2000 to 2003 going from 9.9 to 43 cases per 100,000 children. less

    Anti-GMO writers show profound ignorance of basic biology and now Jane Goodall has joined their ranks

    Why is there a pattern of censorship of posts containing scientific literature, Keith, from GMO advocates?

    One thing science is not is anything remotely related to Censorship and it says much much more about them and their fear of science than about me.

    (screen shot captured)

  42. Charlie123 says:

    I disagree. For many people the issue is labeling. I prefer wild-caught salmon to farmed salmon. I prefer the taste, so I am glad that the USDA requires that farmed fish be labeled. I don’t know whether I would prefer GMO food, because the industry lobbyists have prevented it from being labeled. Last year the industry dumped tens of millions of dollars into the California initiative to defeat a law which simply required labeling. One element of the “unscientific” opposition is simply the situation described in Michael Pollan’s book “The Botany of Desire”. After spending a day with a large-scale Idaho potato famer who praised “New Leaf” potatoes and discussed selling half a million pounds of New Leaf to McDonalds, he had supper with the family. He noticed that the farmer’s wife got the potatoes for supper from an unmarked bag. She said they were Russet burbanks, not New Leaf, because, as she put it, these are what our children eat.

  43. dogctor says:

    The only comments I have deleted (there were two in a post a few weeks back) was because of their repulsive, offensive content, not because of anything science-related.

    If you saved the deleted comments–post them and prove it, because You are lying, Keith.

    The first couple were months ago.
    The censored comment last week was a response to Kevin Folta suggesting an experimental design for a feeding trial.
    The last is depicted in the screenshot related to a literature review GMO -advocates deceptively misrepresent.

  44. Jsteps385 says:

    Honestly the biggest roadblock progressives face on any science issue is themselves. I can’t stand agreeing with people who spend so much time jerking off over how ‘they know it all’ and how anyone who disagrees is just a pitiable, primitive anti-science pundit. Even when they’re objectively accurate, I’d rather slam my head against the wall than side with them.

    So, my advice to you, on the side of science: stop polarizing the issues, and start thinking of how *everyone* in the scientific community has a war to wage, not just the progressives.

  45. Debbie Friedman says:

    It’s easy to mock someone; not as easy to prove the safety of GMO food. I still don’t see the long term independent scientific studies which show us that this genetically altered food we are all ingesting daily, mixed with herbicides, is safe. Do you also take issue with the massive rise in the use of herbicides on these crops? – and possible links to colony collapse? Do you think Monsanto would spend countless millions of dollars opposing GMO labeling – with lobbyists in every corner of every state and federal legislative office – if it thought its products were healthful and safe? Wouldn’t it want to promote its products? What about the nutrients in GMO food? Is there science to support that GMO-herbicide ridden food has as many nutrients as traditionally grown food without synthetic pesticides? I’ve seen only the opposite. So, if GMO food is less nutritious, may be harmful, requires massive increases in chemical sprays, make it more difficult for small and organic farmers to remain in business, and have not been proven to increase crop yields – is there a reason for us to continue to allow this food to dominate our food supply? Aren’t the only winners here the companies that supply the seeds and the pesticides/herbicides sprayed on the seeds, and the politicians whose campaigns are supported by those companies? Are liberals afraid of progress – or are we simply connecting the dots?

  46. I’m loathe to chime in but I noticed that disqus had spam-filtered a couple comments on my blog (not any of dogctor’s but other people’s). It seems if a comment gets enough down votes rapidly after posting they might be hidden. By default disqus didn’t notify me of spam-filtered comments so I didn’t realize it was happening for a few days. It’s possible dogctor’s are being hidden for that reason. Alternately, disqus may have implemented logic to spam-hide comments that look a lot like other comments (similar links, too many links, etc.) which might also be a problem.

  47. josh316 says:

    We should not forget the ‘creationist credentials’ that progressives unwittingly (but proudly) possess. The idea that evolution magically stopped at the neck (even though all empirical evidence says otherwise).

    And this doesn’t stop at empirical matters; it even effects their logical thinking. They do not , on the one hand, believe in race, yet they believe in racial differences in height, skin color, hair texture, brain size(NYT) etc., but one difference, intelligence, is a priori impossible.

    Liberal scientist, Neil Risch, believes that racial differences in intelligence require more proof than other propositions because of racism (which means political reasons).

    So liberals are now doing exactly the thing they accuse conservatives of : letting politics influence their science.

