Excellent Slate Article on GMO Safety

It is a long article, covering a lot of ground, and is full of links to literature on both sides of the debate.  But its conclusions are pretty definite

I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

Second, the central argument of the anti-GMO movement—that prudence and caution are reasons to avoid genetically engineered, or GE, food—is a sham. Activists who tell you to play it safe around GMOs take no such care in evaluating the alternatives. They denounce proteins in GE crops as toxic, even as they defend drugs, pesticides, and non-GMO crops that are loaded with the same proteins. They portray genetic engineering as chaotic and unpredictable, even when studies indicate that other crop improvement methods, including those favored by the same activists, are more disruptive to plant genomes.

Third, there are valid concerns about some aspects of GE agriculture, such as herbicides, monocultures, and patents. But none of these concerns is fundamentally about genetic engineering. Genetic engineering isn’t a thing. It’s a process that can be used in different ways to create different things. To think clearly about GMOs, you have to distinguish among the applications and focus on the substance of each case. If you’re concerned about pesticides and transparency, you need to know about the toxins to which your food has been exposed. A GMO label won’t tell you that. And it can lull you into buying a non-GMO product even when the GE alternative is safer.

This is just the management summary, the article goes into great depth on all of these.

 

  • SamWah

    Slate tells TRUTH? Hell must be near zero Kelvin!

  • http://vikingvista.blogspot.com/ vikingvista

    One thing the author got wrong--you don't really have to dig that deep to be confronted by the absurdities of the anti-GMO movement. But good article nonetheless.

    Sadly, anti-GMO activists are making strides toward convincing the masses that it is reasonable for governments to threaten producers to label foods as GMO. US regulators have so far readily dismissed such efforts, particularly since there is no law against labeling foods as "non-GMO" if irrational markets demand, and the science is plainly on the side of the GMO lobbyists. But ultimately government regulations, like everything else in government, is political, so the gun will wind up in the hands of the pressure group that brings the most votes into play for the most influential politicians.

    In the end, state democracy (i.e. rule of all by small minority pressure groups) will win.

  • Mondak

    My best lesson from 2014 is that people - myself included - want to use a single factor to explain complex situations. It makes us feel smart and in control of the world when we understand. We latch on to these things and the fact that they give comfort adds to our "gut feel" that it is true in addition to the "science" that we clearly understand.

    As it turns out, almost everything has multiple contributing factors but to understand these factors and know how to weigh them takes time and depth. Whenever you try and explain why the "last" kilowatt is the expensive one and why extra capacity (usually of a traditional nature) has to be kept on-line for solar or wind power to actually make it work, you are suddenly in the pay of the power companies and hate the planet etc. That feeling is the same one when talking GMOs.

    Will the narrative be that Monsanto is using GMOs to secretly control the world or will a drought resistant strain of rice feed a nation's children? How about door number three? NEVER!

  • ErikTheRed

    This is one of those rare areas where I'm not really sure one way or the other. On the one hand, the standards for food safety testing seem minimalistic and are likely subject to intense regulatory capture. On the other hand, as mentioned in this article, the "science" from the anti-GMO crowd is just breathtakingly awful. It's not borderline fraud, it's hard-core fraud.

  • David in Michigan

    @SamWah: It is indeed a strange world..... absolute zero and pigs flying.... wow!

    There are also some parallel between the anti-GMO and the global warming crowd. Change a few words in the above excerpt and it fits nearly perfectly.

  • Ugasailor

    Here is the paragraph I would like to see Slate publish:

    I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against (GMOs) catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, aka CAGW. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that (Monsanto) EXXON is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about (GMOs) CAGW are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

  • A Critic

    You can't save and grow the seeds, legally or practically.

    That means you can't grow it.

    If you can't grow it...it's a failure of a crop.