The Economist: Anti-GMO Greens are "Unscientific and Dangerous"

Over a year ago I wrote a piece for Slate entitled, “GMO opponents are the climate skeptics of the left.” I pointed out that, when it came to biotechnology, certain environmentalists and supposed food safety advocates acted similar to those who denied the scientific consensus on global warming. Mark Lynas recently tweeted a good example of this:

My Slate piece gave anti-GMO greens heartburn. It also didn’t please climate skeptics.  So I can well imagine how both groups will react to a new editorial in The Economist, which carries this subhead:

Greens say climate change deniers are unscientific and dangerous. So are greens who oppose GM crops.

The policy implications of GMO opposition, which is what the editorial is about, is something I plan to delve into in the near future. Also, as I mused several days ago, I don’t think mainstream greens will be able to stay (mostly) silent on this issue for much longer.

86 Responses to “The Economist: Anti-GMO Greens are "Unscientific and Dangerous"”

  1. dljvjbsl says:

    Why would mainstream Greens be concerned with this? They have denied scientific evidence on nuclear energy for decades. In Ontario, cosmetic use of pesticides has been made illegal despite the scientific evidence that they are safe. Indeed if anyone tries to bring “weed and feed” fertilizer in for New York state, it will be confiscated at the border and handled by the hazardous material unit dressed to the nines in their hazmat suits. Greens have the same convenient connection to the scientific method as do all political groups.

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    “Greens have the same convenient connection to the scientific method as do all political groups.”


  3. mem_somerville says:

    Oh, c’mon, clearly The Economist is in the pocket of the Illuminati/NWO/Monsanto/Elsevier. INME. The new Über-conspiracy theory.

  4. First Officer says:

    A great GE Debate from Hofstra University, NY

  5. jh says:

    The anti-GMO – climate-skeptic comparison isn’t a very good one.

    Anti-GMO activists of the left are more akin to the The-female-body-has-ways-to-shut-that-whole-thing-down wing of the right than they are to climate skeptics, many of whom have only recently turned to the right to stem the rise of the climate nutters on the left.

    Here’s a basic comparison of GMOs to climate change:

    There are no outstanding scientific questions being debated about GMOs: they’re 99% safe. There are minor side effects (come contribution to the generation of resistant pests), but no one argues about these. The scientific community accepts them and is continually working on solving these problems.

    OTOH, there are many and significant questions remaining about climate science, not to mention the science of mitigation or the huge array of economic issues surrounding mitigation.

    Science issues with climate?

    Unlike GMOs, which can be tested for safety in a variety of ways, there has been little significant testing and verification of climate model outputs. That kind of testing has begun in the last few years, but it has a long, long way to go.

    Second, the “extreme weather” meme has no observational basis much less a sound theoretical one. It would be generous to call it an hypothesis – it’s really nothing but speculation.

    After that, of course, are the projections about costs/results of mitigation, all of which is on very, very shaky scientific ground.

  6. jh says:

    Ontario is also a leader in robbing the public to pay for insanely overpriced solar and wind power.

  7. Keith Kloor says:

    The planet is warming. This is because of man-made activities, like the burning of fossil fuels. This is not arguable. My understanding is that many climate skeptics don’t disagree with this. (Or is that many just think the warming is marginal?)

    There are worrying present impacts and potentially future consequences of this continued warming that pose considerable (though unclear) risks that can reasonably be projected if no action is taken to reduce carbon loading of the atmosphere. My understanding is that many climate skeptics contest present day impacts, future projections and this overall risk assessment. In doing so, they willingly disregard the consensus scientific judgement.

    Additionally, agenda-driven partisan climate skeptics often distort the science and engage in tactics that attempt to cast climate science in a disreputable light.

    These tactics, combined with the aforementioned rejection of a climate science consensus, is what makes climate skeptics very much like anti-GMO greens, who also distort the science of biotechnology and reject the consensus on the safety (and environmental benefits) of GMOs.

  8. Graham Strouts says:

    I’ve been contesting this with Keith for some time now and have written several blog posts on the issue, including this one and this

    jh above has it completely right- GMOs and AGW are completely different kinds of scientific issue, validated in quite different ways. The first is relatively straightforward-repeatable lab expts show GMOs to be safe and in that way they are no different from many other plant breeding methods eg mutagenic forcing (which the Greens are ok with). AGW is multi-tiered and cannot be directly validated (except in hindsight).

    “The planet is warming. This is because of man-made activities, like the
    burning of fossil fuels. This is not arguable. My understanding is that
    many climate skeptics disagree with this. (Or is it that many just think
    the warming is marginal?)”
    Bravo! yes many so-called “skeptics” (a term that has no real meaning) are simply questioning the extreme alarmist position that has been used to advance the cause (blame Al Gore)- there is NO CONSENSUS about how dangerous AGW may be, it is a subject of considerable, ongoing and quite legitimate scientific discussion. The only bit that is “settled” is that other things being equal CO2 will exert a warming influence. Nothing else- least of all what to do about it is settled at all! I dont really see that Keith has explained what he means by “climate science” anywhere- there are simply heaps of different and very complex issues, and much of the evidence simply isnt strong enough either way.

    The main point that Keith and many other seem to miss is that the ideology of GMO alarmism propagated by the Greens is exactly the same alarmism on AGW- often propagated by exactly the same people! This seems just so obvious and inescapable ( I give numerous examples in my posts). So at the very least, it should be accepted that there is just as much anti-science on the PRO-AGW side as on the “skeptic” side.

