The War on Genetically-Modified-Food Critics

By Timothy Wise, Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University. Originally published at Food Tank

Et Tu, National Geographic?

Since when is the safety of genetically modified food considered “settled science” on a par with the reality of evolution? That was the question that jumped to mind when I saw the cover of the March 2015 National Geographic and the lead article, “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?”

The cover title: “The War on Science.” The image: a movie set of a fake moon landing. Superimposed: a list of irrational battles being waged by “science doubters” against an implied scientific consensus:

“Climate change does not exist.”

“Evolution never happened.”

“The moon landing was faked.”

“Vaccinations can lead to autism.”

“Genetically modified food is evil.” WHAT?

Genetically modified food is evil? First of all, what business does “evil” have in an article about scientific consensus? Sure, some people think GMOs are evil. But isn’t the controversy about whether genetically modified food is safe?

More important, what was such an item doing on a list of issues on which the vast majority of scientists would indeed have consensus? How in the world does author Joel Achenbach define “scientific consensus?” How about 95 percent of the peer-reviewed literature, as in the case of climate change? Near 100 percent, as in the case of the lack of any link between autism and vaccines, or on evolution, or the reality of the moon landing?

There is no such consensus on the safety of GM food. A peer-reviewed study of the research, from peer-reviewed journals, found that about half of the animal-feeding studies conducted in recent years found cause for concern. The other half didn’t, and as the researchers noted, “most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible of commercializing these GM plants.”

In other words, those studies are tainted by the same conflict of interest that the article itself denounced in the case of anti-climate-change research commissioned by oil companies. The only consensus that GM food is safe is among industry-funded researchers.

So why would the respected National Geographic make such a scientific error? And why would respected Washington Post science writer Joel Achenbach include GM safety on his list of “settled” science?

Product Placement for GMOs

Call it product placement. You know, the nearly subliminal advertising technique in which Coca Cola pays a movie producer to have the characters all drink Coke. Biotechnology companies and their powerful advocates, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are succeeding in a well-planned campaign to get GM safety declared “settled science.”

The article itself hardly touches the GM controversy or the science. It focuses on the interesting and important question of how people, including scientists, interpret scientific evidence in a way tainted by “confirmation bias,” the tendency to more readily believe evidence that confirms one’s existing beliefs. Achenbach could have added science writers to the list. And magazine editors.

Achenbach focuses on climate change and evolution and vaccines, mainly. GMOs? In what amounts to a throw-away paragraph, after he’s made justifiable fun of anti-fluoride scare-mongering, he writes:

“We’re asked to accept, for example, that it’s safe to eat food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, the experts point out, there’s no evidence that it isn’t and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding. But to some people the very idea of transferring genes between species conjures up mad scientists running amok—and so, two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, they talk about Frankenfood.”

What? “The experts point out?” Some do, some don’t. “There’s no evidence that it isn’t” safe to eat GMOs? What kind of science is that? Many experts would disagree, and they would certainly object to a safety standard for a new technology that is content with the epidemiologically shabby construct that if there’s no evidence something isn’t safe, it must be safe.

Thalidomide, anyone, with a pinch of DDT? What’s going on here?

Are we “depolarized” yet?

What we’re seeing is a concerted campaign to do exactly what National Geographic has knowingly or unknowingly done: paint GMO critics as anti-science while offering no serious discussion of the scientific controversy that still rages.

An indicator was a quiet announcement in the press last summer that the Gates Foundation had awarded a US$5.6 million grant to Cornell University to “depolarize” the debate over GM foods. That’s their word. The grant founded a new institute, the Cornell Alliance for Science.

“Our goal is to depolarize the GMO debate and engage with potential partners who may share common values around poverty reduction and sustainable agriculture, but may not be well informed about the potential biotechnology has for solving major agricultural challenges,” said project leader Sarah Evanega, senior associate director of International Programs in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

Got it? The Gates Foundation is paying biotech scientists and advocates at Cornell to help them convince the ignorant and brainwashed public, who “may not be well informed,” that they are ignorant and brainwashed.

“Improving agricultural biotechnology communications is a challenge that must be met if innovations developed in public sector institutions like Cornell are ever to reach farmers in their fields,” added Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS.

It’s kind of like depolarizing an armed conflict by giving one side more weapons.

So what you’re seeing in National Geographic is the product of improved “agricultural biotechnology communications.”

And not just there. In the last year we’ve seen the New Yorker’s slimy takedown of anti-GMO campaigner Vandana Shiva, and prominent opinion pieces by scientists, researchers, and journalists painting GMO critics as anti-science, the food policy equivalents of climate deniers and creationists.

I saw the PR machine in action in Des Moines in 2013 at the World Food Prize awards, which went that year to three biotech scientists, one from Monsanto. (It was of course pure coincidence that Monsanto had underwritten the renovation of the beautiful old building that houses the World Food Prize empire.)

At a panel discussion there the audience got heavily depolarized. Ann Glover, a European Science Advisor and designated GM bulldog, actually called anyone who still questioned the safety of GM crops “brainwashed.” Journalist Mark Lynas, who has made a career of such demonization, added his own insults.

I was sitting next to former World Food Prize winner Hans Herren, who won the prize in the 1990s for his innovative, cost-effective biological pest-control campaign that saved the African cassava crop. Brainwashed?

The Consensus: There is No Consensus

The consensus on the safety of GM food is perfectly clear: there is no consensus. That’s what the independent peer-reviewed literature says. And that’s what the National Geographic’s beautiful exhibit on its food series, in its Washington headquarters, says: the “long-term health and ecological consequences are unknown.“ And that is an accurate statement of the consensus, or the lack of it.

The paid shills for the petroleum industry undermined a growing consensus on climate change that was inconvenient for industry, backed by a well-funded PR campaign sowing doubt about that scientific consensus. In this case, the biotechnology industry and its allies are declaring a consensus where there is none in order to silence their critics.

The debate is over what level of precaution we should apply before allowing the large-scale commercialization of this new technology. And anyone stating that there is a scientific consensus on GM safety is coming down squarely against precaution. Reasonable people disagree, and that does not make them “science doubters.”

Are you feeling depolarized yet?

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  1. Foppe

    The issue that I personally find most troubling is not so much that we’re talking about “modified” foods, but the fact that so much of the modification goes into increasing herbicide resistance, thereby allowing for increases in the amount of herbicide used in farming. There are two main issues here.
    1. The level that is considered “safe” by the FDA is determined by Monsanto et al. There is no meaningful research going into this, and if there is, they only look into the question what dosages kill/maim quickly. This is discussed in this accessible video (see transcript button):

    The legal limit for glyphosate in foods had been set at .1 to .2 mg/kg, so OK, maybe that is high, exceeding the legal limits by an average of about 2000%, whereas organic and conventional nonGMO soy both had none.

    So what did Monsanto do? Did the industry ditch the whole GMO thing, go back to using less pesticides so that residue levels wouldn’t be so high? Or, they could just change the definition of high. What if they could get authorities to raise the maximum residue level from point one or point two up to say. 20. Then the residue levels don’t look so high anymore, problem solved. The acceptance level of glyphosate in food and feed has been increased by authorities in countries that use Roundup-Ready GM crops. In Brazil, they went up to 10 and the U.S. and Europe now accept up to 20. In all of these cases, the maximum residue level values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new evidence indicating glyphosate toxicity was less than previously understood, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in GMO soybeans—otherwise it wouldn’t be legal to sell the stuff.

    2. (Also discussed in the above video.) Even to the extent that research into the health consequences of consuming herbicides/breakdown products is done at all, the FDA only looks at the harmfulness of (in the case of RoundUp) glyphosate, as an isolated compound. For some reason they seem to assume that everything else that Monsanto (and others) put into their herbicides is inert/useless, and not itself toxic, and that there are no synergies involved in using cocktails (which would be undetectable when looking at the toxicity of the individual compounds).

    So I would propose to stop talking/thinking overmuch about the question whether or not these plants are modified in a lab, or modified via regular selection, and instead start asking questions about the effects those specific modifications have when it comes to herbicide use, and what is up with the fact-free determination of “safe” herbicide residue levels by the FDA (and comparable regulatory agencies, who appear to be equally captured &/or incompetent).

    1. Jim

      Sorry but that is just not true. The EPA sets pesticide limits extremely concretively and the glyphosate are just no where close to what the EPA would even allow. RR crops spay once at the beginning of the season to control weeds. And yes it better that we allow glyphosate then most other herbicides.

      What you just typed about glyphosates just nonsense.

      2 Notice you keep using Monsanto as this ebil boggy man. I type it ebil for a specific reason as its just conspiracy nonsense. As most of the crap that Monsanto is accused of just does not happen like this. I don’t want to defend a billion dollar company but you conspiracy people give me no choice.

      1. Foppe

        What I say here, and what the maker of the video says in the video/transcript, is all based on published research, and his own research. (Look under links.) Your retort, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired on the rigorousness front.

      2. winstonsmith

        RR crops spay once at the beginning of the season to control weeds.

        You don’t know what your talking about. Roundup-ready crops are modified to make the crop more resistant to the pesticide, so you can use more pesticide.

        Monsanto’s recommended RR corn systems include several optional herbicide programs ranging from a total-glyphosate system, to systems combining a pre- or at-plant residual herbicide followed by Roundup post-emergence, or a total post-emergence program involving applications of a residual post-product plus Roundup (Monsanto, 2000a and 2000b). In the total Roundup program, glyphosate is applied on average about 2.0 times. In 1999 the average application was about 0.7 pounds, resulting in 1.4 pounds of Roundup applied on the average acre of RR corn.

        As for

        And yes it better that we allow glyphosate then most other herbicides.

        That may be true, but in the long run it’s an argument against Roundup-ready crops. The overuse of Roundup has lead to Roundup-ready weeds, aka superweeds. Monsanto’s solution to this problem is to introduce crops resistant to ever harsher pesticides including 2,4-D (of Agent Orange Fame), dicamba, and because even Monsanto recognizes the use of these products will lead to supersuperweeds, they’ve developed multi-posion-ready crops, which will lead to supersupersuperweeds.

        1. Synoia

          2,4-D aka Dioxin? One of the most toxic substances on the planet?

          Might be better to use the name, instead of jargon.

          1. winstonsmith

            2,4-D is not dioxin. Agent Orange was (theoretically) a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, but it also contained dioxin as a (hoocoodanode) contaminant.

        2. hunkerdown

          Roundup is a weed killer, not a pesticide — at least not intentionally. Kindly do your research.

          1. winstonsmith

            A weed killer is a pesticide. Kindly do your research.


            Pesticides are substances meant for attracting, seducing, and then destroying, or mitigating any pest.[1] They are a class of biocide. The most common use of pesticides is as plant protection products (also known as crop protection products), which in general protect plants from damaging influences such as weeds, plant diseases or insects. … The term pesticide includes all of the following: herbicide, insecticide, insect growth regulator, nematicide, termiticide, molluscicide, piscicide, avicide, rodenticide, predacide, bactericide, insect repellent, animal repellent, antimicrobial, fungicide, disinfectant (antimicrobial), and sanitizer.[2]

        3. Jim

          That link is to a Benbrook “study” here is a link to show the methodology problems
          Today we are using the same amount of herbicide as we did in 1980 despite much higher yields. Yes glyphosate use has risen since the introduction of RR but that is a great thing as it has allowed the rise of no and conservation tilling as well as replacing much worse herbicides like paraquat. Using different herbicides has always been part of proper IPM.

      3. Jack

        ” RR crops spay once at the beginning of the season to control weeds.” That is patently untrue. One of the big problems with glyphosate is that in some crops it is used as a dessicant just prior to harvest, which greatly increases the concentration in the plant. Monsanto and some of their drones keep trying to say that this just isn’t done. As an example that it is, here is an official publication from the Alberta, CA which specifically outlines preharvest spraying for 14 different plant species. Still not convinced? Here is a link to a study published by the Monsanto Cotouting the agronomic benefits of glyphosate where they specifically urge the use of it for preharvest spraying.

      4. Kunst

        Most of your comment is spent attacking your opponent, not giving facts that would persuade an uncommitted reader.

  2. Jim

    First of all because it always comes to this I have no affiliation to honestly any part of the food chain what so ever. So what? The first link is just nonsense. They are reviewing Potatoes, cucumbers, and peas which have never had a commercial variety of GMO available and tomatoes had one available for like a week before the market said it had no viability. The piece ignores more recent studies such as the decade of EU funded GMO research study, the trillion meal study, or the Meta analysis of the impacts of genetically modified crops which looked at over 140 original studies. Trying to deny the safety of GMO foods and crops is exactly denying climate change. No change that to there is much more evidence for the non harm of GMO crops then there is for climate change.

