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.