    Yes, there are no doubt skeptics who lay loose with the science as well, claim CO2 can only be beneficial etc; I see these as very marginal (and I am not sure if I have even seen Keith ever give a good example of this?) The point is, this kind of “denial” of science ONLY exists as a not surprising response to climate alarmists who want to ram ineffective policies down our throats and use the same scare-tactics as the anti-GMO crowd to do so. Not to mention ofcourse they are usually anti-nuclear aswell, which shows they dont really care about CO2 in any case…

  9. jh says:

    The planet is warming. This is because of man-made activities, like the burning of fossil fuels. This is not arguable.

    Agreed, with this caveat: man-made activities are very likely the largest contributors to warming. I think many skeptics would agree.

    “My understanding is that many climate skeptics disagree with this.”

    Watts, Curry, Monckton, McIntyre, Pielke Jr, Pielke Sr, Lindzen, Spencer – certainly every skeptic that’s testified before Congress – all accept the basic premise of the AGW hypothesis.

    Of course there are a few nutters out there that don’t accept the basic science. But that’s not the situation for most climate skeptics.

    Everyone has an agenda. You do. I do. I want prosperity, and I’m 110% sure the climate agenda is a great way to destroy it for nothing.

    There are…potentially future consequences of this continued warming that pose considerable (though unclear) risks

    If the risks are unclear, how do we know they are “considerable”? I agree that we can dream up any number of apocalyptic scenarios and “support” them with a few generalizations. That doesn’t mean these scenarios present “considerable” risk. The risk of these scenarios is nearly completely unknown.

    “There are worrying present impacts…”
    I can think of three established present impacts:

    1) temperature rise.
    2) arctic sea ice melt, and ice melting in general.
    3) sea level rise

    Excluding temperature rise, the degree to which others are caused by general warming is not well established. Certainly that’s the case with arctic ice melt, which is far ahead of model projections, suggesting the models aren’t capturing something very important.

    if there are others, could you refresh my memory? I tend toward skeptical information sources.

    “rejection of a climate science consensus”

    The difference between GMO and climate science is that GMO needs no consensus. The safety of GMOs – insofar as we can know it – has been repeatedly tested and verified with experiments. Climate models are not experiments.

  10. Tom Scharf says:

    One difference is on one hand you are believing in the current safety of today’s GMO’s, which has been established, not that you couldn’t create a dangerous GMO if you wanted too.

    Skeptics disagree, or do not trust, many of the alarmist projections of climate science which has not been established (as in the future is not set). A consensus view on what may be dangerous a century from now is a lot difference from a consensus view of what we have in front of us today.

    The track record of climate science predictions has not been stellar, and the science on which it is built (climate models) have not established good prediction skill.

    I don’t trust climate models, and I especially don’t trust the motives of many activists who interpret this data. Activism in climate science has become a credibility cancer. If these guys are so right and on the side of angels, why is it not working? Nefarious deniers? I very much doubt that. The simple answer is weak science unsupported by the observations.

    Probably the bigger issue is the proposed solutions to this risk by the AGW followers, it tends to be particularly ineffective in solving said problem. The best thing we’ve done lately is natural gas and this was fought the whole way by the protectors of the earth.

    Too much unicorn chasing and ideologically rigid policy prescriptions. Good intentions is not equal to good policy.

  11. Graham Strouts says:

    Yes great points. Keith also needs to engage with the fact that there are different kinds of climate skeptics eg point 8 in Tamsin Edwards’ post:

    A more interesting question raised by jh ‘s post is why some people are suspicious of climate scientists as activists and not so much of biotech scientists- one reason is that the science is much more “classical”- repeatable lab expts- and therefore transparent, and the policy then uncontroversial; while many AGW skeptics see specific policy objectives as influencing the way the science is interpreted and delivered, as LaFramboise argues wrt the IPCC.

    These green AGW policies are entirely in accordance with anti-GMO activists’ agenda: roll back industrial society, make a virtue of poverty, be suspicious of technology, forcibly reduce the human footprint.

  12. J M says:

    The link between GMO rejection and anti-GMO activism is clear. The anti-GMO activists have been able to stop the use of this technology in Europe and Africa and in some parts of Asia.

    However, I do not think climate skepticism plays any real role when governments decide on whether to cut emissions or not. Japan, China, South Africa, Poland, the US, Canada etc…. it’s about the costs. Skeptics do make convenient scapegoats, that’s all.

    I think that certain climate scientists have done their fair share casting climate science in disreputable light. However, the big picture is clear: the planet will warm eventually.

  13. jh says:

    I’ll address one other purported danger regarding climate change. Keith, in so many words you have already shot this one down yourself :

    Tipping points.

    The tipping points meme basically says that, if humans perturb climate (via any means) we may push some earth system toward an unforeseen “tipping point,” where some sudden catastrophic change may occur and cause (at the very least) great hardship to human civilization.

    Keith, do you see how you’ve already shot this one down?

    Implicit in the idea of “human perturbation” causing tipping points is this assumption:

    Nature exists in a state of perfect balance.

    In other words, the meme is predicated on the belief that, because nature is in perfect balance, human activity will ruin the balance and thus can only lead to worse outcomes than the “natural” progression of events.

    Without this assumption, there’s no way of knowing whether human actions will take us closer to or further from some hypothetical tipping point.

  14. jh says:

    A good point, but let me note:

    I’m not suspicious of climate scientists at all. Well, perhaps there are one or two exceptions. Nor am I suspicious of people like Nutticelli and Romm. Their agenda is as out in the open as it will ever get. They’re not interested in science any more than anti-GMO activists.

    What I see in climate science is a group of people strongly persuaded by a short-term trend that developed in the 80s and 90s. They built models to reproduce that trend then closed the book. Now that that trend has clearly fallen apart, they’re at a loss for anything but ad-hoc explanations.

    It’s all the more reason to push harder than ever to prevent major carbon-related legislation – the longer this legislation is prevented, the more clear it will be that its a waste of public resources – as the Europeans are already discovering.