    I normally do not contribute to this site despite reading it for well over a half decade because I don’t feel I have much more to contribute but for some reason being anti conspiracy theory nonsense which this article is, is one of the areas I feel super strong in.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have friends who have been at the National Institutes of Health, in Big Pharma companies and now work for top FDA law firms (only a handful are in the top rank) and they and their partners (who include former FDA commissioners) disagree. GMOs are a mass experiment being conducted on the public at large with no consent and no controls. And the safety studies, as they will stress, are useless because they are only on a short-term basis, and any health problems resulting from GMO consumption would take much longer than the study time frames to surface.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Oh, come on. No one has conducted long-term longitudinal studies with people recording what they are eating and the “dosage” of GMOs they are getting. If someone smoked for 90 days to two years (the maximum duration of the studies you referenced), you would not find anyone getting cancer in that time period, or emphysema, or constrictive pulmonary disease, all now recognize as ailments that can be induced by regular cigarette smoking. The fact that this is the best you can do is proof of the case. And note that the “safety” studies are designed to assess toxicity and possible allergic reactions, not long-term side effects.

          I must also note the outbreak of clear trolls: people who have never commented before, like you, and many of whom have writing/reasoning skills well below that of NC commentariat norms.

          1. Jim

            So where does this conspiracy stop? Yeah I am a shill making the big bucks debunking this nonsense from Monsanto. Monsanto that has revenue of about 15 billion dollars yet they control the USDA, FDA and every other regulatory agency. They control the overwhelming number of scientist in the related fields.

            Yet, the oil industry that make up 6 of the top 7 companies by revenue and 18 of the top 50 companies by revenue cant buy off the relevant scientist.

            And while I am not pretending I am Hemingway by any means if Monsanto Monsanto Monsanto is what passes for reasoning skills. Monsanto is not the largest seed company or the largest in any of the markets it competes in. Pioneer, Bayer, Dupont all bigger in Agriculture. Monsanto seems to be doing a bad job too in controlling the worlds food supply as independent seed companies have a larger market share then before the introduction of GMO traits. All the seed companies easily license the different traits from each other. Gen 1 Round Up ready products are now or will be off patent over the next 2 years.

            1. jrs

              Well the Monsanto doesn’t control the FDA might be more persuasive if a Monsanto man didn’t head the FDA. I realize that’s not proof of control, but it’s aweully suspicious looking.

              1. quixote

                I’m late to this party and not sure where to jump in. It’s happened here because this is where I got tired of Jim. I’ve been a biology prof for years, and my research has been in molecular systematics. That’s not genetic engineering, but I’m fairly familiar with the processes involved.

                1) There is no problem with the TARGET GENETIC PRODUCT whether it comes from GMO or natural. Those are the same. So far, score one for Jim.

                2) Everything else is different.

                2a) Curing vit A deficiency and thus preventing blindness, or increasing yields, are always brought out as the reasons for GMO by proponents. But around 75%-80% of genetic modifications are for RoundUp Resistance. This causes increased use of RoundUp (sold by Monsanto), environmental damage, lower nutritional quality crops due to bad farming practices, need to use RR-seeds (sold by Monsanto) since nothing else can outcompete the superweeds, etc., etc., etc.

                2b) The target gene is far from the only thing in there. Viruses are the way the target is carried into the cell. The viral DNA supposed to be nonfunctional inside the host cell. Usually it is. Sometimes, though, it kicks into action (pdf, 2012), which was supposed to be impossible but isn’t. And depending what’s downstream, god-knows-what-can be transcribed.

                2c) Why wasn’t that caught earlier? Because, as Yves and others have pointed out, only short term studies by the industry have been done. How can that be? Because the regulators, the FDA, know that the target genes are identical in the engineered and natural versions so they’re presumed safe (yes, really) and so the companies may voluntarily consult with the FDA. There is no requirement for them or the FDA to demonstrate safety or to conduct long-term studies.

                2d) Some of the accidental proteins introduced by the process of creating GMOs are harmless. Except that in a small subset, they cause allergic reactions. When you’re talking about foods eaten by hundreds of millions of people, a small subset is hundreds of thousands.

                And so on. A book could be written on this stuff (and I realize I’m getting close). tl;dr: We’re very far from any evidence-based consensus on the benefits or harms of GMOs.

                1. direction

                  I only get caught up with NC articles when I am home with a cold, so I am arriving triple late to the game here but wanted to thank you for linking to a research paper that can actually be downloaded! So much is hindered by paywalls these days. really appreciate it.

                  I used to do molecular biology (known to the general populace as “genetic engineering”) and I agree with your points. There are basic unglamorous realities of lab work which are to be of concern in the process. Especially in the early work done on building the vectors for transmitting genetic material. I have a couple other concerns as well but since this article is on the back shelf, maybe i will just wait and post again when the discussion is fresh. this issue will obviously be rearing its ugly head regularly.

                  Don’t believe everything you think folks! read read read!

          2. jonboinAR

            It seems to me, that with the GMO foods, as with many other synthetic-in-some-fashion products that we ingest, there’s just no effective way to determine at this time their long term effects on our health. First of all, we haven’t been consuming many of them for very long. Secondly, whether or not we’ve consumed different ones for quite awhile, we are now ingesting such a cornucopia that I would despair of ever sorting out the effects of any particular one. The experiment is entirely uncontrolled, unlike, somewhat, with tobacco, where you had a portion of the population who were addicts and the rest who didn’t smoke at all, more or less. In our present case I fear that we’re all going to be fairly healthy a number of years from now, or pretty sickly, but if sickly, it may be hard to tell from just what.

            Note that I’m not trying to criticize the post to which I responded, just going off slightly tangentially.

            1. Ned Ludd

              As it becomes impossible to avoid exposure to GM food – in part due to cross-pollination which contaminates organic and heirloom crops – it also becomes impossible to conduct a double-blind experiment with a valid control group.

              Hence, the rush to make GM plants ubiquitous.

          3. Syaloch

            Yves, as someone with very good writing/reasoning skills yourself (I very much enjoyed your book “ECONed”), if you read the comments here objectively you must certainly recognized that these so-called “trolls” are on the whole writing more clearly and presenting more dispassionate, reasoned, and fact-based arguments than those here who oppose GMOs primarily due to health concerns.

            I believe your blog has a large audience of people like me who are interested in the sciences generally and in economics in particular, and are generally sympathetic with your arguments and thus have little to add in the comments, but who were provoked to respond in this case due to some of the non-scientific views presented. Just as I normally agree with Bill Maher’s political commentary, but get really annoyed when he starts spouting his anti-vaccination nonsense.

            As I explained below, if some GM foodstuff caused long-term side effects not seen with the non-GM version, those side effects aren’t caused by magic. They would have be the result of there being some substance in the GM version that’s not in the non-GM version. It’s fairly easy to determine the chemical composition of a food, the question is whether those compounds along or in combination are safe for consumption. The problem is that for foodstuffs in general there really isn’t much that we can say for sure, for exactly the reasons you specify — because the the science is hard.

            For example, is it dangerous to add sodium nitrate to meats as a preservative, as is common practice? To know for sure we’d need long-term longitudinal studies with people recording what they are eating and the dosage of sodium nitrate they are getting, and to isolate its effects from the effects of other things they are eating. Also, you’d have to weigh any health risks against the risk of not preserving meat leading to more cases of food poisoning, etc. But at least here you are working with a testable, scientific hypothesis about a specific chemical, rather than just having a knee-jerk reaction to a broad category of products for no specific reason.

            And there certainly are important discussions to have about GMOs. But by focusing on health concerns I believe you are distracting attention to the more pressing issues, and allowing people to dismiss all such concerns as nothing but the ravings of a bunch of anti-science nutcases.

            (And in case you’re wondering, the current evidence does indeed indicate that adding sodium nitrate or even the more natural-sounding variant “concentrated celery juice” to processed meats does lead to higher rates of gastrointestinal cancers, but possibly that these effects are mitigated if the meat is consumed along with antioxidant-rich fruits or vegetables.)

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              First, your opinion does not amount to a weighing of the arguments. The studies on “safety” use definitions of “safety” that are narrow in terms of what is defined as safety (toxicity and allergic reactions) and the timeframes for those studies. The concern regarding longer-term consequences remains. And given that is simply not affordable to conduct a proper study with a proper controls, you are basically asserting that a known unknown does not exist. That is not winning an argument. That is simply a tacit dismissal of a logically valid argument.

              And there is no legal or moral justification for subjecting the public at large to a uncontrolled health experiment without their consent.

              Second, you are showing the FDA “simple molecule” explanation fallacy. There are compounds such as aspirin that are widely recognized to produce health outcomes that would not now be approved by the FDA for those uses, such as aspirin, because the mechanisms by which they produce their results are not understood. The fact that you assert that genetic differences do not make a difference in long-term consumption again falls short of having an evidentiary basis. It may be true, but you have no basis for demonstrating that that is true. As I said before, it is a known unknown.

              1. Syaloch

                OK, I can see that there is no room for reasoned debate on this subject. There’s no fallacy or dismissal here, just a plea to recognize how science works.

                If the argument were that some GM foodstuff had some substance X in it that’s not in the non-GM version, and that X, alone or in combination with other ingested substances, is bad for you, OK, that would be a reasonable argument. But I don’t see any evidence of that, only a assertion that GM foods are different from other things we ingest in some mysterious way that’s apparently not amenable to scientific inquiry.

                I see no reason to believe that a mere difference in DNA structure is at all significant here. Do you think we incorporate the DNA of what we eat into our own genetic structures? I’m pretty sure human biochemistry doesn’t work that way — our bodies just digest and break down all DNA into its component compounds. The relevant differences would come from the organism, in the process of growing, ingesting or producing some unexpected substance within themselves that has some bad effect on us. That fact that it may take years for the bad effect to become apparent is beside the point, which is that there must be some observable difference in chemistry in the first place.

                And I already said I fully support labeling of GM foods as such so that the public can make informed choices about what they eat based on the available science.

                Oh well, looks like we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this subject. Thanks for the work you do on economic/financial side of things, keep it up!

              2. Peter

                “The studies on “safety” use definitions of “safety” that are narrow in terms of what is defined as safety (toxicity and allergic reactions) and the timeframes for those studies.”

                The reason toxicology studies use high doses over short periods of time is that this is generally a very good predictor of toxicity under prolonged, lower exposure conditions. I’m a molecular biologist, not an economist, so I’m not sure how to determine what is a tolerable cost for eliminating a given level of risk, but my intuition tells me we’ve got a pretty good handle on the relative risks of GMO.

                “And there is no legal or moral justification for subjecting the public at large to a uncontrolled health experiment without their consent.”

                …and yet we are expected to believe that “organically” grown foods are safer?

                “There are compounds such as aspirin that are widely recognized to produce health outcomes that would not now be approved by the FDA for those uses, such as aspirin, because the mechanisms by which they produce their results are not understood.”

                Not true. It’s true that the FDA likes to see that all the pieces fit together(dose responses and biomarkers are consistent with a mechanism of action), but understanding mechanisms mainly helps companies keep the cost of drug development down (fewer false starts). It is not a pre-requisite for drug approval.

                “The fact that you assert that genetic differences do not make a difference in long-term consumption again falls short of having an evidentiary basis.”

                True, though I’d assert that genetics is really ALL that matters in populations. Still. despite it’s legalistic weaknesses, the absence of immediately obvious and consequential risks to the larger population suggests that genetics plays at best a small role in reactions to GMO foods.

                Yves, from some of your other comments, I guess I would count as a “clear Troll.” By way of explanation, I am a Pharma scientist, and interest in economics brings me to this blog. I do not generally comment on areas outside my expertise, which includes most of the content posted here. In the present case, I have both interest and expertise. FWIW, I generally oppose the use of GMO for economic expediency, but I also have zero reservations about the food safety aspects of GMO.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Please tell me how someone can be fed high doses of GMOs, which are in food, unlike high doses of a drug or food additive. You can consume only so many calories in a day and I doubt anyone in these studies was made to consume, say, five pounds of GMO tomatoes a day for ninety days.

                  1. Peter

                    Plant GMO-ness is generally artificially driven expression of a protein, or elimination of a cellular component to alter some event in the cell. These overexpressed proteins make up but a small fraction of the total edible plant tissue because they are very potent insecticides. Their potency in mammalian systems is in general quite low, and its absorbance into the GI tract is effectively zero (it gets chewed up just like any other dietary protein).

                    It can be helpful to consider risk from the perspective of exposure, not just dose. Exposure describes how much of a substance gets to its site of action over a given time, whereas the dose is what was administered. Let’s say that cell culture studies show that the liver is the site of toxicity for some fictional GMO derived protein. If you were to inject that protein right into the blood, you should be able to achieve concentrations sufficient to drive in vivo toxicity. If, however, the protein had to pass through the gut before getting to the liver, you couldn’t eat enough to get anywhere near the expected range of toxic exposure in the liver.