    A liberal may respond that racism is a bad thing, so we need to tread cautiously. But this is purely political. There are many people who think racism is quite a good thing; it’s only bad for liberals, just like atheism is bad for Catholicism.

  48. josh316 says:

    Your deleting of my comment demonstrates exactly the point I made in my now deleted comment. You can’t win 😀

  49. kkloor says:

    Those two comments I referred to was from someone else–and they had only to do with the terribly revolting nature of their content.

    I have never deleted a comment from you or censored you.

    I have been informed offline that those screenshots you are showing are from someone else’s blog–who has banned you.

    Do you want to apologize or do you want me to ban you.

  50. tekowalsky says:

    Two questions:
    1. How is this a “wide ranging blog” if it only ever discusses GMOs?
    2. The author of this blog is described as a journalist. What are his scientific credentials?

    All I’m seeing is post after post of polemic, denigrating the opposing point of view, entirely through the use of character attacks. I don’t see any scientific data being brought forward to support one point of view over another.

    From an objective point of view, this blog bears all the hallmarks of a paid shill, or a true believer. Not the writing of a scientist.

  51. kkloor says:

    If you are being banned from blogs—I am aware that you are banned from two–you should ask yourself: why me?

    Anyone who looks through my comment threads–for example, look at the thread containing over 400 comments from post last week on the “cartoonish Monsanto march.” The vast majority of them are from anti-GMO people.

    I don’t censor anyone so long as they are not personally abusive. My comment threads speak for themselves.

    It is your behavior that is getting you banned from those other blogs and it is your behavior that will get you banned from this blog.

  52. kkloor says:

    The last few weeks has seen a heavy concentration of GMO-related posts, because there has been a lot of stuff to discuss.

    I am not a scientist—there are plenty of science bloggers who talk at length about data. You should visit them.

    As for by background, you should go to the sidebar on the right and see the “About Keith Kloor section.” I haven’t gotten around to adding “paid shill” to my bio.

  53. plutarchnet says:

    The crusade against evolution in the US emerged in the 1920s, not 2004 (date of your link). It succeeded in passing the ‘monkey’ laws — outlawing the teaching of evolution. Turning point was Scopes _losing_ his trial in 1925. Other states had or added such laws in the following decades.

    The crusade resurged in the early 1960s, in reaction to the reaction to Sputnik in 1957. First reaction being the US deciding that maybe it should teach good science in its science classes. Creationist reaction being renewed campaign against evolution, leading to the founding of the Institute for Creation Research. Not until 1968 did the supreme court rule laws against teaching evolution unconstitutional (Epperson v. Arkansas).

    Scientists, educators, and skeptic movement did not accomplish much, or attempt much, for those decades. Even through Edwards v. Aguillard (1980s; ruled that calling young earth creationism ‘creation science’ did not make it science to be taught in public school science classes) few scientists (etc.) were involved.

    It was around this time that scientists and educators started to react, founding the National Center for Science Education. Even today, their membership is only about 5000. And the successes of the anti-science groups are still going on (see action alerts page, most recently Louisiana).

    Recently they’ve added climate science to the sciences they work on defending as the attacks on it have grown to significant numbers, including legislatively as well as classroom by classroom.

    It’s curious, though, that you dismiss the attacks on evolution and climate science as ‘marginalized’. One cannot run for office in a number of states, or nationally, for one of the US’s major parties if you declare acceptance of the science on those topics. Not infrequently, it is part of the party’s platform to reject the science. Is this the case regarding GMO’s?

    You mention the 28% as marginalized for evolution and climate. Yet present no figure for how many are on the anti-GMO crusade. If it’s the 7%, size of those who believe the moon landing is a hoax, you’re working on swallowing camels while straining gnats.

  54. kkloor says:

    Thanks for the larger historical perspective on anti-evolution attitudes, which I was aware of to some degree. I should have been more precise and specified that I was referring to the latest incarnation–the intelligent design/teach the controversy movement.

  55. kkloor says:

    So now you’re tone trolling, as well. I guess you can’t help yourself. I could have thrown batshit in there, too, I suppose, but I’ve already used that one too many times.

    I’m not sure how you would characterize views that subscribe to the beliefs that GMOs cause cancer, liver damage, autism, or that Monsanto is deliberately poisoning the earth and trying to sterilize humanity, etc, etc.

    I realize that people who believe this stuff are not going to appreciate having these views characterized as crazy, but I never expect to reach any of these people, anyway.