  15. GM Judge says:

    There is a problem with this bold generalisation,
    “Greens say climate change deniers are unscientific and dangerous. So are greens who oppose GM crops”.
    Climate change is clearly weighted heavily in favour of science but in the case of GMOs the science is unmistakably on the side of the opposition.
    Pro-GM ‘scientists’ inevitably reveal themselves to be paid corporate stooges, marketers, spin doctors, damage controllers and/or cleverly trained public relations manipulators.
    Those speaking up in opposition to GM technology in food, do so independently as representatives of the clear majority of the real science community.
    To compare climate change deniers to GM opposers is just another example of devious corporate propaganda. Only true independence gives us access to ethically sound debate on this topic and indeed, any topic.

  16. mem_somerville says:

    There is a problem with this bold generalisation

    Says one who goes on to make bold and ridiculous generalizations about the evilness of the entirely-paid-for people who disagree with the righteous GM Judge and Judge’s team–the team who assault public and academic scientists on a regular basis with fraudulent shouts of shillery.

    But I’ll confess–it’s true: you can really only trust folks selling alt-med detox potions, cookbook writers, and professional fear-mongers on this topic. It has to be true, because it’s so pure. That makes sense, right?

  17. J M says:

    The sad Seralini rat study was retracted last week. Corporate stooge Seralini received 1.5 million euros for the study from the founder of Auchan, second largest retailer in France. Also Carrefour, the second largest retailer in the world, has supported Seralini.

    Auchan’s GM-free product launch has done well in France.

  18. dljvjbsl says:

    Drugs are tested for safety and efficacy under a rigorous scientific regime. Failures in drug testing could lead to a disapproval of a drug and if approved in spite of this enormous civil and criminal liability. Climate science and climate science policy studies (such as the IPCC) are quite in contrast to this. There is no concept of rigor beyond peer review which has been discredited.

  19. dljvjbsl says:

    Kieth Kloor writes:

    These tactics, combined with the aforementioned rejection of a climate science consensus, is what makes climate skeptics very much like anti-GMO greens, who also distort the science of biotechnology and reject the consensus on the safety (and environmental benefits) of GMOs


    A reasonable question about this is about the utility of the concept of “consensus” Consensuses may be more or less uncertain. Just because there is a consensus view does not mean that there is a view that the results in the consensus are certain or have much utility for policy creation. so the issue is not that there is a consensus but whether or not the consensus is useful.

    It could be argued quite strongly that with the failure of the climate models that the climate science consensus is not useful for policy makers beyond some very broad statements. This is not good news. We are faced with serious and potentially very serious consequences of AGW and have no useful science with which to guide us. Unfortunately the response of the climate science establishment is to circle the wagons and claim a utility that is not justified

  20. theLaplaceDemon says:

    “Pro-GM ‘scientists’ inevitably reveal themselves to be paid corporate stooges, marketers, spin doctors, damage controllers and/or cleverly trained public relations manipulators. ”


  21. Daniel Stolte says:

    Unscientific? Sure. But why dangerous?

  22. Keith Kloor says:

    Yeah, I wondered about that, too. I think it’s a perhaps reference to the vandalism of research and/or implications of anti-GMO opposition, how the scaremongering and disinformation campaigns have affected agricultural policy in developing countries, especially in Africa.

  23. Kehvan says:

    Exactly… if there were a UN ran Intergovernmental Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms who was regularly prognosticating on the apocalypse to follow if we don’t heed their advice on GMO’s, then I’d be completely suspicious of GMO foods.

  24. carolannie says:

    I wonder why an editorial in the Economist should carry so much weight?

  25. Buddy199 says:

    After seeing what a great job our governmental central planners did “fixing” the Middle East over the past 10 years, and are currently doing “fixing” health care, I don’t want to end up dying in a Jurassic tropical swamp or world-wide Arctic glacial wasteland if they get the chance to fix the climate.

    Call me a skeptic, but given the track record of our self-styled best and brightest, at this point I’m much more worried about their cure than the disease.

  26. Loren Eaton says:

    What planet do you live on? ‘Those speaking up in opposition to GM technology in food, do so independently as representatives of the clear majority of the real science community.’ Jeffrey Smith, Vandana Shiva, Claire Robinson, Mike Adams are part of the ‘real science community’? Those in the OCA and Greenpeace are independent??

  27. Loren Eaton says:

    Nice catch! Just follow the money!!

  28. Ripshed says:

    One of the most irritating things about the anti-GMO movement is their claim that they represent regular “salt-of-the-earth” sort of people which couldn’t be further from the truth. The organic food industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and are gulty of the same tactics that anti-GMO activists assign to Monsanto and the like.

    True, they’re not as wealthy as the big-name ag companies but they do have lots of money to go around promoting these anti-GMO laws and start these smear campaigns, in addition to funding bogus scientists to do their dirty work (i.e. Seralini).

  29. dljvjbsl says:

    Universal healthcare is accepted around the world except in the US. Drugs are tested rigourously be government agencies. Pure food regulations and public health testing protect the public from food and water-borne contaminants. it is not government per se that has created the problem with climate science. indeed one could say that it is the abdication of responsibility by governments to activists and including activist scientists that are causing the problem.

    I have never understood why the climate science effort could not be run the the Large Hadron Collider, any of the large telescopes etc. In these large projects, problems are identified and addressed. Resources are allocated. Teams of thousands of physicists, engineers etc are effectively mobilized and scheduled. Climate science, in contrast, despite the possible catastrophes, is organized informally with decisions left to unaccountable cliques. There are no responsibilities assigned. There is no accountability. An engineer building a bridge can be sent to jail if his design is defective. Climate scientists just “Move on” from their failures. Something is very wrong with this.