          4. gstally

            Can confirm:

            I must also note the outbreak of clear trolls: people who have never commented before, like you, and many of whom have writing/reasoning skills well below that of NC commentariat norms.


      1. brian

        Yves, I have also read this blog for a long, long time. Your position on GMOs is just wrong.

        There are so many different types of GMOs now. From round-up ready corn to papayas resistant against Papaya Ringspot Virus. You cannot batch them altogether. And why ignore the GMO bacteria and yeast we have engineered to make everything from insulin to laundry enzymes?

        After finding no short term health effects of GMOs, now people seem to have moved the goalposts to the nebulous ‘long term’ effects. It is bizarre. How long term is good enough for you?

        1. diptherio

          There are a whole host of reasons to be opposed to GMOs that have nothing to do with direct effects from consuming them. You mention Roundup-Ready Corn, which allows farmers to use a lot of herbicide, which makes their jobs easier, physically, but which likely leads to greatly increased rates of depression and suicide. No free lunches, as it were.

          Then there’s “golden rice,” which is supposedly going to save India from vitamin deficiency. But the solution to poor nutrition is to eat less rice and more veggies and other foods, not try to jazz up the rice. It’s preposterous, and it’s diverting massive amounts of resources away from much simpler projects that would have much better effects.

        2. sd

          Just because we can, does not mean we should. For centuries, our ancestors ate very restricted diets based on local resources. There is an assumption that the digestive system is capable of rapid adaptation to any and all new foods. The human body is a complex organism. I have some very serious doubts that we should be eating even one quarter of what is avaialble to us.

          1. Scott Dunn

            The assumption you speak of is now proven:

            Artificial sweeteners alter gut bacteria

            Emulsifiers alter gut bacteria

            Both emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners were sold as “safe”, but both have been found to be linked to serious health consequences like obesity and glucose intolerance. The artificial sweeteners got a pass for 40 years.

            How long do we need to wait before we discover the unavoidable consequences of GMO food? That, in a nutshell is why I oppose GMO foods and strongly support labeling.

        3. Ned Ludd

          After finding no short term health effects of asbestos, now people seem to have moved the goalposts to the nebulous ‘long term’ effects. It is bizarre. How long term is good enough for you?

          Asbestos use dates “as bar back as 2,500 BC”. However, the “major recognition of asbestosis began in England in 1924.” Was asbestos safe for all those thousands of years, simply because no one had proved it harmful?

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            It is specific types of asbestos that cause mesothelioma, IIRC, the short fiber version. And it is people who were heavily exposed, mainly miners, who got it.

            Since life expectancy was only 30-40 years, and most miners then were slaves who were worked to death, it’s highly unlikely anyone in ancient times who was was exposed to the dangerous type of asbestos lives long enough to develop mesothelioma.

            1. Ned Ludd

              The World Health Organization: “All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans.

              Exposure to asbestos, including chrysotile, causes cancer of the lung, larynx and ovaries, and also mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings). Asbestos exposure is also responsible for other diseases such as asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), and plaques, thickening and effusion in the pleura.

              The National Cancer Institute:

              Although it is clear that the health risks from asbestos exposure increase with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposures.

              Safeguards are required when removing asbestos, and homeowners are advised against DIY-demolition in older homes. Asbestos was still in use in residential construction in the U.S. in the 1970’s. Overall, “Domestic consumption of asbestos amounted to about 803,000 metric tons in 1973”.

              Additionally, as you point out: “Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from 10 to 40 years or more for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear (2).” Something can appear safe in the short-term, only to be proved deadly in the long-term.

        4. Stephen

          I think that the umbrage towards GMO foods should be more focused and more precise, but the arguments for and against GMO foods at this point seem more like petty tribalism than real rational arguments. Does modifying a papaya gene to prevent worms sound ok, yeah. Should altering a plant to survive increasingly large doses of poison be suspect, yes. Not all GMO is the same and I think that people who want to fleece the public benefit in the long term from a controversial and ambiguous grouping of all GMO into a single monolithic category creates a controversy when none should exist. By blanket refutation of GMO Yves seems to be ignoring the reality that food scarcity is a serious problem facing today’s world and GMOs might be the best way to resolve that problem. However, by defending GMOs as a single monolithinc group seems to ignore the potential health risks of plants designed to resist higher and higher doses of poisonous chemicals, it also seems to be ignoring the fact that long term studies on these have not been conducted and are difficult to conduct. Since poorly constructed analogies seem to be the flavor of the day allow me to posit my own. The debate on GMO to me sounds like a debate around whether or not investing is good. The pro investment (GMO) crowd are saying that investing is good because it helps secure long term incomes and can help companies get off the ground ergo incesting is good. While, the anti investment (GMO) crowd are saying private equity firms are dangerous entities, and a surplus of negotiating power by investment bankers leads to economically inefficient outcomes ergo investment is bad. Please don’t mistake this wall of text for an argumentum ad temperantiam, it just seems to me that a more focused debate with better definitions is necessary to make a worthwhile argument on the subject.

            1. Stephen

              If the food scarcity meme is in fact just a meme, then what if any are the drawbacks of modifying genes to protect against things like the ringspot papayas. I’m not married to the idea that somehow the argument needs have a correct middle ground, but it seems to me that there probably should be a reasonable place in the world for GMO crops. Preparing crops for roundup and other harmful chemicals seems silly to me. You are what what you eat chains through a biome and all that, but what are the rational objections to inserting genes from non invasive or harmful species into consumable goods? As much as my family had a motto it was, “genetic engineering can’t get here soon enough,” and I’m curious about what problems are presented by inserting things like different sets of cell receptor genes into crops.

            2. Truehawk

              I would like to add that SUNY has been working for 30 years to bring back the American Chestnut. The splendid tree that yielded more protein per acre than wheat and grew on mountain slopes that are too steep for the plow until the Chestnut Blight Fungus wiped out the tree between 1900 and 1950 or so.
              It is impossible to state how important this tree was to the ecology of the Appalachian Mountains and how much its loss has diminished the biome.


              SUNY has added one (1) gene from wheat which makes an enzyme that neutralizes the oxalic acid that the fungus uses to kill the tree. They have done extensive studies on everything from the way it grows to the way the leaves decay in streams that prove that this tree is in all respects except fungal resistance, identical to the original chestnut.
              However some people are freaking out because it is a GMO tree.
              The characteristics that they are freaking out about are not GMO they are the original. A tree that grows rapidly to 100 feet high, that produces 1800 lbs of nuts per acre with about 11% protein. The American Chestnut was the ENT of the American Forest and probably the result of selective breeding by the Indians.
              I remember the trunks of the original trees rising like great silver and ivory spires 50 feet above the hemlocks, and you can still see the wood in wooden railroad trestles that are 100 years old and still functional because the wood is exceptionally rot resistant. What they are freaking out about is are not GMO characteristics, they are what we lost due to the fungus.
              Also what if one inserted a gene from Legumes into cereal crops that fix their own nitrogen and need only an application of mineral spray as fertilizer. What if genes added form saltgrass allow the salty soil of the California’s centeral valley to continue to produce crops. What is cotten could be produced with 1/4th the water requirement. What if corn could be made to express a balance of omega 3s as well as Linolic Omaga 6s and thus could spare people who depend on corn for the bulk of their diet from hardening of the lens of the eye and the other effects of consuming too much linolic acid. What if corn could be breed to be a perennial rather than annual, and made so vigorous that no weed could compete. Remember man has been breeding crops for thousands of years and this is just a more powerful set of tools. The anti-GMO brush is way too broad.
              That said, the makers of plants that have been modified to make their own pesticides and that are anticipated to be planted on over a million acres should have to meet a rigorous assessment of environmental impact and collateral damage as well as food safety.

        5. different clue

          To paraphrase your own question . . .

          “After finding no short term effects health effects of cigarettes, now people seem to have moved
          the goalposts to the nebulous ‘long term’ effects. It is bizarre. How long term is good enough for you?”

      2. Jim

        They are disagreeing with the peer reviewed research and consensus of the field. There are now thousands of studies that have shown their safety for human health, animal health, and the environment. There is the recent trillion meal study . The “a decade of EU funded GMO research” meta study and its follow up easy to find with a google search I only have a PDF. And another meta study . These are just the 3 big and recent meta studies. This compared to a very small handful showing harm in no impact journals. There have been several long term and multi generational studies.

        1. hunkerdown

          Appeal to authority.
          Suppression of all evidence of pecuniary interest.

          Tell you what. COMPLETELY abrogate your industry’s right to gene and plant patents for the next 100 years. Stop ginning up fake food shortages not supported by the evidence. If you think it’s such a good idea, and you’re not just a leech on society, do it for free.

          It’s the only way we can know for sure that you’re not a psychopath.

        2. Ned Ludd

          The Peer Review Scam: How authors are reviewing their own papers

          Fake reviews — often involving self-peer review — have been the basis for a growing number of retractions. […]

          While this is a story about a technological vulnerability, the fact that many journals ask authors to recommend reviewers plays a big role.

          Publishing: The peer-review scam

          That is why some observers argue for changes to the way that editors assign papers to reviewers, particularly to end the use of reviewers suggested by a manuscript’s authors. Even Moon [a medicinal-plant researcher], who accepts the sole blame for nominating himself and his friends to review his papers, argues that editors should police the system against people like him. “Of course authors will ask for their friends,” he said in August 2012, “but editors are supposed to check they are not from the same institution or co-authors on previous papers.”

          For Sale: “Your Name Here” in a Prestigious Science Journal

          [I]n an investigation by Scientific American that analyzed the language used in more than 100 scientific articles we found evidence of some worrisome patterns—signs of what appears to be an attempt to game the peer-review system on an industrial scale. […]

          Some publishers are only now catching up to the problem of Chinese paper mills… Within two weeks of being contacted by Scientific American, BioMed Central announced that it had identified roughly 50 manuscripts that had been assessed by phony peer reviewers.

          Science Journal Fraud: Paying for Placement

          The Chinese services are so large scale that it enabled them to be caught out. But that raised the uncomfortable question of how many other vendors there are who operate with more finesse and on a smaller scale and have yet to be exposed.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Wow, a whole decade of research! Last time I checked the average lifespan was a lot longer than that. There is not a single person on this planet who has been eating these foods for their whole lifetime and that is what would be necessary to determine if eating these foods caused and adverse health effects down the road.

      As has been pointed out many many times, this is essentially an experiment on all of us and all of the other living beings who come into contact with either these foods ot the byproducts of growing them.

      Maybe eating roundup ready corn is perfectly healthy for people and won’t cause any diseases and cancers after long term use. Maybe. But glysophosphate has wiped out the vast majority of milkweed plants leaving a sparse food source for migrating monarch butterflies, which besides being nice to look at are pollinators. And the corn eating bugs are already becoming immune to the wonder that is roundup. And then there’s the deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the runoff of all this fertilizer and pesticide being used on these crops. These are facts. These things actually happened and have been well documented. And they don’t sound very safe to me.

      1. Truehawk

        I think there is some data showing that half of the loss of habitat of the butter-flys is due to weed control practices on the right of way of highways.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Yes, I’m quite sure that not every single milkweed plant was killed by spraying for round up ready crops. Some were killed by spraying roundup to as a weed killer on the side of the road. I doubt the monarchs care what the reason for spraying it was.

    3. timbers

      You also need to consider the rent extracting setup of GMO and how it alters our economy for the worse and in favor of the rich and corporations and against people, in purely economic terms. And this has nothing to do with the science:

      “The chemical producers oligopoly on patented seeds is a growing problem that threatens our existence almost as much as the FIRE made by banksters and billionaires.”

      (From Greg Kaiser, below in the comments below)

      1. Truehawk

        What about the GMOs developed by non-profits.
        Because the plant is genetically modified does not mean that the modifier was Monsanto.

        1. timbers

          That is a good point, and true it is the economic character rather than GMO itself, that is being referenced in Greg’s post, as bad. Better economic policy could end that.

          But also, non-profits were not ginning up proxy wars in Ukraine to plant GMO on it’s soil.

    4. Chief Bromden

      “Trying to deny the safety of GMO foods and crops is exactly denying climate change. ”

      That is a wagon-full of troll dung.

      There is no consensus on GM food safety.

      Reviews of extant animal feeding studies find an almost perfect demarcation between those done by the corporations themselves, which have claimed to find no toxic effects, and those done independently, which have all found toxicity and other health dangers. By now there’s been roughly an equal number of such studies in both groups. That’s especially impressive when we consider the massive imbalance in available funding and access to research materials. (Since the corporations try to deny independent researchers access to proprietary material, which means all GMO material.) It’s an indictment of the system’s lack of desire to know the truth, and a tribute to the truth-seeking will of a relative handful of scientists fighting against the current.

