In Perspective: Anti-GM vitriol rises

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Over the past six to nine months, there’s been an increase in the amount of vitriol coming from opponents of biotechnology. It seemed to increase dramatically last fall when the media publicized Prop 37 in California that sought to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

The publicity seemed to bring the GMO debate to the national stage, and in subsequent months, other states gained media attention for developing their own GMO labeling bills.

Nothing earns more comments on Ag Professional’s website than stories about biotechnology, but particularly stories that include mention of Monsanto. Anti-GM activists hate this company with a passion. They share stories they gather from around the internet from Occupy Monsanto and other green and anti-GMO websites to illustrate their views—most of them exaggerated or false.

Underlying their hate of Monsanto and biotechnology lies several guiding factors: fear, anger, distrust and superiority. By far, fear seems to be the guiding principle. Their fears include that big corporations and scientists with no moral or legal boundaries will create crops that kill humanity and/or enslave us to them. This argument seems illogical because many of the companies that have agricultural biotechnology research also research biotechnology for medicinal purposes. If these companies kill off the population, no one will buy their medicine, profits will decrease and the companies will go out of business. But the activists’ convoluted argument is that these corporations are developing crops that will deliberately make people sick, who will then need the medicines these companies produce. But they can’t make people too sick because they have to gain government approval with studies showing the crops don’t make people sick.

Biotech crops have now been produced for more than 15 years without disruption to people’s health. However, activists will argue that GMOs are causing every disease imaginable including obesity, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, etc.

To provide some perspective, rates of all diseases have increased over the past 15 years, but so has the consumption of organic food. Activists equate coincidence with proof. Although organic consumption has increased tremendously over the past 15 years, no one seems to attribute all the diseases to organic food, but they correlate more GM consumption to disease.

Studies that have come out in the past year claiming to show proof of how GM foods can cause disease have been met in the broad scientific community as erroneous and slanted. Methods used in these studies to produce the results intended, as well as faulty deductions in the data, have been extensively criticized. Yet once an activist sees photos of rats with tumors or pigs with diseased stomachs, they are convinced. Have they read the study, questioned the methods used or who funded the research? Not likely.

Critical thinking and the ability to recognize pseudo-scientific studies appears to be lacking by activists. It’s much easier to share websites that share sensational headlines and news showing the things we fear the most—grotesque abominations they say prove scientists are dabbling in research without a conscience and are slaves to profit-mongering corporations.

Most people don’t look at the organic industry, which is now owned by many of these mega corporations, and truly understand the difference behind organic and biotech-produced food.

America’s high schools have the lowest competencies in math and science in the industrialized world. Without this understanding, how can Americans truly understand what biotech scientists are doing? Somehow agriculture must find a way to show that biotechnology is not an enemy.


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Pete    
London, UK  |  July, 16, 2013 at 03:45 PM

Before people are tempted to swallow the comforting line that the Seralini study, which found serious health effects in rats fed GM maize and tiny amounts of Roundup, is "pseudo-scientific", they should at least read the study and the website gmoseralin.org, which offers a fully referenced scientific commentary explaining why the study is the best and most thorough ever done on a GM food. Perfect? No. No study is perfect. If you can really find a good scientific reason to doubt this study, then have a look at the other feeding studies with GMOs, which also found toxic effects in GM-fed animals: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth- gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat

Pete    
London, UK  |  July, 16, 2013 at 03:46 PM

sorry, typo--the correct url for the website is gmoseralini.org

Dan    
Monsanto St. Louis  |  July, 16, 2013 at 05:54 PM

While you are reading the study, you may want to look at the dozens of regulatory and scientific organization who have rejected this work- including no less than 6 French Academies of Science. It is abundantly clear from the detailed analysis in the European Food Safety Authority appendix that the findings in this study are consistent with the expected incidence of tumors and mortality in S-D Rats and that the study observes, in fact, no effect at all. You may wish to note the total lack of statistical analysis in the original study. EFSA did it for them... there is nothing to base the conclusions on. These rebuttals are compiled on Monsanto.com (http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/monsanto-responds-to-french-rat-study.aspx ). Note that the links on the website are primarily to OTHER rebuttals- not Monsanto documents- although our comments are in there too. I am a full time employee of Monsanto

lannit    
Western Massachusetts  |  July, 16, 2013 at 09:03 PM

I'm not swayed by a single study, but look at this well-documented report that debunks several pro-GMO myths...not just about GMO food and feed by Roundup (glyphosate) as well: http://www.earthopensource.org/index.php/executive-summary I wouldn't expect a Monsanto employee to be capable of having an objective view of such a report...my father was a loyal Monsanto employee and and defender, but after retiring he became aware of his lack of objectivity regarding many Monsanto products and openly critical of their seriously negative health and environmental impacts (we all know the worst products that Monsanto assured us were "safe" before but those claims were eventually proved untrue: DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, etc., but there are many, many, more)...

JB    
July, 17, 2013 at 09:18 AM

'Biotech crops have now been produced for more than 15 years without disruption to people’s health' There are no studies to date that would confirm that opinion. No medical agency is actively monitoring for any health effects from daily consumption of transgenic food products, as is seen across America today.

cmeyer    
IOWA  |  July, 17, 2013 at 03:26 PM

This is a very misleading article. First of all, the vitriol is not specifically against biotech as it is to their race to profits at the expense of adequate long-term testing of GM seeds and foods for human health and environmental consequences. Then the misleading and ridiculous statement that "fears include that big corporations and scientists with no moral or legal boundaries will create crops that kill humanity and/or enslave us to them". No one is stupid enough to believe that at all. The issue is adequate testing and proper GMO labeling of our food. Biotech needs to tread carefully and put aside the self-centered and reckless drive to excessive profits at our and our planet's expense.

Omar Barbosa    
Colombia  |  July, 17, 2013 at 04:30 PM

La biotecnología no es un enemigo, lo malo está en el uso que hacen de ella algunas compañías como Monssantoo, que ante la incertidumbre del futuro de sus modificaciones genéticas en los ecosistemas, en las especies resultado de la evolución o del fito mejoramiento, en la salud animal y humana y en el estado socio económico de los agricultores del mundo, galopan irresponsable-mente sobre el futuro de las generaciones, saciando su voracidad económica como único objetivo


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