  30. Buddy199 says:

    Unlike the search for the Higgs boson or surveying Mars for evidence of water, climate science has entangled itself in a morass of left of center politics and policy prescriptions. That’s where the resistance actually comes from. A purely scientific effort, such as the Large Hadron Collider, usually has uniform backing from all political sides because it doesn’t involve a fundamental ideological reworking of the economy, health care, or other interests directly affecting the lives of many millions. Climate science was hijacked as a vehicle of convenience by those wishing to push a ideological and political agenda, it’s battles are overwhelmingly ideological and political at root.

  31. Dominic Michael Salerno says:

    Peer review has not been discredited. Though imperfect, it is the best way to publish science. However, time is the greatest reviewer and it all shakes out in the end.

  32. dljvjbsl says:

    Drugs are not tested by peer review. NASA did not send rockets to the moon under peer review. There are many other systems than peer review. The coordination of a large effort to deal with a potential global catastrophe cannot be managed in the same way as publication decisions in academic journals. Just as with drugs, decisions that can materially affect the world climate and world economy cannot be left to shake out in the end.

    Major world-affecting decisions cannot be guided by the academic politics of survey articles such as the IPCC reports

  33. Chimel says:

    There are a lot of conservative GMO deniers too. I am a “green”, even worked in organic farming and plan to come back to it, I think GMOs should be allowed in organic farming, especially cisgenics. Genetic engineering is still the best way to introduce a single gene into an organism. For instance, the stem rust resistance gene from one resistance variety into another variety. Conventional selection means half the genome from one plant is introduced into the other, not just one gene. And the genome of wheat is even bigger than that of man, so you can imagine all the years you’ll have to spend regressing the undesired traits until you get a wheat that visually looks like what you started with, just with the extra desired gene, but internally still has thousands of genes different from the original plant. I think we should be a million times more concerned with conventional selection than with the genetic engineering technology.

    On the other hand, while genetic engineering (GE) could be used for good purposes,such as saving the African wheat crop that is plagued by stem rust that I mentioned (not that GE is the only way to fight it), so far the technology has been used for ethically dubious commercial purposes such as selling Roundup or Liberty herbicide, and soon 2,4-D too, or having the crop produce its own Bacillus thuringiensis insecticide in every cell 24/7, which may or may not affect other useful insects, such as pollinators or pest predators. There are still many questions that the biotech firms are not answering, and I’d rather have more independent studies done about them. In any case, genetic engineering has not been about “feeding the world”, as claimed by these biotech companies. Yield increase still mostly comes from conventional selection, apart from the indirect yield increase that comes from the reduced pests.

    Unfortunately, idiots like Séralini who sabotaged his own independent 2-year GMO toxicology study do nothing to advance the scientific knowledge about GMOs, only to fuel the debate.

  34. Frank Bainbridge says:

    Just because an organism has been genetically modified doesn’t mean it’s inherently dangerous, though some modifications may be. The layperson (myself included) doesn’t know enough about the science involved to make judgement without hard evidence. Any uneducated opinion is based on emotion, not science. As far as global warming goes, the Earth’s climate has always been in flux. Do humans contribute to this? No doubt. How significantly? Compared to volcanoes, shifts in the Earth’s axis, variations in our magnetic field and changes in solar activity, our contribution is small. Though perhaps not insignificant.

  35. jh says:

    Hi Keith,

    I recall a few other confirmed effects of warming:

    1) animal habitat ranges shifting N
    2) earlier spring bloom (eg, longer growing season)

  36. Tom C says:

    “..that can reasonably be projected if no action is taken to reduce carbon loading of the atmosphere.”
    Keith, I’m going to assume for the moment that you don’t have scientific training but were instead schooled in the liberal arts. The sentence above makes sense for a person who “thinks with words” as do most persons with your background and education.
    if you “think with numbers” as do most scientists and engineers, you might realize that this sentence contains the big lie of CAGW: namely, that “action can be taken”.
    According to the AGW “story” CO2 started to rise in the late 1900s as a result of the burgeoning industrial revolution. Think about that. If true, it means that even then, with 1/6 the population of the earth that we have today, and virtually no industry, the earth had already exceeded its cpacity to take up the excess CO2. So, to truly reverse the accumulation, we would have to reduce the CO2 output of 6 times as many people who now have a reasonable expectation to drive cars, have comsumer goods, etc. to that pre-turn of the century level.
    it ain’t gonna happen. If it warms, we adapt.

  37. Loren Eaton says:

    I agree with almost eveything you said except, “genetic engineering has not been about “feeding the world”, as claimed by these biotech companies. Yield increase still mostly comes from conventional selection, apart from the indirect yield increase that comes from the reduced pests.” That’s a strawman. Everyone in the industry knows that INTRINSIC YIELD was not a target for Bt and RR. They’re there to prevent yield LOSS due to weed pressure and insects.

  38. Chimel says:

    Yes, that’s why I mentioned it, but very few people are in the farming industry; the biotech companies address the consumers, policy makers and the general public when they make such claims about saving the world. As it is, farmers are forced into contracts which oblige them to buy Roundup, not generic glyphosate, or Liberty, not generic glufosinate, and not to replant the seeds they harvest. I understand the biotech companies need to turn a profit, it’s a business, but profit seems to be what drives their initiative, not feeding the world. There are now several weeds that are resistant to Roundup, some actually use the stuff to build the molecules they need because it’s a cheaper shortcut than the long photosynthesis way, some bugs are growing resistant to Bt too, so it seems that the result was a short term one and that the initial yield gain is starting to regress, or at least it is becoming much more costly and complex to manage pests, requiring the plantation of “refuge” areas, or using “refuge in the bag” seeds, or alternating between Roundup Ready and LibertyLink GMOs, or using stronger doses of pesticides, or using different (and more toxic) herbicides, etc. I frequent a farmers forum daily, it is amazing how most long time farmers look like beginners, because they have new problems every year, seed varieties are changing every year, deer population explosions are causing damage, no control over both the entrant costs or the crop prices or the global market, GMOs vs. non-GMOs, tillage vs. no-till, etc. In a way, it is a good thing, because it means that there is always something to learn, but it is also a bit sad to see many of them so lost behind so much technology, required knowledge, and changes, when weather used to be the main variable.