      Not only is there thus no consensus even if we consider only the findings of peer-reviewed studies by credentialed personnel. There’s also no consensus on the legitimacy of industry studies. All industry tests have been rigged in at least one way – their length was far shorter than the normal lifespan of the animal. Ninety days is a standard length. This is meant to ensure that chronic health dangers are unlikely to manifest during the duration of the test. Most studies also didn’t compare the effects of eating the GMO to the effects of a non-GM diet based on the non-GM equivalent of the GM variety.

      Most of these industry “tests” were the most minimal kinds of feeding tests, meant to ensure that an animal fed GMOs would quickly put on weight and not immediately drop dead. These never tested for other kinds of toxicity or for chronic health effects. Picture if we organized a test which would feed human subjects nothing but large amounts of cake, pastries, ice cream, candy, etc. for 60 days (and with no exercise), with our only real goal being to test whether the subjects would gain weight and not drop dead. Then afterward we trumpet the test as having proven that such a diet is healthy over the long run. That’s what’s been going on with these corporate feeding trials. Scientists reject these as having any validity as real safety tests.

    5. Rosario

      No need for a conspiracy theory. Just look at reality. My issue is more with GMO crops/animals and their relationship with the natural environment. There is no analogy between the selection of Maize in Meso-America over 1000 years ago and the modification of particular Maize genes in a lab today followed by the subsequent introduction of said Maize in a natural environment that has not been accounted for in the labs experiments. Why is that not problematic for anyone? We do not control biology, we tweak it, and we have no idea how it affects an entire ecological system. I feel we should respect that while we progress.

      1. Peter

        The analogy is quite apt. In nature, viruses rapidly transfer DNA across species as well.

  3. brazza

    bottom line … I’d rather see a future with 1 billion healthy humans on a sustainable planet than 8 billion struggling to survive on dubious junk-food. And I know I won’t get elected on that ticket …

    1. AllanW

      “And I know I won’t get elected on that ticket …”

      Yeah. That’s because you have decided to make clear your casual acceptance of the death of 7 billion people.

      1. Jim

        This. In 1950 the world population was around 2.5 billion with most of it not having food security by 200 there was about 6 billion people with around 40 percent without food security. Today there is 7 billion and less the a third have food security.

      2. hidflect

        Your politically correct opinionizing against the reality of over-population will help result in the death of Billions when the “priced for perfection” model fails.

        1. Foppe

          Better to suggest that the world would be better off if 84% of the population ‘disappeared’, eh? So much more palatable for people to simply disappear, than for “billions to die”.

          That said, I don’t really understand why people are so drawn to false dichotomies. There is no need for 8 billion to “live on junk food”; nor is there any guarantee that a population of 1 billion people would not choose to do so. The only reason we are experiencing food shortage is because of animal agriculture. See p. 23 of this 2006 FAO report‘s exec summary:

          The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. The total area
          occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the
          planet. In addition, the total area dedicated to feedcrop production amounts to 33 percent
          of total arable land. In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural
          land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet.
          Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin
          America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous
          forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of
          the remainder. About 20 percent of the world’s pastures and rangelands, with 73 percent of
          rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing,
          compaction and erosion created by livestock action. The dry lands in particular are affected
          by these trends, as livestock are often the only source of livelihoods for the people living
          in these areas.

          The problem, of course, is that people consider their “right” to the palate pleasure associated with following the ancient nobility’s preferred “diet” to supersede everyone else’s rights to adequate nourishment. (Never even minding the might makes right reasoning implicit in the notion that we have a moral right to treat the other sentient inhabitants of this earth as chattel property.)

          1. lord koos

            There is no doubt in my mind that both the earth and our human species would be in better shape if human population was 25% of what it is today, it’s a fairly obvious truth. Pointing out the obvious such does not make someone a proponent of mass death. As things stand we are on an unsustainable course with pretty much no plan to deal with it.

            1. AllanW

              Erm I’m afraid that ‘having no doubt’ that 5 to 6 billion people alive today are harming the species really DOES make you a proponent of mass death.

              Sorry to break this news to you …

              1. Sibiriak

                AllanW: “…’having no doubt’ that [“both the earth and our human species would be in better shape if human population was 25% of what it is today” (lord koos)] DOES make you a proponent of mass death.”

                No, it doesn’t. That’s a non sequitur.

                1. AllanW

                  Please stop embarrasing yourself. There is a clear connection in meaning and logic between his/her wish for the human species to be reduced by 75% in numbers and the description of that position as ‘being a proponent of mass death’.

                  Just because you have googled ‘non sequitur’ doesn’t, plainly, mean you know what it means in practice.


                  1. Kurt Sperry

                    Is “both the earth and our human species would be in better shape if human population was 25% of what it is today” most likely to be a true or untrue statement? That’s a question you can’t even allow yourself to consider as a hypothetical isn’t it? To the extent that you will predictably–inevitably– dodge, dissemble, and avoid it rather than addressing it directly, suggests an obvious answer.

                    How about if instead of killing people we merely sterilize a randomly selected 90% of men? Or if that’s too radical, to provide a strong financial incentive for them to volunteer?

                    1. Kyle


                      “How about if instead of killing people we merely sterilize a randomly selected 90% of men?”

                      Why be random about it? You go first Kurt! After all, shouldn’t the leaders of the fix the population movement lead by example? How about they go jump off a cliff for the greater good of humanity!?!

                  2. Sibiriak


                    Being a proponent of the idea that

                    (1) “both the earth and our human species would be in better shape if human population was 25% of what it is today”

                    does not imply that one is a proponent of

                    (2) ” mass death.”

                    One could hold, for example, that (1) is true, but argue that proposed solutions to the overpopulation problem are worse than the problem itself. Alternately, one could hold that (1) is true and argue that the best solution is a very gradual, long term reduction in population through lowering fertility rates (i.e. not “mass death). Or one could agree with (1) but support only zero population growth as a goal, not population reduction. There are many possibilities.

                    So, you are wrong. Support of (1) does not logically imply support of (2).

                    1. AllanW

                      Try visiting our shared reality once in a while rather than the extremities of your own consciousness, hmmm?

              2. jonboinAR

                No, I would say it does not. I, for one, though I have not done anything about it, see the present human population as more than likely unsustainable. That does not necessarily make me a murderer in my imagining. In fact, in my imagining, FWIW, I wonder how it might be possible to convince everyone the world over to limit themselves to having just one child. What I conclude, in my brief, entirely rough imaging is that we in the first world who think this way would have to begin by voluntarily restricting our consumption of resources by a large amount before we would begin to have the moral bonafides necessary to convince the more impoverished that they ought to reduce their birth rates. How to start doing all that I haven’t begun to figure out.

                But no, I’m not sitting here mentally slaughtering billions of brown people, and most likely neither is the commenter to whom you responded. So, yes, I agree with your other respondent that your comment was a little reckless.

              3. lyman alpha blob

                No it does not. It makes one a proponent of having fewer children.

                If every couple had only one child for a couple generations we’d be pretty close to reducing the population by that much. No genocide required.

            2. Harold

              If every couple had just one child, or even two children, the population could be halved in a generation or two with no “mass death.”

          2. Kyle

            “The only reason we are experiencing food shortage is because of animal agriculture.”

            What about all those hundreds of millions of herbivores that existed prior to the increase in human population? Would you include those also?

            An Inconvenient Cow

          3. Truehawk

            When one talks about farm land, one says I have X amount of acreage, with Y subject to row crops. Where Y is always less than X. Unless the land is very flat as in the Missippippi Valley a lot of the land can only be used as pasturage. Overgrazing is destructive as are Row Crops, which must be exquisitely carefully managed to avoid loss of topsoil. One can look to the rice paddies and tea plantations on the mountains of Asia to see how this is accomplished, but it is not mechanized agriculture suitable for mass production commodity crops. We should stop fattening cattle in feed lots and direct at food to people instead, but that is not going to rebuild soil carbon, stop erosion from tilled agriculture or keep aquifers which are in critical condition from collapsing entirely. And it we warm a couple of more degrees the tropical glaciers which have been retreating for a century will be gone. What is going to happen when the Nile, the Gangez, the Yallow, and the Indus become seasonal streams that look like the Rio Grande?

  4. hidflect

    Ha, yes! I wasn’t the only one worried about this issue being slipped in by NG. A sort of “troofer” backhander being swatted against anyone who denied Monsanto’s “settled science”. Most disturbing.

  5. Steve H

    “Settled science” seldom is.

    See, oh, non-Newtonian physics, a whole slew of sweeteners, and the number of teeth a hen has, to start.

  6. uri

    GMO defenders: how respondeth you to the review of studies? Does it not say what Mr. Wise says it says? Does is say what Mr. Wise says it says but nevertheless does not challenge the view that there is a consensus on GMO safety? I’m not an Elsevier subscriber so I can’t read it.

  7. Paper Mac

    I was trained as a toxicologist/pharmacologist and I hack genomes for a living. It is impossible to advance this conversation in a productive direction without agreeing on the parameters first. What pathological outcomes do we care about? Should toxicological studies on TG food be held to a higher standard than pharmaceutical companies are (maybe, given the high potential for chronic long term exposures with foodstuffs)? Do we care about specific transgenes (eg BT) or are we concerned, in a general way, about the safety of consuming a genome which has been ‘artifically’ altered?

    In any case, from my perspective, the conversation about safety and empirical data is misplaced. We have the same situation in agrotechnology that we do in pharma- major players with a small amount of IP they need to assiduously protect and add to. In the case of TG crops, this means that decisions about which technologies are being developed and promulgated are made in order to advance their bottom line and for no other reason. We could, as a society, be developing drought-resistant, salt-tolerant crops that would help impoverished coastal farmers for centuries to come, and place those technologies in the public domain, but instead we use our public research programs to subsidize Monsanto, Cargill, Dow, etc. The question is not “are they safe” but “who can we trust”?

    1. Syaloch

      Agree with the first paragraph, and also (I think) with the second.

      I’ve always been a bit baffled about exactly what the health concerns are suspected for GM foods. While modifying the DNA of some organism might sound creepy, chemically speaking the DNA modification itself doesn’t introduce anything into the foodstuff that wasn’t already there. To be harmful to humans, the GM version would have to contain some additional, potentially toxic/carcinogenic/allegy-inducing chemical compound not found in the non-GM version, or perhaps the same compounds found in non-GM versions but in different amounts. The presence of any such chemicals should be easy to detect, and in fact it’s often the introduction of such a chemical that’s the who point of the process in the first place (such as adding beta carotene to golden rice).

      Keep in mind that the long-term health effects of even non-GMO foods aren’t well understood either. For example, while there is some evidence that the antioxidants in red wine consumption may convey some health benefit, there is also growing evidence that alcohol is a carcinogen. So at least health-wise aren’t we holding GM foods to an unreasonable standard?

      I do not oppose simply labeling GM foodstuffs as such however — people should know where and how their food was produced and be able to decide for themselves whether they want to consume it.

      And I’m not saying that I think GMOs are not problematic in other ways. I do have concerns about them, but my concerns relate to the economic and moral consequences of turning living organisms into intellectual property, the environmental consequences of heavy pesticide use, and to the potential risks associated with releasing GMOs into the natural ecosystem.

      1. AllanW

        Yep. There are concerns and there are economic and other consequences to examine and judge but the knee-jerk chemtrail-esque commentary here is woefully irrational.

        When it strays onto these topics this blog gives vent to a violent anti-intellectual commentariat. Knowingly. It’s not quite anti-vaxxer or creationist whackjob territory yet but has moved in that direction markedly over the last few years.

        1. Ned Ludd

          Of the five sentences in your comment, only two are free of argumentum ad hominem:

          • Yep.
          • Knowingly.

          It would be interesting to hear your definition of “irrational”. Does it include people who rely on logical fallacies to make an argument?

          1. AllanW

            Try to think more clearly. You exhibit no understanding at all of that logical fallacy in operation.

      2. direction

        “chemically speaking the DNA modification itself doesn’t introduce anything into the foodstuff that wasn’t already there”

        All I can say is wow. I really hope I can be in on this conversation the next time it rolls around.

        Syaloch, you seem to assume that all DNA is created equal, and you are “baffled” by what the potential health concerns are because you exhibit no understanding of the topic. Genetically modifying something DOES introduce “things” into the “foodstuff.” It introduces bacterial genomic material (which inherently has different characteristics from eukaryotic DNA, and of specific interest would be the CpG sites because the methylation of CpG sites has regulatory significance for mammals) spliced with promoters and expressive genes from other organisms, some for the desired trait (beta carotene etc.) and others to track the vector’s success integrating into the target.