    I guess you missed the recent post where I was careful to distinguish between a batshit view (such as Donald Trump being a birther) and the person who held the view, who I don’t think is crazy,

    But you stay on your trolling patrol if you like and keep tsking, tsking when I use words like pseudoscience and unscientific.

  56. disqus_bbJIFQzTEx says:

    Unfortunately, GMO’s are NOT PROVEN to be without any as of yet unrealized and unacceptable costs. However one cost GMO is already proven and that is the cross-contamination of GMO crops with NATURAL crops, which means that one day we do find out that an unacceptable cost of GMO products that it will by then be too late, because most of the crops will already have been corrupted world-wide, leaving us with no way to go back to known safe crops!

    How many times have science been pushed on us and sold to us which have unacceptable consequences? Take the case of BPA’s used to make plastic softer, now being pulled off the market. Take the case of Teflon in cooking, now being taken off of the market. Take the case of lead based paints, taken off of the market. PCB’s! All of these examples were sold to us as scientifically proven to be healthy and a good VALUE to us, and yet everyone of them came at a cost which was not realized until much later.

    What I also mean is look at nuclear power, the pro nuke energy are those who want us to pretend that they can provide us with an accurate cost, yet we do not know how many Three mile islands there will be, we do not know how many Chernobyl’s, we do not know how many Fukushima’s, nor do we yet know of all the future INCIDENTS experienced at nuke power plants, nor do we know how many that are worse is yet to be experienced.

    We also do not yet know the amount of land and water will be poisoned and no longer usable by us, all in the name of SUPPOSEDLY cutting the TEMPORARY COST OF ENERGY! The cost is so far hundreds of millions of people maybe even a billion or more people irradiated, with over a million people literally dying of radiation over a shorter term.

    What happens not if, but when the current so-called civilization fails, and our inheritors come into their planet? People who have to live in lands poisoned by nukes and chemicals and perhaps with who knows what kind of life forms not currently in existance, with waters like-wise poisoned but to differing degrees and differing types of poisons and then have to deal with nice shiny metals they found in highly refined form, metals that look quite lovely and have a magical feel to them, perhaps alloyed into eating and cooking equipment, magical metals like uranium and plutonium?

    Look at the sugarcane toad problem! A SUPPOSEDLY QUICK SOLUTION to a problem which is in itself a LONG TERM PROBLEM!

    These things are NOT an IF, they are already happening AND/OR ALREADY HAPPENED, and all of these things were sold to us by government and by science and by scientists and by those who make money off of selling all of this to us, sold to us as being good for us!

    Take also the fact of corn fed cattle verses foraging cattle. Corn fed cattle have more Omega-6. Whereas cattle fed with regular diet of what they would normally forage from, are higher in Omega-3, we need more Omega-3 but we do NOT need so much Omega-6

    So if we have a skepticism about GMO foods is not unrealistic but is in fact a FACTUAL RESPONSE TO BEING LIED TO BY THOSE WHO DO NOT YET KNOW THE COST!!!

    Therefore this is NOT a case of nervous people shouting the sky is falling the sky is falling, this is a case which already has consequences which no one was even warned about BECAUSE GMO CONTAMINATION OF NON-GMO/NATURAL FOODSTOCKS IS ALSO ALREADY PROVEN!!!

    I like the idea of foods which are better, easier to grow, better for us to eat, and less predated on by various life forms which compete for our food, but this idiocy of using and contaminating forever is utter lunacy! If they had tested GMO crops on an island at sea for 100 years MAYBE then, but that kind of testing has NOT happened and will now never happened.

    So whom is exactly living with their heads in non-reality???
    The reality based skeptical people?
    Or those people who want whatever they want RIGHT NOW no matter the future cost kind of people?

  57. Jose Falck-Zepeda says:

    Yet the formal peer-reviewed economic impact literature seems to tell us otherwise. See our literature review here: and a special issue with case studies in different countries …Just considering a bit of logical reasoning here. If farmers were being “bled dry” why would they continue to sow the same seeds year after year?. I can understand a farmer making a mistake one or two years in a row…but in some cases ten or more years as farmers in the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Honduras, Spain, and other countries have done?…seems like a stretch. Farmers in a 10+ year mirage? I don’t think so.