  39. jh says:

    Imagine a climate policy dreamed up by the likes of Richard Mueller or Ernst Moniz. It would be much different than what we see today coming out of the UN-sponsored Green parties called “climate summits”.

    The research science culture has no responsibility or mandate to deliver verifiable results on any particular topic. This is what “basic research” is all about – it’s supposed to cast about and build hypotheses about basic relationships. It’s not meant to be high-precision engineering.

  40. daniel wilson says:

    Just label the food. Why does Monsanto and other super powers spend tens of millions of dollars to block GMO labeling? If there is nothing to hide, why not be transparent?

  41. Laurence Topliffe says:

    There are Laws of Nature that determine all aspects of how a plant and animal should and will grow. These Laws prevent dna from one being to be inserted into the dna of some other being. In other words, parts of the dna of one being are not supposed to be anywhere except where they are. If this wasn’t true, then it would already have happened because different animals interact with other animals and plants all the time, almost during every season. When humans bypass the Laws of Nature, they are violating the Laws that are responsible for the balance in nature. An imbalance in the human body presents symptoms that indicate a sickness and some of them lead to death.

  42. Loren Eaton says:

    Why don’t people who want GM-free just pay extra for the testing and labeling to have their favorites verified?

  43. theLaplaceDemon says:


  44. TeresaG says:

    Lets talk antibiotics does anyone remember when they were freely given because they supposedly were the miracle cure for disease. Over and miss use has caused super bugs. GMOs have been genetically altered to be resistant to pests. This has caused SUPER BUGs to evolve. Who knows what else was changed and down the road you will find something worse or not. But the arrogant notion that we know everything and are experts at Gene Modification, therefore, we can emphatically say they are safe. Well pride goes before a fall and we are no where near expert enough to say the genetic modifications we are doing no harm.

  45. daniel wilson says:

    Oh, that is simple. Why don’t the taxpayers fund an agency that regulates food and drugs. Maybe we could call it the Food and Drug Administration? However, because of the corrupt patent laws, testing can’t be done without Monsanto’s approval. There is testing, but it is done by Monsanto.

  46. Laurence Topliffe says:

    If there weren’t Laws of Nature that govern how things happen, there would not be a universe, let alone you, yet the universe has existed for billions of years. Based on those Laws, we have rockets, airplanes, cars, computers, we know the age of our planet, ancient civilizations, scientists can do brain research to find out how the brain functions during sleep, dreaming, mental illness, etc. If there were no Laws of Nature, science would be useless and none of the things that our civilization relies on would exist.

    Who Should You Believe When it Comes to the Safety of
    Genetically Engineered Foods?

    December 11, 2013 AlterNet
    By Jill Richardson

    Controversy and genetic engineering go together like peanut
    butter and jelly, so naturally, there’s another brouhaha over genetically
    engineered (GE) crops in the news. Back in 2011, a French study led by
    Gilles-Eric Séralini found that rats fed Monsanto’s GE corn were more likely to
    develop tumors than rats fed non-GE corn. The study was published in the
    journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, the same journal that routinely publishes
    Monsanto’s own studies finding that its GE corn is safe to feed to rats. Now,
    over two years later, the journal retracted [3] the Séralini study.

    So what’s going on? Does GE corn give rats tumors? How about
    people? And how do Americans, the vast majority of whom are not scientists,
    know what is safe to eat? Here’s a look at what the Séralini study found, why
    it should not have been retracted, and how to tell the difference between valid
    and bogus claims about GE food.

    Both Monsanto [4] and Séralini’s [5] feeding studies follow
    the same general model. Get a large group of a type of rats called
    Sprague-Dawley and divide them into groups. Feed some groups GE corn and feed
    the others non-GE corn. Occasionally test their blood and urine, and watch to
    see if any get sick and die. At the end of the study, euthanize the remaining
    rats and dissect them to check their organs. Pretty simple, right?

    Here are the differences. Monsanto studied its rats for only
    90 days, but Séralini studied the rats for two years. Monsanto used twice as
    many rats — 20 male rats and 20 female rats in each group — as Séralini.

    Then there’s the corn used. Both studied a variety of
    Roundup Ready corn called NK603. (Roundup Ready means that the corn resists
    Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, so cornfields can be sprayed by Roundup, killing
    the weeds and leaving the corn alive.) In addition to the Roundup Ready corn
    that was sprayed by Roundup, as a control they used what’s known as a “near
    isoline.” A near isoline means corn that is genetically identical to the
    Roundup Ready corn, with the exception of the Roundup Ready gene. The near
    isoline corn was grown in the same location at the same time as the Roundup
    Ready corn, so they would be as similar as possible.

    But each study added some additional groups. Séralini
    examined groups fed Roundup Ready corn that was never sprayed by Roundup. He
    also studied rats fed a control diet but given water spiked with Roundup
    herbicide. The extra groups would help find out if any impacts of the Roundup
    Ready corn were attributable to the Roundup and not to the corn itself.

    Monsanto, for its part, added extra groups called “reference
    controls” that obscured its data. Rats fed reference control diets were fed
    various kinds of non-GE corn grown in different locations.