        One of the most common industrial practices is to introduce the genetic material that expresses component(s) of BT toxin. This toxin is considered safe for mammalian consumption because our digestive tracts are not alkaline like those of the targeted pests. Potatoes were modified to produce BT toxin back in 1996 but “removed from the market in 2001 due to lack of interest” (oh wikipedia, you are so funny sometimes!). I am fine with eating GMOpapayas/growing walnut trees/eating lecithin and other highly processed products but the idea of munching lots of delicious raw Jersey corn on the cob (one of my favorite things! so sweet!) makes me nervous these days. Maize is where jumping genes were first discovered. Having transposons full of BT toxin producing genetic material or glyophosphate resistance or just extra copies of random promoters and whatever else might be on the genetic vectors used, having any of that jump in to the genome of my favorite intestinal floral, well…let’s just say I’d like a label. Hopefully, they have engineered corn to only express the BT toxin from the roots where it is needed. The potato is, of course, a root so eating a root that might be expressing toxin from every cell is a little disconcerting, even if the FDA promises me these toxins won’t be released in my gut. Perhaps this was what caused such drastic “disinterest” in the global market for the “green leaf potato.’ (what sign were we using to indicate snark?) I reserve the right to be cautious and skeptical, especially in relation to feeding raw GMOs to children, until the longterm studies come out. Call me crazy.

        Again, Syaloch, you praise the writing of others, but really need to proof read your own. You have an interest in science? read more of it. There’s lots online, and wikipedia is a great place to get started on the basics.

        That being said, I’m way behind on the current state of research, so if I’m totally off base with what I’ve said here, Peter J., please correct me. (and thanks for adding the J. that did confuse me for a second) I agree with a lot of what PeterJ has said, but I do not share his positive intuitive feeling about GMOs. I must also admit that I am extra cautious about GMOs because I tend to be looking at things from the standpoint of evolutionary biology. So I agree with him that it’s not likely that digesting a tiny bit of bacterial DNA will make me allergic and give me cancer. For me, it’s more the wariness of introducing vectors with available promoters into the ecology of millions of our guts. Yes, I know vectors transpose genes naturally, but this natural rate of slow random transition limited by seasonal changes and isolated populations, and limited by the reproductive success of the host. That natural process might look different from what we might be looking at if the whole world is soon to all be eating rice with every cell containing the same recently introduced chopped vectors. Just as introducing an invasive species can have unforeseen consequences, it seems that if something does eventually go wrong, the dynamic equilibrium might slip rapidly in a direction we don’t expect and it would happen on a very large scale. So I’m looking at the very big picture and that worries me more than digesting some bit of DNA if we can prove it is foreign but stable. and for that we need longterm studies with proper control groups.

    2. Harold

      That they are “safe to consume” is just a meme — or propaganda slogan — which conveniently sidesteps and ignores a whole range of adverse economic and environmental effects.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    Go to a supermarket and look for labels about GMO. Can’t find any? Part 1 of answer; something’s rotten when they keep information from you (doubly so when you find the extent and expense they go to with congress and lobbyists to keep it that way). Go to seed distribution outlet and ask to see the contract for GMO’s. Can’t make your own seeds even in different fields? Part 2 of answer; greed. Ask around. Hear that Monsanto’s plays dirty, really really dirty in bringing GMO related law suits against small farmers? Part 3 of answer: Filth.

    Now granted, this has nothing to do with “safety”, it uses observable facts and common sense rather than scientific analysis but is sufficient to strongly suggest that Monsantos’ interest in GMOs has little if anything to do with safety so at the least it puts the so called analysis by people whose living depends on finding no safety issues into further question.

    As to National Geographic, anyone who has read even half an issue of that rag knows the publisher(s) are deeply conservative in a neoliberal sort of way where the irony of bringing the natural world into one’s living room and bemoaning the loss of natural habitat in each and every article doesn’t square at all with the opinions such as this one about highly industrialized processes that absolutely require the transformation of gigantic tracts of land from natural habitat to a “factory earth”. But then if you think about it, all their extraordinary photographs will be that much more priceless if the societies and villages and the farms and the “nature” they captured in them disappeared for good, bulldozed under for moon like machines to rove up and down processing uncountable tons of produce no one can afford and all protected by patents so that no individual, no little guy, can farm.

    GMOs are not to feed the masses. They are to generate the masses out of what were once villages and small communities. They are to reduce those people into consumers like cattle with approximately the same rights, all to generate profit for the shareholders feed the world.

      1. Ping

        I recently realized just how skewed National Geographic is while collecting material on the Safari Club.

        At taxpayer expense, our Arizona Game and Fish department functions as an extension of the well connected and wealthy competative ‘trophy hunting on steriods’ of every species in the alphabet Safari Club who have infiltrated all levels of government and agencies tasked with protecting endagered species advancing their ideology species must be killed to be saved. They are now in an uproar because elephants are getting uplisted from threatened to endagered and their importation of trophies could be impacted. Only a sociopath could enjoy shooting an elephant….

        Anyhow in the midst of research for local protest, I ran across National Geographics ‘friendly’ references to the Safari Club and was disgusted.

  9. greg kaiser

    GMO safety may be studied and debated. GMO control of our food supply is a clear and present danger! The chemical producers oligopoly on patented seeds is a growing problem that threatens our existence almost as much as the FIRE made by banksters and billionaires.

  10. Mel

    @ Jim

    You really don’t want to come even close to defending Monsanto. Not to seem rash, or conspiratorial, or judgemental, but Monsanto is death. Read the history of Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser , for a little warm up exercise. Not talking science here, but global “terrorism”, as our government so loves to call everything these days from shoplifting on up. Their fingers are everywhere and they are the worst of the corporate/fascist model.
    And as far as round up ready crops? Take some time to read the havoc it’s creating with our friends the bees. Monsanto’s solution? They’re working on resistant bees now.
    Now I realize we are supposed to look for the bright light in people, and now that corporations are people too, I’m trying really hard, but in Monsanto? Not a chance. The worst of the worst.

    1. Kyle


      It’s not only bees. When I was young we saw countless lightning bugs during the summers. Now if I see one or two it’s unusual.

    2. Code Name D

      Sorry, but its hyperbolic statements such as “Monsanto is death” that raised my skepticism flags. There is a whole lot of wrong information out there against Monsanto that isn’t true.

      For example, I have become skeptical with the claim that Monsanto is attempting to “monopolize of seed stock” used for replanting by producing sterile seeds that can’t be replanted, thus farmers can not retain a portion of their seed to replant the following year, but must buy their entire seed stock.

      It turns out this claim is miss-leading. The agricultural community has been using hybrids for some time, predating Monsanto. Triticale is a case in point, developed in the late 19th century. As it is a hybrid, drawn from two different species, it is naturally sterile. No genetic modification is required.

      It’s proper and prudent to be skeptical of Monsanto’s intentions. But in this case at least, Monsanto is let’s not make shit up or swallow them whole without taking a closer look at the claims. Triticale warns us that this is a complex problem, and that we jump to conclusion at our own pail.

      For example, when you say “genetically modified”, exactly what do you mean? Hybrids and cross-breading modify an organism’s genes, are they GMOs? If so, than most people are not going to have a problem with this. Nor should they? If you are talking about gene splicing, are we talking about tweaking, such as making a tomato redder? I am not sure people have a problem with that either. And we have no reason to think that these things are harmful to people either.

      Indeed, we need to ask the question, what is harmful? Some one already noted that round-up ready crops actually produce round-up resistant super weeds. Meaning more and stronger herbicides are needed for the same effect as before. There are also poorly understood un-intended consequences such as round-up inadvertently sterilizing the soil of necessary funguses and worms that the plant needs to grow. I have also seen it reported that this is producing a drop in productivity, making it more costly and less productive than non-GMO alternatives. These are examples of harm and cost that might be overlooked when activist try to make the argument that round-up ready means the crops end up being contaminated with round-up (Sorry, no evidence for that) or that the round-up ready gene some how makes the DNA itself toxic. (Laughably absurd. PS: I am not saying you made any of these arguments.)

      1. hunkerdown

        For example, I have become skeptical with the claim that Monsanto is attempting to “monopolize of seed stock” used for replanting by producing sterile seeds that can’t be replanted, thus farmers can not retain a portion of their seed to replant the following year, but must buy their entire seed stock.

        It turns out this claim is miss-leading. The agricultural community has been using hybrids for some time, predating Monsanto. Triticale is a case in point, developed in the late 19th century. As it is a hybrid, drawn from two different species, it is naturally sterile. No genetic modification is required.

        Comparing F1 hybrids that happen to be infertile with distributed seed stock INTENTIONALLY rendered infertile is a fallacy of composition and so disingenuous you should be ashamed to be presenting that conclusion here. The very fact of Terminator research is well-documented as having been done. Are you claiming this is not the case? Are you claiming they never wanted that? What exactly are you claiming here wrt Monsanto’s own motivations?

        (BTW, whoever wrote that page with a straight face needs to be disappeared.)

        1. Code Name D

          Comparing F1 hybrids that happen to be infertile with distributed seed stock INTENTIONALLY rendered infertile is a fallacy of composition and so disingenuous you should be ashamed to be presenting that conclusion here. The very fact of Terminator research is well-documented as having been done. Are you claiming this is not the case? Are you claiming they never wanted that? What exactly are you claiming here wrt Monsanto’s own motivations?

          You are making the claim – therefore you have the burden of proof.

          This is NOT a fallacy of composition – but the very point I am trying to make. The two are NOT the same thing, and its disingenuous to present them as being them. Just as you tried to conflate terminator seeds with a legal contracts. (Not the same thing dude.) This destroys your credibility and makes your argument irreverent. A real tragedy because there are real issues here that need to be addressed.

          Your problem with the terminator gene is that you have changed the subject away from GMO and regarding corporate behavior. Even if I grant you the terminator gene claim, because F1 hybrids are ALREADY well established in agriculture (without being evil), then how is Monsanto’s terminator gene unethical or amoral? What if the GMO process renders the organism sterile because science doesn’t know to preserve its ability to reproduce? What if this is a fail-safe to insure a GMO doesn’t escape control and go rogue, and destroying ecosystems and food chains?

          I am not defending Monsanto here – I am pointing out that its critics clearly suffer from an overt bias which has the unintended consequences of letting real issues go unmarked.

  11. jefemt

    Local TV news feed last night featured our land grant university (Montana State U) hosting a food fair where insects were the emphasized protein source. Campus has 12K students, over 1,000 attended and sampled. I could only wonder what the local beef and lamb producers thought– although the nearby ranchers are moving out, with the gentrification of the former ag center and little college town, coupled with sprawl as folks come to live in one of the!! Top 10 Most Liveable Small Towns !! (barf)

    Jim, not to quibble, but Simplot-affiliated producers (think McDonalds) are producing GMO spuds in eastern Idaho like there is no tomorrow. Do you know what you are eating, when you eat out? GMO’s are in most commercially available, processed and refined foods. We really don’t know what GMO’s may or may not do to us and the world we rely on for life. Without food labelling, we taxpayer/consumers (no longer citizens) cannot make an informed discreet choice of what we buy to throw down our gullets. Hence the local food movement, which is now, coinkidinkily, under assault by the FDA as ‘unsafe’. Big Ag (Big Businesses) HATE competition. Be afraid, be vewy vewy afraid… I’ll let you decide what the source of fear should be. Feel free to ask a Native American…

    1. cnchal

      I’m not afraid, but really pissed off at the criminal collusion between big government and big business.

      They intend to hide as much info as they can get away with.

      Part of Syaloch’s comment points to a problem, and at some point, even if you want to avoid it, the choice will be gone because of Monsanto.

      I do not oppose simply labeling GM foodstuffs as such however — people should know where and how their food was produced and be able to decide for themselves whether they want to consume it.

      GM crops will be priced just below non GM crops, and just like China has killed manufacturing elsewhere, eventually there will be no non GM crops. Because competition.

      The external costs imposed on the rest of us by Monsanto for environmental and ecological degradation and whatever other insanity is foisted on us, is never accounted for on Monsanto’s expense statement.

      1. Eclair

        The Archdruid in his blog this week muses on what makes a change qualify as “progress,” at least as progress is defined by our current economic and political system. What is progress? Any change that increases the externalization of costs.

        As you point out, the cost of environmental and ecological (and human) degradation is never reflected in Monsanto’s bottom line. Au contraire. But, this is touted as “progress.”

    2. TedWa

      The main thing is we’ve got enough food to feed the world 1.5 times over so we really don’t even need GMO foods. The only reason people are starving in the world is because of poverty. Is Monsanto and ilk going to get rid of poverty and feed the world? Not very likely. If Monsanto and ilk get to control the food supply will people no longer starve? Again not likely because they’re in it for the money. Their solution for populations with Vit A deficiencies is to introduce a GMO rice with Vit A in it. The real solution is bio-diversity and teaching the people to grow Vit A rich veges. Simple.