  58. plutarchnet says:

    In that case you’re only off by 1-2 decades. The founding document, so to speak, was Kenyon’s _Of Pandas and People_, written during Edwards v. Aguillard. Then ‘creator’ word replaced, in 1987 after creationism lost, with ‘intelligent designer’. Substantial momentum then came from Phillip Johnson’s _Darwin on Trial_ in 1990. This on its own lead to resurgence of ‘teach both sides’, which had never gone away. Thence to the Discovery institute in 1996 beginning its serious promotion of intelligent design creationism. And multiple attempts in multiple places to mandate its teaching in classrooms prior to you noticing it in 2004.

    Kitzmiller v. Dover, filed in 2004, was after over a decade’s work from people like the NCSE trying to keep science being taught in science classes, and religion not taught in public school science classes. Including fighting against the relabelling as ‘intelligent design’ the former ‘creation science’ that lost in Edwards v. Aguillard. Lauri Lebo has an excellent write up of this case, and surrounding issues, in _The Devil in Dover_.

    The antiscientific groups are successful enough that only about 28% of biology teachers teach the science

    Above, you’re happy to call that level a marginal group.

  59. Bob Garwood says:

    One of the problems in studying the health impacts of GMO food is that there are no comparable studies of the long term health effects of the comparable non-GMO food. At least that’s the reason most often cited when you ask where are the long term GMO studies. It’s hard to study that when you don’t really have a good handle on the internal risks of the control group.

    As far as the anti-labelling argument goes. I do think Monsanto would do that even if they thought it was safe. Because there’s clearly a large segment (probably a majority) of the population who would view a label like “This product may contain ingredients from GMOs” as equivalent to the warning labels on cigarettes – i.e. “this product will probably kill you in the the long run”. i.e. from Monsanto’s perspective this is a health warning and not an informational label and since they don’t view this as a health issue they’re fighting that label.

  60. Tom says:

    They’re not all yours. You don’t speak for all Europeans, buddy!

  61. Karl Zimmerman says:

    It’s my understanding that GMO crops tend to have less herbicide than conventionally farmed (non-organic) crops. I’m not sure what any of the points about herbicide have to do with it.

    More generally, we live in a world full of genetically modified crops already – albeit ones which have been created through artificial selection and crossbreeding over thousands of years. And genes jump from species to species frequently due to the effects of retroviruses. There are bad outcomes which could result from GMO crops in terms of local ecosystems, but these are no worse than those we cause all the time by introducing plants into environments they aren’t native to.

    In the end, it’s a technology, and all technologies are morally neutral. Is it misused by capitalism? Sure. I particularly think the patenting of crops has potentially awful implications down the line. That said, that’s more an issue with rapacious companies and proper regulation of business than GMO in and of itself.

  62. kjmclark says:

    Because GMOs aren’t about science, they’re about profit. The science is genetics, and there are lots of ways to use that science that provide benefits to humanity without the potential dangers of splicing species together that are utterly unrelated. There’s a big difference between the *science* of genetics and the *engineering* of genetic engineering.

    Try this example: “This strange unfounded fear of *nuclear weapons* is unfortunately most strongly expressed in the political left. It’s embarrassing that political progressives are being made to look bad by raging superstition and unscientific claims.” Sure there’s the science of nuclear physics, but the engineering of that science into weapons of mass destruction isn’t really something we need to applaud, is it?

    Genetically engineered crops are an unnecessary use of the science of genetics, intended to make corporations rich. Any value to humanity they can provide can just as well be provided by using the science of genetics to improve plant breeding, without the dangers of releasing dangerous mutations into the wild.

  63. Andrew Kiener says:

    The problem with this post, like so many re GMOs, is that you go from a basically reasonable complaint about corporate practices to the completely mythical (at least at this point) “dangerous mutations” with no indication you understand that one of those is real and the other imaginary.

  64. obamalover20122 says:

    I think it is because I called some of the commenters conspiracy theorists. Their argument is “Yeah maybe all the science is against us, but that is only because all of the scientists are paid off by Monsanto, and until you can prove they didn’t get a dime of grant money from them I think GMO is B.S.”

    Basically the same argument anti-vaxxers make against research on vaccines and Phrma. The similarity between the GMO truthers and the anti-vaxxers is striking.

  65. Peter Vintner says:

    Turning this into a “leftie” issue doesn’t help. The human population of the planet cannot simply be divided into “lefties” and “righties”. Stereotyping people in this way is merely counter-productive. Education is always the way to go, however difficult.

    I’d go so far as to say that all this political stereotyping stuff is pretty infantile, indeed pretty irrelevant, and symptomatic of the state of debate outside the science. Shame.

  66. Peter Vintner says:

    It’s called pandering (to ignorance, prejudice etc) for votes. Politicians are mostly in business to get you to vote for them, not to educate you.