    Whenever Monsanto found a statistically significant
    difference between the Roundup Ready rats and the control rats, they could
    often dismiss the differences by saying that the results of the Roundup Ready
    rats were within the normal range for the reference control rats. Michael
    Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, compares this to a pharmaceutical
    company testing a drug. If the group taking the drug gains 10 pounds and the
    control group doesn’t, it’s not okay for the pharmaceutical company to brush
    that off because a 10 pound weight gain is a relatively normal occurrence
    within the wider human population.

    Monsanto, of course, concluded that its Roundup Ready corn
    is perfectly safe to eat. Séralini did not, because more rats fed GE corn
    developed tumors than rats fed non-GE corn. What accounted for the different

    Perhaps it’s because Séralini’s study continued for two
    years, whereas Monsanto ended its study after 90 days. Imagine a study of the
    health of a human population. You’d find more disease among a study that
    continued to age 80 than you would in a study that ended at age 30.

    There’s also the different sizes of the study groups.
    Monsanto studied 20 rats per sex per group, and Séralini studied only 10.
    However, Monsanto only gathered and analyzed blood and urine from 10 rats per
    sex per group. So, in essence, the study groups were the same size for many of
    the measurements taken.

    Séralini’s study is not conclusive. As Hansen and others
    point out, the number of rats in each group is too small. “However,” Hansen
    adds [6], “Both the French Food Safety Agency (ANSES) and the European Food
    Safety Authority (EFSA) have agreed with Dr. Séralini that such long-term
    safety assessment should be done on GE foods.” The European Commission
    announced on June 28, 2013 that it would spend 3 million euros to do just that.

    So why did the journal retract the study? In its statement
    [3], Food and Chemical Toxicology noted that the study was neither fraudulent
    nor did it intentionally misrepresent the data. However, there were concerns
    with the size of the study groups and the strain of rats used. “Ultimately,”
    the press release concluded, “the results presented (while not incorrect) are
    inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food
    and Chemical Toxicology.”

    “This really is a scandal,” Hansen says when asked about the
    retraction. He points to the journal’s own policy for what merits a retraction
    [7]: “Infringements of professional ethical codes, such as multiple submission,
    bogus claims of authorship, plagiarism, fraudulent use of data or the like.
    Occasionally a retraction will be used to correct errors in submission or

    The reasons given for retracting the Séralini study do not
    meet those criteria.

    Why is it okay for Monsanto to use Sprague-Dawley rats—
    which it does in numerous feeding studies published in the same journal — but
    not Séralini? Hansen points to a Chinese study [8] the journal just published
    that used the same strain of rats in a two-year feeding study of GE rice. The
    study concluded that the GE rice “exerts no unintended adverse effects on

    Likewise, Hansen notes Monsanto’s studies based its
    conclusion that its GE corn is safe on blood and urine from only 10 rats. “If
    you’re going to say that 10 is too small a number to conclude that there’s a
    health problem, how can you turn around and include a study that concludes
    there’s no problem?” he asks.

    If inconclusiveness is a fatal flaw in a study, an awful lot
    of other studies ought to be retracted, too.

    “It’s a double standard,” Hansen says. “Any study that
    concludes a problem with genetic engineering is gone through with a fine-tooth
    comb and they try to rip it up but the same is not done” for studies with
    conclusions favorable to genetic engineering. “This is a form of scientific
    censorship. When you retract a paper, it means it no longer appears in that
    journal so it’s no longer in the public domain.”

    Séralini study notwithstanding, how do we know what to
    believe about GE crops? In addition to any good science out there, there are
    ideologues and kooks on both sides of the debate.

    To start, a 2011 article [9] found that professional
    associations with the biotech industry impact study outcomes. The study
    examined a total of 94 different journal articles published on the nutritional
    and health impacts of GE food and feed. Of those studies, 41 had at least one
    author with a professional tie to the biotech industry. All 41 had outcomes
    favorable to biotech. The remaining 53 papers, in which none of the authors had
    professional ties to the biotech industry, were split: 39 in favor of biotech,
    12 against, and two neutral.

    In other words, any time a study has at least one author
    with a professional tie to the biotech industry, you don’t even have to read
    the study to know the conclusion. It concluded that GE crops are a-okay.

    You might conclude that the best way to go is simply to find
    independent research on GE crops. That’s a great idea. Unfortunately, the
    biotech companies use their intellectual property rights to restrict
    independent research on their products. Even scientists see this as a problem
    [10]: in 2009, 26 university entomologists wrote to the EPA protesting
    scientists’ inability to conduct independent research.

    Even the FDA does not test these crops for safety. In fact,
    Hansen points out [6], they only require biotech companies like Monsanto to
    perform voluntary “safety consultations” on their crops. After Monsanto does
    its own safety check, the FDA sends back a letter confirming that Monsanto
    found its own product to be safe. Since we already know that 100 percent of
    nutrition and health studies in which one or more authors were affiliated with
    the biotech industry, it’s a foregone conclusion that 100 percent of Monsanto’s
    voluntary “safety consultations” found that Monsanto’s products were perfectly

    A Norwegian study [11] examined the differences in opinions
    on GE crops among different groups of scientists. It found that ecologists were
    more likely to have a moderately negative attitude to GE crops and worry about
    the uncertainty and ignorance involved when human beings tinker with plant
    genes, whereas molecular biologists—particularly those who worked for the
    biotech industry or those funded by industry— had a strongly favorable view of
    GE crops and felt that the crops are useful and “do not represent any unique
    risks.” The only molecular biologists who sided with the ecologists were those
    working in foundations, with public funding, studying the risks of GE crops.

    The paper notes that “industry funding might impose limits
    on scientists’ possibilities to reflect on the social dimension of their work
    or at least that the recruitment process is biased and thereby indirectly
    influences the reflection that will take place.” In other words, as noted
    before, independent research is key.