      What’s that old saying, if it works don’t try to fix it. Monsanto and ilk have found something that works and are trying to fix it !!

      Their pesticides are producing weeds that are so strong they cut through tractor tires. Insects they’re supposed to get rid of are adapting and becoming stronger and harder to kill. Nature finds ways to survive and thrive no matter what you throw at it. Are these GMO companies creating a new generation of super bugs and weeds? Sure looks like it. I always wondered about the bible mentioning wasps the size of human beings stinging people – how could that possibly occur? Consider genetic altering and messing up mother nature and it kind of does make sense.

      The vegetables and food we eat are genetically similar to us. When Monsanto and ik decide they’re going to use a GMO inserted pesticide that shuts off a particular pests reproduction ability, who can say that it won’t also do the same to people? It doesn’t even have to be all the people, even some small percentage and we will find our course on this planet irretrievably altered. The foods we eat came to us through thousands of years of testing for safety and slow evolution. Now Monsanto and ilk want to foist on us new altered foods without even 1 generation of testing. No thanks.

      To me it’s insane that a small altering of a food crop deserves a patent. Can I tweak Microsoft and get a new patent? No.

      1. StephenV

        Here’s a good piece on food overproduction:
        And this propaganda war is an expensive one. Here’s a graphic showing the players in the Labelling power struggle:

        1. TedWa

          Good links Stephen, thanks. We just don’t need GMO’s, there’s more than enough food for everyone. How did they ever get it into their heads that they needed to fix something that works is beyond me, and it’s beyond me how anyone believes or supports it. When something works you leave it alone and let it keep working

      2. hunkerdown

        a) That’s more or less what design patents *are*, b) software itself isn’t patentable, but with some legerdemain algorithms can be recast as patentable processes, and c) you certainly can patent anything you like as long as it meets the same subject matter, novelty, non-obviousness, and practicability standards as any other.

    3. Jim

      The Simplot GMO potatoes are not in commercial production yet. They have not received FDA approval but that should be anytime and USDA approval happened in Nov.

      Yes we do know what GMO will do to us. There are thousands of studies I listed 3 huge meta studies above. If you don’t want GMO products buy certified GMO free or Organic.

        1. hunkerdown

          There was a very good comment in some NC thread several days ago that reminded us to look at the temporal ordering of These Things. I think the tip of the hat ought to go to jrs, but my memory’s fuzzy (THC deficiency, don’t you know) and I apologize if that’s not the case. Anyway, extending their reasoning, the NSA kerfuffle had to happen to individuals in order to establish moral grounds for the big ag corporate person’s right to private interest.

          Privatization is a liberal value. Contrary to Whig revisionism, FDR didn’t change that one bit; he only gave liberal capitalist authoritarianism a dusting-off, a do-over, the inside track and decades of head start, just as he said he meant to do. It’s my conclusion that conceding any good faith on the part of Liberalism leads to checkmate, and that the winning move is to hack at the core of Liberalism — that any vested right for a private individual to manage public resources is even valid — again and again and again, until they come to terms with that, whether they “came here to talk about that” or not, “they ain’t no ball of s–t and their pantsuit ain’t neither” and that’s what’s going to be talked about.

      1. cnchal

        If you don’t want GMO products buy certified GMO free or Organic.

        Interesting, how that is put. The onus is on the non GMO food, ie: what people have been eating since there were people, to prove it’s purity.

        The GMO genie is out, and the question is, will the likes of Monsanto be able to do whatever the hell they want?

        If the answer is yes, then all food production will run through their hands, eventually. And at some point in the future, something will go drastically wrong because the chemicals will need to get harsher and stronger with each new improvement.

        If the answer is no, then governments needs to ride these businesses into the ground.

        Does Monsanto have a seat at the TTP table?

        1. Code Name D

          This is a good point. GMO is like any other technology, it can be used well or poorly. The problem here is that Monsanto (or any corporation for that mater) appears to be above the law.

  12. Peter

    So why are these big food companies always giving millions of dollars to defeat GMO labeling laws?
    For me the public needs to determined if they want to buy GMO or non GMO foods. People need a choice!
    When I go shopping I look for non GMO labels and organic labels, so I’m voting with my wallet.
    Plus if government get involved they are just going to mess it up too. It should be voluntary for food producers to label if there product.
    Just look at Chipotle Mexican Grille they said they are going non GMO and there stock went up, and there some other companies are going non GMO too!
    Also more farmers are planting more non GMO crops in 2015 and people are getting it.

    1. hunkerdown

      Just look at Chipotle Mexican Grille they said they are going non GMO and there stock went up,

      As someone who finds Chipotle food utterly delicious but can’t stand their hipster trade dress (Judd Apatow a great mind ffs?!), I nonetheless find this statement a bit too breathless and counterfactual. That’s not what securities markets are for. To the market, the non-GMO pledge is a good marketing campaign that, like any other, is expected to pay off on the back end somehow, whether through rationalizing higher prices for menu items through perceived value (gentrifying), by increasing the average customer ticket, or (as in the good old days) simply bringing in more customers. Time has not yet told whether that particular play will pay, though it’s certainly in line with their market positioning and demonstrated practices.

      Good deeds don’t pay rentiers.

    2. Peter J.

      To be clear, this is a different Peter than me, the Pharma Scientist who posted above. I disagree about labeling, because like the emphasis on extremel;y rare science publication retractions mentioned elsewhere in this thread, they will muddy the waters of reason and induce unwanted fear and mistrust of science. Much like many food fads, the anti-GMO labelling is based on pseudoscience, and flies in the face of very reliable tests.

      For example, screening for true gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) is uses a blood test for anti-gluten antibodies that is 100% accurate, yet here in CA every yahoo with a few extra bucks in their pockets is wasting money buying gluten free everything. So many labels list “gluten free” that this fly by night gastro-lore has taken on a legitimacy far beyond what is scientifically warranted. Same goes for the health effects of “organic” foods, which is a complete waste of time and money in my opinion. If, OTOH, people are avoiding GMO and focusing on organic foods for legitimate reasons (eco-friendly farming, buying locally, and food flavor), I’m fully supportive.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        “Extremely rare science publication retractions” is a gross overstatement of the reliability of medical research. Start with Vioxx. For you to make that claim based on Vioxx alone, and the number of deaths it caused, is astonishing, and
        calls the credibility of everything else you said into question. You either don’t know this terrain as well as you profess to, or choose to grossly misrepresent it.


        1. Peter J.

          There’s no need to be uncivil. It appears that we simply have different definitions of the term “rare.”

          “PubMed references more than 25 million articles relating primarily to biomedical research published since the 1940s. A comprehensive search of the PubMed database in May 2012 identified 2,047 retracted articles, with the earliest retracted article published in 1973 and retracted in 1977.”

          For those keeping score, that’s over 99.91% of scientific articles examined that haven’t been retracted. The overwhelming majority of these are from academic labs, not industry, and I’ll venture to guess that only a small proportion of those have anything to do with toxicology, let alone the toxicology of GMO.

  13. Rational

    excellent post. When examining my own pro-GMO bias, I think it arises somewhat from the fact that most of the anti-GMO stuff I am exposed to consists of semiliterate “Monsanto is the devil” memes and all-caps screeds which tend to only make reference to sketchy articles for scientific support. So anti-GMO “feels” an awful lot like creationism and climate change denial. Since it’s becoming more and more apparent that we hold our opinions largely to signal our identification with particular groups, GMO skepticism can be a hard portion to take for one who wants to be viewed as pro-science, despite the fact that the science isn’t settled,maw you so ably point out.

  14. steelhead23

    Foppe’s comment at the beginning of this string is the most cogent. I am not so much concerned that a Roundup ready soybean is unusually bad for me, but that Roundup is bad for me. Further, its bad for the environment including soil and water. What I find most disturbing from Monsanto is that they don’t want me to know what products I purchase contain GMOs and thus, more poison. May their board of directors enjoy the fruits of their labors – long, slow, agonizing death.

    1. Syaloch

      Yes, that’s my focus as well. My concern is not so much the health effects of the food, but the fact that GM is being used to transfer ownership and control of our food supply to corporations like Monsanto, and to prop up an ecologically harmful and unsustainable factory farming model.

      1. jrs

        It seems to me there’s a fairly easily solution, don’t allow any lifeform to be patented or copyrighted. Sure it’s possible GMO seeds might still be used, but without Monsanto.

  15. RUKidding

    Interesting array of comments. Well put me in the anti-GMO camp, mainly because I don’t agree with Monsanto, Dow & others telling me – via all the money thrown at governments of all levels in the USA – that I am not “allowed” to know whether what I eat is GMO or not. What are they so afraid of if the consumer knows this info??? Really. Ask yourself that. A whole huge number of US consumers won’t give a sh*t. it’s mostly us hippie bastards who’ll refuse to buy it, so why’s that a problem for Monsanto? I’m serious.

    I do have scientist friends who mostly think GMO is probably “ok,” but they are skeptical. I speak mainly of a good friend who is an Ag scientist of some renown. I am far more ignorant than he is, but if he’s a bit skeptical… well, go figure.

    Why can’t we know what’s GMO or not? That’s my main question. That and the fact that it’s well documented that Monsanto & others are pretty much running smaller (family) farming operations out of business across the globe based on spurious legal claims that the small farmers had Monsanto’s heavily patented seed-plants in their crops (and other legal loopholes)… due mainly to nature’s way with having seeds fly around (or be deposited in bird poop) and then germinate on another property.

    Why is Monsanto hell-bent on driving smaller farms out of business? Don’t they frickin have enough land already for their BigAg business? Aren’t they filthy rich enough? Do those who are so pro-GMO feel comfortable with one conglomerate mostly controlling all of the world’s agricultural production – whether with GMO plants or otherwise? I certainly don’t agree with such a monopoly.

    I’m not scientifically able to comment intelligently about GMO foods, but I see a huge array of issues surrounding their production. I think it’s overly simplistic to say that the anti-GMO camp is filled with scientific know-nothings who are acting out of impulses similar to climate change deniers or the anti-evolution crowd. Get real.

    I’ve been following the whole GMO situation since the early ’70s. It’s not a pretty picture, and for all of Monsanto’s & Bill Gates’ claims that they are just “looking for solutions” to feed an over-populated world??? Well I say that’s horse hockey. Bill Gates and Monsanto are interested in only one thing: how to get even more insanely rich than they already are and to enhance their power, control & dominate positions on the planet. Philanthropist? Pull the other one, Bill.

    Wake up and do a little more research just beyond the science. It’s a much larger issue than that.

    Nat’l Geographic has long been a conservative rag that has pretty pictures but adds not much in terms of genuine discussion about world issues. Color me unsurprised at this article. No doubt bought and paid for by Monsanto.

    1. steelhead23

      I rather liked the essay you linked. Seems like Ol’ Ned was on to something. But the pro-technological advancement system is well entrenched and seems inexorable.

      1. hunkerdown

        It seems that way because promoting that belief in necessary evil as an unremarkable fact is part of any bureaucracy’s defense mechanism. The Archdruid Report has taken a multidisciplinary approach to showing that, in fact, such systems are very prone to collapse just when they appear at their most formidable.

  16. SomeThoughts

    I believe the scientific consensus is being understated here. For instance, this research shows that 88% of AAAS scientists agree that GMOs are safe, and I bet that percentage would be even higher among those with specific subject matter expertise.

    There is a great deal of independent non-corporate scientific attention focused on GMO safety and research, and a great deal of work has been done to bring together this body of research in recent years. A good example is the GENERA Genetic Risk Atlas, who estimate that half of all GMO safety studies catalogued are independent.

    GMO safety may not have the scientific consensus of evolution, but it has developed way beyond what is implied by this post, and that is quite simply because of the information coming in from an overwhelming number of different sources that shows very little to be concerned about.

    I think it is wise and reasonable for people to be concerned, and for people to insist that this topic be more deeply scrutinized. I think it is unwise and unreasonable for people to dismiss the very real extent to which this has happened – and continues to happen – and to ignore the conclusions being reached by this scrutiny.

    My sense is that the bigger risk to society is not GMOs themselves, but the regulatory regime under which GMOs are sold, used, and intellectual property rights are granted. I fear that while people of conscience are getting caught up in the whole “to GMO or not to GMO” battle, we are losing the war to industry lobbyists who are currently writing the laws for our elected representatives.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As discussed earlier, the standard for “safety” in these studies is not one that some consumers find to be high enough. “Safety” for FDA purposes refers to toxicity and allergic reactions, both of which are short term phenomena and can be ascertained with short-term studies. Their concern is the possibility of side effects resulting from long-term consumption. No one has or is doing the longitudinal studies needed to determine that. It would require, among other things, meticulous logging by a large enough sample (you’d need a minimum of 1000 to start give the odds of dropouts) of what one ate every day over decades, and having a sample population that was GMO-free as a control (with similar detailed logging to make sure they didn’t consume GMOs in any way) against which to measure outcomes.

