The anti-GMO crowd is a danger to progress


By all accounts, the lies and misinformation spread by the anti-GMO activists in California will win out. Proposition 37 will coast to victory. That is a sad state of affairs for progress.

I don’t want to paint a doom and gloom picture, but an anti-GMO win in California could have repercussions as to how people view bio-technology.  By tying it to the bad business practices of corporations and creating a guilt by association, the anti-science activists have pretty much accomplished their goal.

The belief that biotechnology is some scary business dreamed up by evil corporations will not only have a negative impact for the future of food, it will also create questions about its use in all of science.

Biotech has been instrumental in making advances in medicine. Regeneration of nerves, insulin, analgesics and stem cell therapies are all possible due to biotechnology.

It has also created new possibilities in agriculture and to help save various crops from disease. A classic example of this is the Hawaiian papaya industry. In the 1990s, the papaya industry was on the verge of collapse due to a virulent disease, papaya ring spot virus. Nothing could eliminate or contain it. Enter Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, retired Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Cornell and now the director of the USDA’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Center. He developed a genetically modified disease resistant papaya and gave it to the growers.  It is now sold to growers by the industry at cost.

The papaya problem also raises the issue of corporate control of the seed supply. Ironically, it is the very strict rules and regulations in the GMO approval process that keeps the tech in the hands of big business. I’ve written about this before. Universities and small biotech companies have seeds literally sitting on their shelves because they can’t afford the lengthy and expensive process of getting the seeds approved.

The biotech community has been lobbying the U.S. Government to relax the rules to create competition. But the anti-GMO lobby is apparently much stronger.

The anti-GMO crowd claims non-GMO methods can be developed to help crops in trouble. Well, maybe they can, maybe they can’t. The papaya problem is a case in point. They tried every non-GMO method possible and nothing worked

Then there was the plumpox virus which was devastating the plum crops in the Adams County, Pa. a few years ago. In order to contain the virus and keep it from spreading across the U.S., the only method to stop it was to pull up the trees and bulldoze them before the disease spread.

The U.S Government stepped in. In 2010, government biotech scientists created the “Honeysweet,” a disease resistant plum that solved the problem. Should they have waited for a “natural” method? Should they have let the virus spread to the rest of the U.S and South America?

The anti-GMO folks subscribe to the precautionary principle. That principle one that says if something has a suspected risk of causing harm due to the absence of a scientific consensus, it shouldn’t be implemented. The problem here is there is a scientific consensus, but the anti-GMO crowd refuses to believe it. Monsanto used GE so GE must be bad. It is also stifling progress.

Polls have shown that the majority of Americans support stem cell research. When Bush II put limits on government funding, progressives rightly complained. Yet, on the biotech issue of food, they take the opposite view. Why the disconnect?

The answer might lie in what American Association of Advancement of Science (AAAS) President Nina V.Fedoroff said at a recent conference.

“The explanation probably lies in our own psychology. Belief systems, especially if they are tinged with fear, are not easily dismantled with facts. This isn’t a new problem but it’s an urgent and growing problem.”

Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis wrote in Seed Magazine

“My overwhelming sense is that public skepticism about GM crops, and the foods derived from them, is not about the science—it is about US corporations. Some consumers have not forgotten that Monsanto was a producer of Agent Orange for the US military during the Vietnam War. Others worry that corporations will control the global seed supply.

Still, consumers—whether in Davis or Düsseldorf—need to distinguish between a scientific process (genetic engineering) and corporations.”

I think they are both right.

While claiming to be the pro-science side, Democrats and the liberal left seem only to be pro-science when it fits their worldview.  They buy into bogus claims of the anti-science crowd and keep repeating the bogus information on liberal/left activist websites.  The recently debunked Seralini  GM corn study is still being cited on websites and blogs. As I write this an email arrived from the activist website, Nation of Change which is still touting the discredited study:

“It all started with the monumental French study finding a serious link between the consumption of Monsanto’s Roundup-drenched GMOs and massive tumors. Being called the ‘most thorough’ research ever published on the real health effects of GMOs, the study led to even larger victories.”

It’s absurd.  Progressives activists have become the FoxNews of the Left.  The Seralini study has been covered extensively and scientists from all over the world have weighed in on the  reasons the study doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

So the question is, if and when Prop. 37 wins, what will  the anti-science crowd target next and will they be able to hornswaggle the liberal left as they did with this issue?

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2 thoughts on “The anti-GMO crowd is a danger to progress

  1. If they do win (and I think they have a real chance on this initiative), I wonder if it will play out like they want. First, it will become clear that their label has no effect on allergies, autism, vague immune disorders, etc. So they’ll look around and wonder what happened.

    Second, I hope that manufacturers don’t cave to them and stop using plants with benefits for farmers. I expect that the “May contain…” will be summarily ignored by consumers as they drop their Oreos in their cart. And that this will de-sensitize them to the fear-mongering and make them immune (heh–get it??) in the future.

    Third, as the worst fears of the anti-GMO brigade come true–the consumer and health benefit products come online, the “better tech, better for you, better for farmers, better for the planet” ad campaign that’s inevitable will completely undermine their desires to scare the crap out of people who don’t understand the issue. Last year there was an ad for Jeep that called it “genetically engineered” as benefit. I’m not sure everyone is a tech-phobic as they think people are.

    Another possible consequence is that seed makers will move to more conventional herbicide-tolerance traits (such as roundup ready stuff that’s in the pipeline). So this could actually end up using more or different herbicide (or just as much), but without anyone’s knowledge because it won’t be on a label in any way that they can recognize.

    But if they really think that they will eliminate monocultures, patents, herbicides, and all the other things they claim this label will do, they are going to be disappointed. And it will be such a waste of time and money.

  2. I am someone with absolutely no stake in the outcome. I view it with interest.

    Genetic modification seems like a really, really cool advancement to me (I’ve read a lot about it, including Pamela Ronald’s book, Nina Federoff’s book, and one by Lee Silver called “Challenging Nature.”

    Here’s what I think: The labels, should they go through, after court challenges, costs, etc., will have the effect on opinions about foods derived from genetically modified plants that “coming out of the closet” has had on opinions on homosexuality. Exposure is good. Sunlight is good.

    “What? My favorite corn chips are genetically modified? So be it?”

    I look forward to the day when Greenpeace and all the other left-wing crackpots are left eating their stupid words. “Hoist by their own petard” comes to mind.

    But why listen to me? I’m just a liberal, gay, atheist farmer….

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