    The authors suggest a solution may be more interdisciplinary
    training for scientists or even dialogue between scientists of different
    disciplines. However, “open-minded dialogue might be difficult to facilitate,
    as there seems to be a lack of trust between the different groups.”

    Unfortunately, in the end, it’s hard for most of us to
    figure out whether the headlines we read about GE foods are true or not. Look
    for independent research that is not conducted by scientists employed by the
    biotech industry, and consider the perspectives of scientists from a variety of
    scientific disciplines, not just molecular biology. Consider the research of
    social scientists like economists and anthropologists as well.

    If that’s not enough to make you feel good about eating GE
    foods, the only option is to try to avoid them. So far, only a few GE crops are
    grown and sold, but they are found in an awful lot of our food: corn, soy,
    cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, and papaya. Since they aren’t labeled, the
    easiest way to avoid them is to buy organic.

    Hopefully, a few years from now, the European Commission’s
    long-term rat feeding study will shed more light on this issue — although by
    then, odds are the U.S. will have legalized a whole bunch of new GE crops for
    us to worry about.

  47. Loren Eaton says:

    Why should I as a taxpayer pay for the FDA or USDA or EPA to administer labeling of a product that hasn’t met the criteria for labeling?? EVERY company tests their own products under the scrutiny of the FDA. If you want a gm-free product, find someone to produce it for your market. But YOU get to foot the bill for verification and testing and labeling, not the rest of us. I think the days of the organic movement trying to get everyone else to follow their rules should come to an end.

  48. First Officer says:

    Antibiotics are miracle cures for many diseases. Just ask the parents of any child who had scarlet fever, whooping cough, bacteria pneumonia, TB, and a myriad other deadly diseases.

  49. First Officer says:

    Sorry, you can’t bypass laws of nature. If you can, then it wasn’t a natural law in the first place. Higher order lifeforms on Earth don’t normally share DNA between species because it’s simply too difficult to do so and maintain the advantages of cellular specialization that higher lifeforms have. It wasn’t some sort of immutable law governing this but simply a, “choice”, made by evolution. I choice, by the way, that bacteria seemed to have been able to avoid.

  50. First Officer says:

    Can you produce these lock-in contracts?

  51. Chimel says:

    I am not a farmer, but I asked them this very question about generic glyphosate,and yes, the contracts are locked in. Monsanto sells Roundup, why would they want to kill their own business by not forcing the sale, especially now that the patent for Roundup has expired and a commercial contract is the only way to force such sales? The contract specifies a minimal amount of Roundup that needs to be purchased, even if some farmers buy the cheaper generic glyphosate on top of that. I am pretty sure the contracts have confidentiality clauses and can’t be produced publicly.

  52. Laurence Topliffe says:

    The statement that if you can bypass a law of nature means that it wasn’t a law in the first place is not very well thought out. The entire universe exists because of universal Laws of Nature and they are absolute. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be a universe. You may make a choice to eat something but your digestive system doesn’t make a choice to digest it. It does what it was designed to do by the Laws of Nature. Those Laws are in the DNA of every living organism that requires that it get nutrients from the environment. When the food is broken down, no “choice” is made to make use of them. The idea that it’s too difficult for “higher” life forms to share DNA with other species makes no sense at all. The instructions in the DNA create the body. Those instructions are the Laws or rules or whatever you want to call them. If there is a mutation, then the body is malformed or does something that prevents the body from living. And evolution itself happens as a result of specific Laws. If it didn’t, then there would be no way to know how it is that any creature ever came to exist. There would be no way to if the offspring of any creature would be like the parents. The idea that bacteria avoid these Laws is also wrong. They function according to the DNA they have, which are the Laws that determine how it will function. If it is able to invade a human body or a plant and when it does it makes the animal or plant sick, it isn’t doing all of that by choice. It’s doing it because the creature it invaded had something it needed to survive and propagate. Cells and eggs and sperm don’t make choices like human beings and other animals and perhaps some plants do. They are reacting to some kind of a stimulus. Everything in the universe is dependent on those Laws to exist and do whatever they do. Again, there was no intentional “choice” made.Evolution is not a “being” with the ability to make decisions. It’s a process governed by the Laws of Nature. I don’t know if you know that one of the components of blood is iron. Iron is the result of super-novas. The Laws of Nature that caused them to happen are responsible for the blood most living organism on Earth need.

  53. First Officer says:

    I’m pretty sure they don’t, being printed on the bags of seed would make for 10’s of millions of copies of them out there for all to see. Many farmers have chimed in on different sites saying they use whatever glyphosate product that suits them with their RR crops. They may lose warranty rights if they use an unapproved chemical on their crops, but they are free to do so.

    Your link seems to have nothing to do with Monsanto contracts. So i ask all at large, where is a copy of these forced contracts?

  54. Chimel says:

    Well if you are really that interested, it’s not difficult to find samples of Monsanto’s contract, it took me all of 30 seconds on Google. Farmers agree with these conditions either by signing the Technology Agreement or by opening a bag of GM seeds.

    And no, farmers cannot use whatever glyphosate product they want, they have a choice of two Roundup herbicides for glyphosate-based herbicides, and for non-glyphosate, Monsanto offers a list of approved herbicides to choose between Bullet®, Degree®, Degree Xtra®, Harness®, Harness Xtra, Harness Xtra 5.6L, TripleFLEX™, Micro-Tech™, and Lariat®.