      Also I do not have time to investigate the affiliations of the scientists associated with GENra, but its name and the tone of the article screams industry astroturf organization. This is not the style of writing you see at scientific publications. And I must note that the literature review pointed to in the post highlighted the overwhelming prevalence of GM studies:

      An equilibrium in the number research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was currently observed. Nevertheless, it should be noted that most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible of commercializing these GM plants.

      Shorter: I don’t trust an organization that looks to be trying to reassure consumers over a peer-reviewed survey of the literature. For instance, in a recent row involving an author of a paper with findings unfavorable to private equity investors in electricity restructurings, a supposedly independent leading journal, Energy Economics, has one of its four editors at a research institute heavily funded by private equity and hedge funds, and a second a climate change denier with known ties to Big Oil. Yet if you looked only at the level of the journal, and not of the editors, you would deem it to be independent.

      1. Dirk77

        As you and others have pointed out the timescale of the studies is one crucial issue here. I suspect that the proper timescale for the safety testing of food and pharma products is at least a human lifetime. This is larger than a patent lifetime, which in turn is longer than some wall st investor is willing to wait. Explains a lot, you know?

    2. hunkerdown

      A useful answer to GMO groupies: “Okay! Ban gene and plant patents for the next 100 years and then we’ll talk. If not, maybe we’d better start talking about your real motives and who’s paying you.”

      1. Kurt Sperry

        But..but..if they are doing it for the good of humanity and not to go from grotesquely wealthy to obscenely wealthy, that wouldn’t slow down the adoption of GMO foods at all!

  17. TedWa

    The main thing is we’ve got enough food to feed the world 1.5 times over so we really don’t even need GMO foods. The only reason people are starving in the world is because of poverty. Is Monsanto and ilk going to get rid of poverty and feed the world? Not very likely. If Monsanto and ilk get to control the food supply will people no longer starve? Again not likely because they’re in it for the money. Their solution for populations with Vit A deficiencies is to introduce a GMO rice with Vit A in it. The real solution is bio-diversity and teaching the people to grow Vit A rich veges. Simple.

    What’s that old saying, if it works don’t try to fix it. Monsanto and ilk have found something that works and are trying to fix it !!

    Their pesticides are producing weeds that are so strong they cut through tractor tires. Insects they’re supposed to get rid of are adapting and becoming stronger and harder to kill. Nature finds ways to survive and thrive no matter what you throw at it. Are these GMO companies creating a new generation of super bugs and weeds? Sure looks like it. I always wondered about the bible mentioning wasps the size of human beings stinging people – how could that possibly occur? Consider genetic altering and messing up mother nature and it kind of does make sense.

    The vegetables and food we eat are genetically similar to us. When Monsanto and ik decide they’re going to use a GMO inserted pesticide that shuts off a particular pests reproduction ability, who can say that it won’t also do the same to people? It doesn’t even have to be all the people, even some small percentage and we will find our course on this planet irretrievably altered. The foods we eat came to us through thousands of years of testing for safety and slow evolution. Now Monsanto and ilk want to foist on us new altered foods without even 1 generation of testing. No thanks.

    To me it’s insane that a small altering of a food crop deserves a patent. Can I tweak Microsoft and get a new patent? No.

    1. TedWa

      Seeing how Monsanto and ilk can control the SCOTUS and patenting laws, me thinks there’s a good chance MS and Gates is afraid of Monsanto, ie.. tweaking Microsoft and getting a patent. Monsanto still hasn’t paid back the Vietnamese people for the damage done by Agent Orange, and those damages are generational.

  18. Rosario

    I’m fully aware that National Geographic is a purveyor of Neoliberal ideology but this went way too far. That any scientist or publication can responsibly say that genetic modification in a lab is the same as genetic modification in a natural environment over thousands of generations is absurd. Recall European contact with indigenous Americans. A 90% decrease in indigenous population within 100 years because of the introduction of germs that had not evolved alongside the indigenous people. The inverse was syphilis in Europe post “contact”. The problem is not the science of genetic modification, the problem is the method by which it is done. Particularly within the Capitalist construct. Our cavalier attitude toward genetic modification is horrifying.

  19. Nat Scientist

    Sponsored-science is non-science. Science is all about relentlessly testing and observing the difference and reflecting, possibly in every historically-known dimension, by anyone, not just the approved experts, and cataloging the consequences of the new results. Science is not Technology, but mankind’s, maybe kind, culturally-imperative way of playing the new hand or tool by those empowered. Sponsored-science has an expiration date, when the money stops. Science is free for all; works for all kinds.

    1. Ned Ludd

      In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn recounts how, in the past, the results of reproducible scientific experiments changed when the scientific paradigm changed. A lot of science is, to this day, not particularly reproducible.

      The cancer researchers Glenn Begley and Lee Ellis made a rather remarkable claim last year. In a commentary that analyzed the dearth of efficacious novel cancer therapies, they revealed that scientists at the biotechnology company Amgen were unable to replicate the vast majority of published pre-clinical research studies. Only 6 out of 53 landmark cancer studies could be replicated, a dismal success rate of 11%! […]

      The list of scientific journals in which some of the irreproducible papers were published includes the the “elite” of scientific publications: The prestigious Nature tops the list with ten mentions, but one can also find Cancer Research (nine mentions), Cell (six mentions), PNAS (six mentions) and Science (three mentions).

      If science is dedicated to discovery, why did research scientists demand that their irreproducible papers not be identified?

      The Amgen scientists approached the papers’ original authors to discuss findings and sometimes borrowed materials to repeat the experiments. In some cases, those authors required them to sign an agreement that they would not disclose their findings about specific papers. Begley and Ellis were therefore not free to identify the irreproducible papers…

      1. Nat Scientist

        “A lot of science is, to this day, not particularly reproducible.”

        That’s non-science by definition. Try gravity some time. It works no matter what color is your mother, and you don’t need to be home to test its(it’s) constant-ly.

        1. AllanW

          Alarming, isn’t it? The level of anti-scientific irrationality displayed here, I mean.

          1. Nat Scientist

            IP phone carrier customer support recently informed me that “computers don’t use logic; that only people use logic, and so computers use code”. There’s something old to learn every day, by more and more serial narrative-gators, disconnected from the recurrent cycle of history; the only pure lab for social studies that can’t be daily gamed and called a science.

      2. Crazy Horse

        Of course “sponsored science” isn’t science at all but merely advertising and propaganda cloaked in a white lab coat. The results of an experiment may be conducted using the most meticulous procedure and be testable and falsifiable by future researchers, but if they are bought and paid for the “owners” will do their best to bury any results under a rock if they don’t produce the right (profitable) answer. So there are at least three types of science-like activity:

        1- Information distributed into the public domain for testing and replication by other scientists using scientific procedures for verification.
        2- Information owned by sponsors to be used for their benefit or buried in old file cabinets if so desired.
        3- Distorted or falsified information released for propaganda purposes and shielded from investigation by its owners.

        Nothing new here, but what is less commonly understood is the extent to which “sponsored science” defines what is worthy of investigation and thus determines what will become the accepted body of “knowledge”. If you only investigate how to modify organisms to grow faster it is unlikely you will achieve an understanding of how the biosphere is dependent upon the relationships between all its species.

        Buried in an old file cabinet at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a series of mimeographed documents detailing the results of a year-long test of a molten salt modulated reactor fueled by thorium. Few contemporary nuclear scientists even know of its existence. Yet it demonstrated the operational feasibility of a technology with none of the safety and proliferation problems of the water cooled uranium reactors that melted down at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukishima. Why was that technology cast aside and the Pandora’s box and engineering nightmare we now know as nuclear power chosen instead? Because the American sponsors wanted to build bombs out of the plutonium generated from the “Peaceful Atom.” and saw an opportunity to create a giant boondoggle in their construction and operation.

        Sponsored science at work.

  20. skippy

    There seems to be a revolving door.

    Michael Taylor: VP of Monsanto > Deputy Commissioner of the FDA

    Roger Beachy: Director of the Danforth Plant Science Center (paid for by Monsanto) >director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

    Elena Kagan: Obama Solicitor General (when she famously took Monsanto’s side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready Alfalfa case) > US Supreme Court justice.

    Clarence Thomas: General Counsel for Monsanto > US Supreme Court justice.

    Margaret Miller: Monsanto supervisor > Deputy Director of Human Food Safety

    Donald Rumsfield: Board of Directors for Monsanto’s Searle Pharmaceuticals > US Secretary of Defense

    Ann Veneman: Monsanto Board of Directors > US Secretary of Agriculture

    Linda Fisher: Assistant Administrator at the EPA >VP of Monsanto > Deputy Administrator of the EPA

    Dr. Michael A.Friedman: Deputy Commissioner of the FDA > Senior VP of Monsanto

    Skip here… yep no conflict of interest….

    “There are a multitude of credible scientific studies that clearly demonstrate why GMOs should not be consumed, and more are emerging every year. There are also a number of scientists all around the world that oppose them.

    By slipping it into our food without our knowledge, without any indication that there are genetically modified organisms in our food, we are now unwittingly part of a massive experiment.The FDA has said that genetically modified organisms are not much different from regular food, so they’ll be treated in the same way. The problem is this, geneticists follow the inheritance of genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to take this organism, and move it horizontally into a totally unrelated species. Now David Suzuki doesn’t normally mate with a carrot and exchange genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to switch genes from one to the other without regard to the biological constraints. It’s very very bad science, we assume that the principals governing the inheritance of genes vertically, applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There’s absolutely no reason to make that conclusion – Geneticist David Suzuki”

    10 Scientific Studies Proving GMOs Can Be Harmful To Human Health

    “In November 2012, the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology published a paper titled Long Term Toxicity of Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant genetically modified maize by Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team of researchers at France’s Caen University. (source) It was a very significant study that made a lot of noise worldwide, the first of its kind under controlled conditions that examined the possible effects of a GMO maize diet treated with Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide.

    After the research was completed, it went through rigorous reviews, as well as a four month review process by scientists and researchers. It was eventually approved and published, only to be retracted by request of the Journal. Although hundreds of scientists around the world condemned the retraction, and the researchers addressed the criticisms, it was to no avail.

    There is great news to report however, as this major GMO study has now been republished following its controversial retraction (under strong commercial pressure), with even more up to date information and a response to previous criticisms. You can read more about that here.

    The study has now been published by Environmental Sciences Europe. (source)

    The chronic toxicity study examined the health impacts on rats of eating commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, alongside Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.

    The study found severe liver and kidney damage as well as hormonal disturbances in rats fed with GM maize in conjunction with low levels of Roundup that were below those permitted in most drinking water across Europe. Results also indicated high rates of large tumors and mortality in most treatment groups.

    The republished study also has a section describing the lobbying efforts of GMO crop supporters to force the retraction of the original publication. This is scientific fraud at its best. The authors express how the previous retraction was “a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide.”

    “We also show that the decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science, thus, we republish our paper.” – Seralini

    “Censorship on research into the risks of a technology so critically entwined with global food safety undermines the value and the credibility of science.” – Seralini

    This study has now successfully passed through multiple rounds of rigorous peer review. Again, the study shows that Roundup-treated GM corn as well as the herbicide used on it increases cancer in rats. There are a number of studies that demonstrate the potential health risks of GM plants, this one in particular drew heavy criticism from industry scientists.

