Connecticut legislature makes anti-science history


Today’s post is a version of an op-ed that was quickly and roundly rejected by the Hartford Courant with a curt,  No Thanks, response.

courant

The Connecticut legislature made history recently when it overwhelmingly approved a gmo labeling bill. They made history by giving credibility to the anti-science views of crackpots, frauds, and charlatans.

In 2012, the Assembly’s GM labeling task force had one Jeffrey Smith testify.  Readers of this blog are well acquainted with him. He is the go-to-guy and is considered an “expert” on gmos. Unfortunately he is not a scientist and has no agricultural experience. He is considered a joke among the scientific community.

His bio and resume are vague. What is known is he was a member of the Maharishi Natural Law Party in Iowa, whose solution to the national crime problem was “yogic flying.”

In 1996, the Daily Illinni wrote, “Smith presented charts with evidence of a correlation between the presence of yogic flyers and an increase in the quality of life and a decrease in crime. Smith cited limited yogic flying programs in Washington D.C. and near the Middle East that resulted in less crime and more harmony.” 

He has two self-published books on genetic engineering.  One of them, Genetic Roulette has been discredited by real scientists. The organization, Academics Review, looked at the book to see how his claims stacked up against current peer-reviewed science and submitted a chapter by chapter take down of the book.

Smith recently backed out of a debate on the safety of gmos at the Cato Institute where he would have had to defend his nonsense against actual scientists. Those scientists are Karl Von Mogel and Kevin Folta. Von Mogel is a Ph.D. candidate in plant breeding and plant genetics at the University of Wisconsin who co-founded the science site Biofortified.  Folta is Interim Chairman and Associate Professor Horticultural Sciences Department at the  University of Florida and writes the blog Illumination. 

Last year, I wrote the Connecticut legislature’s GMO Labeling Task Force suggesting they have an actual scientist testify as a counterbalance to Smith’s nonsense. From my email:

I just read that Jeffrey Smith, of the Institute of Responsible Technology will be speaking before your GMO Labeling Task Force on August 8th. I would recommend you rescind this offer as Mr. Smith is a self-styled expert on GMOs. He has no experience in science or agriculture. For some reason he is considered an expert by the media and others.

If this is not possible, I suggest you at least have actual scientists testify on this issue to counterbalance his nonsense.

I received a polite reply from Elaine O’Brien who wrote

 “my intention is to gather as much information as possible. I understand that this is not a simple subject and I do not believe we should be rushing to label before we understand the issue”.

It seems they didn’t take my advice and consult any real scientists and listened only to a minority of vocal activists who peddled discredited studies and lies.

Every major health and scientific organization have weighed in on the safety of genetically modified foods. The safety is not in question.

Humans have been genetically modifying foods for thousands of years. Activist claim GM is different. Yes, it is. It is more precise.

With conventional breeding it is a hit and miss method. With conventional breeding they transfer thousands of genes, hoping they will get what they want. With GM, scientists only transfer the gene(s) that they need.

Activists point to the 64 countries that have laws requiring labeling as a talking point. Well, 74 countries have laws against homosexuality. Should we follow their lead?

The legislature should be ashamed of themselves.

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