  67. jh says:

    “Education is always the way to go, however difficult.”

    I don’t think education does a damned thing for most people. We’ve been trying to educate the creationism out of Americans for nearly a hundred years. Fat lot of good that’s done.

  68. kdk33 says:

    There really is no fun in arguing about GMO. Could you post something obnoxious about climate science or religion or some progressive missive on the benevolence of big government, which is much more fun. I”m getting bored.

    BTW, Monsanto is a fine company, as far as I know. And I don’t use roundup – it must be off patent cause I can get the generic version at Tractor Supply. I don’t much like corn.

    Bring back the climate porn!

  69. Susan says:

    Keith, this post of mine was deleted, however, I have decided to make it into a small gif (albeit not too creative).

    Maybe, it came across as being too offensive? (you being on the pro GMO side of the fence)

    Taking the risk of being banned I have decide to post it again. Note, I have never been banned anywhere and infrequently post comments on any blogs.

  70. Peter Vintner says:

    We? Very funny. 🙂

    Everyone is educated, however poorly; just not in the way you might like. It’s important to understand why people believe the things they do in the first place – they aren’t born believing anything, so there are huge cultural obstacles. And science isn’t a matter of belief so much as critical thinking. Very many people don’t even understand what science is, and from your attitude to education it’s not clear you do.

    But if it’s as you say, and education doesn’t do a “damned thing”, then what do you suggest? Lining people up and shooting them? Or maybe dispense with the lining up and just shoot?

    I have to say your attitude towards education is little different from those who say “science doesn’t know everything”… so god exists. No wonder you aren’t making progress – it’s not clear understand what education is and what it entails.

  71. kjmclark says:

    And your post shows that you aren’t married to a genetic researcher, like my wife, with an honors degree in cellular molecular biology from a major university, who actually does genetic research for a living.

    You’re using the term “mythical” when you mean “hypothetical”, when in reality the correct term here is “has only happened in limited circumstances so far.” It’s like saying “mythical” nuclear plant meltdown in 1982 or so. ‘Cause, you know, 3 Mile Island didn’t *actually* melt down, and nuclear plants won’t ever really have a problem. And then Chernobyl. But I’m sure that’s mythical too.

  72. Wil Post says:

    Oh noez! The beef rancher is having mutton for dinner!?!

  73. First Officer says:

    Huh, since all life on earth is related, there are no utterly unrelated species. The only difference between two strains and two species is simply the amount of divergent evolution.

  74. First Officer says:

    Many countries specifically allow GMO’s. 36 to date. There are also many countries that ban all public expressions of religion except the state sanctioned one. I think the popularity vote is a poor measure of scientific validity.

  75. First Officer says:

    I attended 2 anti-nuclear rallies in my life. The first was decidedly anti-nuclear weaponry. Then i attended one in New Paltz, NY, thinking that would be the same. To my surprise, it was anti-nuclear power and i left. That was the last one for me, back in the early ’80’s.

  76. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, it seems as though the GMO conversation will mimic the strangeness and, sadly, the longevity of the climate wars. Are you going to be able to stomach this all over again?

  77. Tom Fuller says:

    Umm, Ms. Friedman, pardon a question from someone who hasn’t followed the issue with your intensity, but in places like the U.S. and Brazil, where GMOs have been part of the daily diet of millions for decades now, what harm has been observed?

  78. Tom Fuller says:

    Trivial differences in phenotypes such as melatonin content, muscle fiber twitch speed, etc., can arise in as few as 8 generations. They are not a good indicator of movement towards speciation. There are to date no observable differences in brain structure between what we call for convenience ‘races.’ And the differences in measured intelligence are greater within races than between them. When controlled for health, education and household income almost all of the differences disappear.

  79. kjmclark says:

    Fine. Get there by breeding then. Good luck with that. If you can’t get there by breeding, we shouldn’t try.

  80. Kevin Folta says:

    Keith, no right wing organization will ever have the cojones to ask me to talk about climate, stem cells, or evolution. But the lefties can possibly bring us in to discuss these issues of food. I’ve gone into the lion’s den of liberalism and we’ve tipped a lot of beers and at least re-prioritized their concerns. I’m glad to talk to them. We agree on everything else. We only disagree on this one point, and it’s only because I know the topic inside and out.

    Call me lefty friends. Don’t be the anti-scholars of the left. Glad to help, anytime.