    “The major criticisms of the Seralini manuscript were that the proper strain of rats was not used and their numbers were too small. Neither criticism is valid. The strain of rat is that which is required by the FDA for drug toxicology, and the toxic effects were unambiguously significant. In fact, Monsanto published a similar study in the same journal eight years before using the same number and strain of rats. Their study was for 90 days and claimed no harm. In contrast, the Seralini study was for two years and did not see any tumors until after nine months. Therefore, it is clear that the short 90-day feeding paradigm is not sufficiently long to detect the carcinogenic effects of GM products. It takes a long time before low-level exposure to environmental toxins affect health. For example, a recent associated press report documented the dramatic increase in birth defects and cancer in areas of Argentina that have grown GM soy for a decade. Given these facts, what was the justification of the editorial decision to retract the Seralini Manuscript?” (source)”

    The first guidelines were originally designed to regulate the introduction of GM microbes and plants into the environment with no attention being paid to food safety concerns. However, they have been widely cited as adding authoritative scientific support to food safety assessment. Additionally, the Statement of Policy released by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, presumptively recognizing the GM foods as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), was prepared while there were critical guidelines prepared by the International Life Sciences Institute Europe and FAO/WHO recommend that safety evaluation should be based on the concept of substantial equivalence, considering parameters such as molecular characterization, phenotypic characteristics, key nutrients, toxicants and allergens. Since 2003, official standards for food safety assessment have been published by the Codex Alimentarius Commission of FAO/WHO. Published reviews with around 25 peer-reviewed studies have found that despite the guidelines, the risk assessment of GM foods has not followed a defined prototype.(12) (15)

    “The risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) crops for human nutrition and health has not been systematic. Evaluations for each GM crop or trait have been conducted using different feeding periods, animal models and parameters. The most common results is that GM and conventional sources include similar nutritional performance and growth in animals. However, adverse microscopic and molecular effects of some GM foods in different organs or tissues have been reported. While there are currently no standardized methods to evaluate the safety of GM foods, attempts towards harmonization are on the way. More scientific effort is necessary in order to build confidence in the evaluation and acceptance of GM foods.” (12) (15)”

    Skippy… shambolic apologists are their own worst enemy…. diminishing both science and intellectual rigor… blog comment by comment…

    1. TedWa

      Beautiful comment skippy, you put together everything I knew about GMO’s into one cogent statement. Thanks.

      1. skippy

        Curiously none of the pro – cough ambivalent GMO mob want to engage the material.

        Skippy… no problem TedWa

  21. pissed younger baby boomer

    Last summer I purchased corn at national grocery store,where I lived . i shucked the corn for supper that same day ,I cooked the meat on my back yard grill. I always cooked the longer. My mom cooked the corn and rest of the meal. after we finished eating our supper .A few hours latter are stomachs were hurting . we did not vomit, no fevers . It lasted even in our sleep. We guest the corn was GMO corn . Last year in Oregon my state where i live had a ballot proposition 92 to label the food in the grocery stores if their GMO food of course .The biotech and big food corporations through a lot of money against it. Even in the ballot recount of 92. Yes the banksters and food / biotech corporations WON!!

    1. TedWa

      Similar situation here, I’ve given up on corn unless I can be 100% sure it’s not GMO. BTW, what came out was strange too

  22. Nat Scientist

    “Biotechnology companies and their powerful advocates, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are succeeding in a well-planned campaign to get GM safety declared ‘settled science.'”

    It should help to recall that Bill Gates got rich from his skill in developing the new Law of software EULA, not his genius in Science research. The expression “settled science” itself, sounds like a final legal decision.

    1. Integer Owl

      Yes. While Bill Gates seems to have aquired status commensurate with his wealth, his past business practices and commitment to quality left much to be desired. Not someone I want messing with the natural food supply, firstly due to his love of monopolies, and secondly, it might not be possible to endlessly ‘patch’ the genetic ‘bugs’ that are revealed after the product is rushed to market without the proper testing.

      As manipulation of public perception really annoys me, I won’t bother to mention how despicable it is that big-GMO is trying to accuse anyone who is against their plight of patenting the world’s food supply of denying starving Africans of food, as it would just make me annoyed…

      1. Integer Owl

        And continuing the software analogy, think ‘viruses’, and relying on endless ‘anti-virus’ applications.

  23. Chief Bromden

    Why the hell are vaccines and the pharma cartel getting a hall pass? For all the diseases that were once dangerous for which we now vaccinate the data unequivocally show steep declines in mortality before the introduction of vaccines. For example, mortality from measles had declined from an average of forty deaths per hundred thousand people in the first couple decades of the twentieth century to around three per one million people and falling a decade before the vaccine was introduced. This is a decline in mortality of over ninety nine percent. The numbers for other diseases vary somewhat but the pattern is similar.

    The notion that we were a plague ridden country until vaccines saved us is not true. The second main concern regarding vaccines is what they are doing to our natural immunity. Vaccination is an attempt to replace natural immunity with manufactured immunity. This has proven impossible to date, both for individuals and for society as a whole, the herd.

    Vaccines attempt to mimic natural immunity but they cannot. They bypass most of the layers of the immune system, failing to allow them to develop. They throw off the natural, healthy balance of Th1 and Th2 mediated immunity. They offer limited temporary protection from manufactured pathogens while natural immunity affords us permanent protection. They allow the pathogens to remain in our cells, where the DNA of the manufactured pathogens mixes with our own DNA. Natural immunity expels the pathogens from our cells and our bodies. This unnatural immunity often backfires and leads to a variety of otherwise inexplicable immune system malfunctions in otherwise healthy people.

    Possibly worst of all, they destroy the immunity that is passed from mother to child. A mother who has had a disease and developed natural immunity can pass protection from that disease to her child through blood while the child is in the womb and breast milk after birth. A mother who has only manufactured immunity cannot pass it on. All these diseases will come back at some time. If we have not maintained and developed natural collective immunity, we will be decimated. There are examples of this in history.

    There is also emerging evidence that the naturally acquired immunity we develop from exposure to these natural microbes helps us avoid other more serious illnesses later in life. Artificial immunity offers no such protection.

    Finally, manufactured immunity relies on heavy metals such as aluminum and mercury which are known neurotoxins and further disrupt our natural biochemistry and immunity.

    There is one addendum that must be addressed. Many people fear that in some way the unvaccinated or under vaccinated are putting the vaccinated at risk. Without really knowing what they are talking about, they refer to the break down of herd immunity. Let us briefly revisit herd immunity.

    Herd immunity is the fact that as a new pathogen and its human host community become more used to each other, virulence and danger decrease. The most dangerous strains have died off and only the relatively more friendly strains remain. The herd is thus immune to damage from the remaining strains of the microbe. Vaccine developers attempt to recreate this natural process through biochemical and genetic engineering, as previously discussed, but their attempts have yet to improve upon the natural process. Natural herd immunity to measles was attained when 68% of a population had been through the illness. In modern populations with as much as 99% artificial immunity there are still outbreaks.

    We must also examine the common misconception that an unvaccinated person is more dangerous than a vaccinated person. It is well established that people will be carriers of the engineered version of the microbe for weeks after vaccination. For many of these illnesses it is a rare situation in which an unvaccinated person is sloughing off live viruses while they are not actively ill with the disease. An immune compromised patient sitting in a doctor’s office or a classroom is far more likely to come into contact with an infectious disease through a recently vaccinated person than through an unvaccinated person who is not presently ill.

    The idea that the unvaccinated pose a threat to the vaccinated has no basis in fact. It may be that the unvaccinated reduce herd immunity to the engineered microbes, but it is just as likely that the vaccinated reduce herd immunity to the natural microbes. It is much easier to stop engineering microbes than it is to completely eliminate natural microbes.

    In examining vaccination it becomes clear that we are engaged in an experiment to re engineer human immunity. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that our engineered immunity is superior to our natural immunity. There is no compelling reason to believe that it ever will be. In fact, artificial immunity, by all indications is far inferior to natural.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? “Inherited immunity” is transient:

      Infants are born with weak immune responses but are protected for the first few months of life by antibodies they receive from their mothers before birth. Babies who are nursed can also receive some antibodies from breast milk that help to protect their digestive tracts.

      No one got inherited immunity from scourges like polio or smallpox. And people who are unvaccinated and get measles, which is not life-threatening to them, ARE a threat to babies, who cannot be vaccinated and often die from measles.

      This “inherited immunity” notion is spurious. Go look at the infection record and mortality rates from these diseases before and after vaccines were introduced. Understated side effects of some vaccines are a good reason to be worried (for instance, the yellow fever vaccine is known for a high level of side effects). But your argument does not hold up to scrutiny.

      1. Peter J.

        It’s more accurately called passive immunity, and it’s a well characterized biological process.

  24. Alex Tolley

    It makes no sense to me that one should lump all GMOs under one category. For example, Vitamin A enhanced rice is a very different issue than adding genes to make plants herbicide resistant to tolerate higher levels of herbicide spraying. It is equivalent to stating that a technology like computing is “bad”, when it is the applications that matter.

    The risks for each GMO should be independently assessed. We should also consider the issues of current ag practices. If we modify plants to allow nitrogen fixation, is this a benefit as it reduces the energy and environmental costs of nitrogen fertilizer? If we succeed in transforming the photosynthetic pathway from C3 to the more efficient C4 in our food crops to enhance growth, wouldn’t this be beneficial?

    I do think that the AAAS made a mistake in supporting industry in countering labeling requirements because of possible unreasonable fears. The consumer should have been allowed that information, even it it meant a label that linked to a website for details.

  25. Wat

    Global food production is nearly twice enough to feed 7 billion, so the problem is distributive, which follows since withholding is the fundamental tactic enabling capitalism; and then there’s livestock. In addition, The Rodale Institute has proven in a 30 year study that organic yields are just as great as conventional pesticide driven. There is no real need at all for what Monsanto does.
    As to the health impacts of genetic modification, what several posters seem not to understand is that Monsanto’s propaganda is based on a one-gene, one-protein fallacy, ignoring the evidence that genes operate on a gestalten basis in the genome, with potentially much further reaching and much more nebulous effects than what we understand. What actually changes with the addition of one or more genes from a foreign organism is completely unknown. I really don’t think we should f*ck with this stuff until we’ve learned how the ancient mystics visited foreign star systems without spaceships.

  26. different clue

    There is corporate junk science, and there is nonprofit sound science. Who pays for which, and which do we trust?

  27. ogee

    If what I recall is in some way true, then Monsanto has something serious to worry about.
    There is a growing investigation building in Ecuador and Honduras into the cause of a major cause of death in the population , due to what has been described as a random occurring kidney failure. Sorry, I forget the acronym. The gist of the story goes from my recollection; the kidney failure is being attributed to metallic toxisity in the blood being filtered by the kidney, causing the collapse.
    There are groups trying to discern whether the glysophosphate in the soil, is binding the metals to the foodstocks/water/?. The theory being that as glysophosphate was originally invented and used as a cleaner for boilers. Using its chemical properties of binding metals, and thus cleaning .Then it was re-utilized as an herbicide. The chemical compound that glysophosphate is, isn’t what is toxic;supposedly. It is its ability to bind metals from the soil into water supplies and foodcrops.? This is the mechanism that people are trying to figure out now.
    The groups in Ecuador and Honduras, are trying to get round-up banned from use by proving that as the second leading cause of death in middle age men, this kidney disease can be linked to round-up use. which would satisfy the world trade agreements for banning the use of a corporations wares,as it is..
    Now for Monsanto, this would be a wild fire on the range. Once one country proves a link and is successful in banning a product, other countries health systems could have a better track to study., and possibly follow suit. Now, if round up sales were cut in these small countries, that isn’t the big deal. A majority of monsantos revenues come from the seed business which are the “round-up ready” seed variants. So, if anyone gets their foot in the door to stop round-up use, then the door would also be closed to their major revenue stream,seed sales, and their research dollars would be for naught.
    That is just a thumbnail sketch of an issue I had heard somewhere?, Maybe someone better informed could elaborate, or refute? But around here, I see peoples stripes coming out. Just like people who have a favorite party and can’t really see any other color.
    Personally, I could understand the aspirations of science and it being used to benefit mankind. Sure that IS really what we do it for. But really, Monsanto is an entity led by greedy scumbags. So my faith in their doing “the right thing”,is lower than the sole of my shoe.

  28. RBHoughton

    The important thing about GM is patent revenue. If GM seeds are accepted globally then the entire planet’s food production can be taxed.

    When GM was introduced, farmers bought the science as it was said they would no longer have to spray. In fact pests like the corn borer soon acclimatised to GM and spraying is now more widespread than ever.

    My personal beef about GM is the qualitative change in fruit and vegetables since its appearance. You have to read the trade press for information on this subject as the newspapers don’t carry it. I guess everyone has noticed how we have exchanged appearance for flavour?

    I will accept that GM is safe but I don’t want it. I prefer fragrance and taste to prettiness.

  29. frosty zoom

    I will accept that GM is safe

    well, i wouldn’t go that far. you’ve compressed thousands of years of evolution into just a few and then you release this new organism which has co-evolved with nothing.

    that’s seems a little rash to me.

  30. Neil in Chicago

    There is no such thing as “the safety of GMO foods”.
    There is only “the safety of this specific modified food”.

    (I trust Monsanto about as much as I trust George W. Bush; I wish the many scientific illiterates clamoring about GMO like it’s some one thing would stfu.)

  31. vidimi

    good take down but, in some way, the debate over GMO safety, while still important, is a bit of a red herring. the greatest danger is the IP assault and the homogenisation of world food crops.

  32. Henry

    The major reason that people are distrustful of scientists is because the can be bought and sold like crack whores! Come up with the funding and they will give you the results you want.

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