    What about you providing links showing that farmers can use whatever generic glyphosate product they want? Or explaining why the heck would Monsanto let any farmer use any generic glyphosate product when their Technology Agreement is the only thing that forces farmers to use a product whose patent has expired? Without the agreement, there would be absolutely nothing preventing farmers from using generic glyphosate.‎


    To use on Roundup Ready® or Genuity” Roundup Ready®.crops only a .
    labeled Roundup” agricultural herbicide or other authorlzed non-selective
    herbicide which could not be used in the absence of the Roundup Ready'”
    gene (see TUG for details on authorized non-selective products). Use of any
    selective herbicide labeled for the same crop without the Roundup Ready”
    gene is not restricted by this Agreement. MONSANTO DOES NOT MAKE ANY

  55. First Officer says:

    THere is nothing in 4) that says the farmer is restricted to use ony glyphosate products produced by Monsanto. To wit: “or other authorlzed non-selective herbicide which could not be used in the absence of the Roundup Ready gene”, are allowed.

  56. First Officer says:

    Not to mention the 600,000 to 1 milion kids a year, plus a great number of adults dying from VAD that golden rice woud certainly help. Yet, even now is vigirously fought by Greenpeace and other NGO’s who make no bones about supporting vandalism against Golden Rice.

  57. Chimel says:

    Well, you seem to be right, or maybe the agreement’s conditions have changed now that the patents for both Roundup and Roundup Ready (RR1) corn have expired. I thought that “authorized” in “other authorized non-selective herbicide” meant authorized by Monsanto in their Technology Use Guide, but it seems they mean only approved by the relevant federal agencies for use as herbicide.

    Weed Management, page 7:
    “Monsanto does not restrict your ability to use glyphosate-herbicides so long as the product is specifically registered and labeled for in-crop use on the applicable crop.”

    It seems that the farmers themselves don’t really know what they can and cannot do, with the agreement requiring looking up more detailed information on other web pages or documents, and a Legalese language (does “which could not be used in the absence of the Roundup Ready gene” mean “which could be used in the presence of the Roundup Ready gene”? 😉

    In any case, as of now, there is indeed apparently no restriction or enforcing on any glyphosate herbicide by Monsanto, as long as it’s a legal herbicide for this crop. I edited the ag link above with the information.

  58. jh says:

    Them ain’t really laws…they’s more like guidelines.

  59. Laurence Topliffe says:

    I’s sorry to say this but you really don’t know what you are talking about because you don’t have enough knowledge.

  60. jh says:

    We most emphatically cannot say all GM foods developed in the future will always be 103% safe. Nor can we prevent people from “off-label” use of products (eg, over- and mis-use of antibacterials).

    What we can say is that thus far there are no apparent health or significant environmental impacts from using GM products. That’s a fact. That’s reality. GM products are no more or less harmful than anything that’s already out there.

    The way forward is forward.

  61. Edward Nelson says:

    Keith, You almost have this correct. Anti-GMO kooks are the CO2 obsessed of agriculture.
    There, all better.

  62. Edward Nelson says:

    Gene sharing exists from microbes up.

  63. Laurence Topliffe says:

    The gene sharing that you are referring to are not being done by someone in a lab. They are the result of what the Laws of Nature allow. There is a limit to what will be shared.

  64. Kato Kato says:

    Nielsen, K.M., et al., 1998 elucidated the risk of horizontal gene transfer, there’s also cross polination

  65. Kato Kato says:

    On the Intellectual property rights, the genetic heritage of our crops was passed on to us by our ancestors

  66. Kato Kato says:

    I dont think you can disagree that farmers are better off with seed that they can re-use in the next season

  67. Kato Kato says:

    Inose, T., and Murata, K. 1995 also demonstrated accumulation of toxins in GMO yeast

  68. Kato Kato says:

    Ewen, S.W.B and Pusztai, A., 1999 demonstrated Food chain toxicity – GMO’s poison our food chain

  69. Kato Kato says:

    Saxena, D., Flores, S., Stotzky, G., 1999 demonstrate soil toxicity resulting from GMO’s – GMO’s destroy our soil

  70. Kato Kato says:

    Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria—GMO’s genes which confer resistance to
    antibiotics may be picked up by bacteria (New Scientist 1999)

  71. Kato Kato says:

    Allergic Reactions—Genetic engineering can also produce unforeseen and unknown allergens in foods. (Nordlee 1996)

  72. Kato Kato says:

    Toxins—Genetic engineering can cause mutations in organism higher levels of toxins in foods. (Inose 1995, Mayeno 1994)

  73. Kato Kato says:

    basing our agriculture on seeds that do not replicate is economic suicide. Isn’t this common sense? common so called ‘intelectuals’

  74. Kato Kato says:

    Monsanto’s plan to kill Ugandan’s softly- Genetically Modified seeds, we’re saying NO to GMO – Sign the petition Online

  75. Kato Kato says:

    “Why Half of Wal-Mart’s Groceries Are Banned by Whole Foods”

  76. Kato Kato says:

    Doreen Atkinson

    Clear Media LLC

    The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods

  77. Kato Kato says:

    French ban on GMO maize cultivation gets final approval

  78. Regressive Goosesteppers says:

    No, their utter (and willfully) lack of any understanding regarding the evolutuionary process make them the Creationists of the Left.

    Opposition and ignorance of evolution is not exclusive to the religious right.

  79. Regressive Goosesteppers says:

    Fun fact: Declaring that something is “not arguable” does not magically make it so, and it is more often than not an indication that the topic at hand is extremely debateable, and you, being driven solely by agenda and politics, just don’t want people to discuss the other side.

  80. Bongstar420 says:

    I don’t know about that. I thought climate happened on scales larger than 100 years? You know like 1,000s

  81. Bongstar420 says:

    Fine with me. Do I finally get my 10MW Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor to run my farm with and cut “CO2” emissions?

  82. Bongstar420 says:

    Like you can’t sue these guys but the doctor’s and pharmacist’s are an easy gimme

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