  81. Kevin Folta says:

    Debbie, there is no toxin in fetal blood. If you believe that report, then you don’t know how to read a paper. They say, the protein is “not detected” or is present in amounts lower than their standard curve. It is noise. It does not exist.

    Your evidence is not good and I don’t care what physicians THINK. What do independent, public, academic scientists KNOW?

    I invite you to contact me anytime at I can answer any of your questions. You’ll feel a lot better!

  82. Kevin Folta says:

    Hi Ena, Keith is on to a good point here my dear. Clearly we are looking at a science vs. belief issue. I know, you are compelled by figures in papers and I do appreciate that at least you look at them. That’s great. But how do we replicate the work? Where are data from multiple sources? These are extraordinary claims and need the best evidence against them.

    I’m here, I’m glad to help design experiments or find funding to repeat anything you find as suspect. If there is a legitimate issue here, help me frame it, test it and we’ll publish it together.

    But it starts with honest discussion. What is the hypothesis we need to test? Let’s do it. I’ll help write the grant.

    This way nothing is deleted, we go forward together and all is transparent. You know where to find me. Best wishes. kf

  83. josh316 says:

    ” There are to date no observable differences in brain structure between what we call for convenience ‘races.'”

    Of course there are. Even the NYT admits as much.

    “And the differences in measured intelligence are greater within races than between them”

    OK, so in saying this you admit that there are differences. That’s good. To put it bluntly, only about 12% of blacks are as smart as an average white person. You don’t think that has implications?

  84. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, I can’t read the NY Times where I live so you’ll have to provide a quote. Of course there are differences between individuals. That’s why we use the term individuals.

    I’m not a fan of sociologists in general, but they’re absolutely correct about this. It is not a fallacy.

    I had the chance to study this when The Bell Curve came out. You’re parroting a lot of bad studies masquerading as science. You’re wrong and I suspect you know it.

    The bottom line is, if you keep a minority impoverished and living on a diet of lead paint and crack cocaine, a lot of them are going to look pretty stupid when you sit them in front of a Stanford Binet test. But it means nothing about native intelligence, no matter what letter you use for it.

    And the minute you step outside the United States it becomes perfectly obvious.

  85. Mike Bendzela says:

    One of the most egregious–or is that stupidest?–features of the Aris and Leblanc “study” on Cry1Ab allegedly found in pregnant is that they try to link it to consumption of genetically modified corn products, but they admit in tiny print in a footnote that they didn’t even attempt to determine whether or not the women even ate such corn, let alone control for it! And yet this crap gets continually referenced, day in, day out.

  86. First Officer says:

    Yup, If man was meant to fly, Gawd would’ve given us wings !

  87. First Officer says:

    Being married to someone doesn’t automatically give you a vulcan mind meld to your spouse’s education. Case in point, above.

  88. ronaldmsonntag says:

    The problem with GMOs is not just because of GMO. It is because time after time we suffer from the unregulated greed of corporations who basically use the public as their own guine pigs. How many thousands or millions have to suffer from cancers and other health issues that come to light decades later when the disease clusters are finally recognized and correlated to exposure to these products?

    Why is it that we progressives have to explain such a basic concept that a corporation greedy enough to sell seeds to farmers in developing countries that are only good for one crop are MORE than capable of pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes on the “harmlessness” of GMO corn or soy that is resistant to pesticides? Doesn’t anyone in your group have the brains to connect anti-biotic resistant bacteria and pesticide resistant insects?

    We live in an increasingly connected world. Dumping more and more chemicals into the environment in a hopeless war against insects, who can evolve far more rapidly than we can evolve our chemical attacks is a lose lose proposition where the losers are the 99% of us that don’t stand to gain one cent from those unregulated and in most cases PUBLICLY subsidized profits and the rest of the plant and animal kingdoms that do not even have a voice in these decisions.

    The solution lies in our intelligence for how to work WITH nature rather than trying to bludgeon her into submission!

  89. kjmclark says:

    Yes, but when I pointed out my comment, she said that indeed, one of the first things they discussed in the ethics section of one of their genetics courses was that once you’ve released it, you can’t get it back.

  90. JuHoansi says:

    You can tell when science has become a religion when people start using “anti-science” as an argument.
    To your point, nuclear power is rightfully feared for all kinds of rational, practical, economic and yes, scientific reasons.

  91. JuHoansi says:

    What is it the left is supposed to believe has been “created”?

  92. JuHoansi says:

    Wait, I thought those were the tenants of conservatism?

    It’s conservatives who are anti-science.

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