Aug 05 2014

Persistent Anti-GMO Myths

One persistent theme in my writing about scientific topics is that, to optimally serve our own interests, public discourse and decision-making on issues that are highly scientific should be informed by the best evidence and scientific analysis available, not on lies, myths, misconceptions, or raw ideology. I am therefore attracted to topics where I think the myth to fact ratio is particularly high.

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) is one such issue. The propaganda machine seems to be way out in front of the more sober voices trying to correct the record and focus the discussion on reality. I also see GMO as the ideological flip side to global warming denial.  In the latter case we seen industry and free-market ideologues sowing confusion and misinformation. They also do the ideology shuffle – a dance in which, whenever they are nailed by the facts on one point, they state that their objection is really based on some other point. They never really acknowledge the point, just side-step it.

Anti-GMO activists, in my experience, operate the same way. They have marshaled every possible point they can against GMO, whether or not they are true or valid. When one such point is exposed as a myth, they simply slide over to some other point as their “real” motivation for opposition, but never give any ground.

Recently environmental author Mark Lynas, who was previously anti-GMO, has reversed his position. He stated:

“When I started off as an anti-GMO activist, it was very much an ideological position. I was scared of the new technology, you know, it just seemed to be messing with the basic building blocks of life. But what happened in the sort of 10, 15 years since then, is that I have written a couple of books on climate change, and I really fell in love with the scientific method as a way of establishing knowledge about the world. It eventually dawned on me … that I was actually being anti-science in the way I was talking about GMOs, and that there are many ways a stronger scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs than there is about the reality of climate change.”

I agree – it is a shift from ideology to science, and global warming denial is a close analogue.

Lynas now appears to understand the real story here – a campaign of misinformation to trash GMO as a technology. He recently wrote a story about Bt brinjal, the first GMO food crop about to be introduced in South Asia. Anti-GMO activists are reporting that the crop is failing and farmers are angry. But he was there and observed first hand that the crops are doing fine and the farmers are happy. The anti-GMO propaganda story appears to be a total fabrication (worse than any hardcore global warming denier).

I wrote a fairly thorough summary of the GMO issues here. Briefly, there is no evidence for any health concerns regarding GMO.  The environmental issues are more complex, and each GMO has to be evaluated on its own merits, including how it is used and incorporated into an overall strategy. Some GMO in the works, such as golden rice, have no environmental issues.

Many people just feel that transgenic modification is inherently risky. This comment is typical:

“To some extend, gene splicing is OK for things like transferring the best genes of a species into one organism, but taking genes from entirely different organisms and stuffing them into different species has a likelihood of unintended consequences as the system won’t necessarily react in the same way to the gene as the original species. If these were just house plants I wouldn’t mind, but we’re eating this stuff. I’d recommend long term effect studies for GMOs before I’d eat any tomatoes with pig genes.”

Recently Neil DeGrasse Tyson got into the game with a brief answer to this question. His response was to “Chill out.” He made the point that we have been genetically modifying our food for thousands of years. He is correct, but he did not directly address the issue of transgenic modification from remote species. To be fair, this was a quick off-the-cuff response to a question, he was not giving a lecture on the topic.

People worry about pig genes or fish genes in their tomatoes. This is not a science-based concern, however. Pigs, fish, and tomatoes share most of their genes. We all share a common evolution, and our basic genetics and biochemistry at the cellular level is remarkably similar. Further, horizontal transfer of genes is common in nature, even across kingdoms. There is no particular reason to worry about transgenic GMOs, and in any case they are extensively tested prior to release.

You can use the “unintended consequences” argument about any technology. This is a common opposition tactic – people understand fear, and calling for safety research sounds benign. Antivaxxers take this tactic often. The real question is, though, how much testing is enough? For the opposition, it’s never enough.

When scientific evidence and arguments are used to deal with all the health and environmental concerns, most people in the anti-GMO camp will fall back on the argument from Monsanto.

In a follow up on Facebook, Tyson wrote:

“If your objection to GMOs is the morality of selling non-prerennial seed stocks, then focus on that. If your objection to GMOs is the monopolistic conduct of agribusiness, then focus on that.”

I agree with him, but most people don’t do that. They pick a side, and then endorse every position on that side, good, bad, or ugly.

In any case, even when people do focus on the business end of GMO as their “real” objection, they still, in my experience, rely mostly on myths and misinformation. This is where anti-GMO ideologues have been the most successful, for various reasons. There are rarely any scientific papers to refer to, just obscure big corporate practice. Further, anyone pointing out misinformation can always be dismissed as a shill.

In other words, anti-GMO activists are fighting in the arena that is most advantageous to them. They lost the scientific debate, so demonize big business. It is difficult to defend big corporations. Most of them aggressively defend their interests and profits. They use the law to their advantage and have well-paid attorneys to help them do it. They lobby politicians for favorable regulation. The push back against regulations. They over-hype their products and services. And sometimes they do outright unethical things, which they justify to themselves as just being competitive.

My generic approach to any corporation is healthy skepticism, understanding the nature of the game. However, corporations are not necessarily evil or engaged in huge conspiracies. They are made of people, not drones, and most people want to view themselves as good. I do think we need careful regulations to make sure everyone is playing fair, and to mitigate the tendency for free-market forces to increasingly favor the few.

Like Tyson, I understand if people feel the current system gives too much power to too few corporations. But the reality is a far cry from the “evil Monsanto” memes generated by the anti-GMO crowd. Let’s take a look at their biggest claims (and the ones most often repeated – again, just stroll through any comments section on any GMO article).

Indian Farmer Suicide:

Keith Kloor has written what seems to be the definitive take down of this persistent myth. The claim, popularized by Vandana Shiva, Al Jazeera, and the movie, Bitter Seeds, is that 270,000 Indian farmers committed suicide as a result of expensive seeds and crop failure among GMO cotton in India. The myth seems to have been invented out of whole cloth.

In reality, Indian farmer suicides were on the rise prior to the introduction of GMO cotton in 2002, they stabilized after the introduction, and there is essentially no correlation between planting GMO cotton and risk of suicide. In fact, Indian farmers using GMO cotton are making more profit, and overall cotton production has increased significantly in India.

Suicides correlate with risky business decisions, lack of irrigation, lack of government subsidies and lending support – but not with the use of GMO cotton. This one is quite simply pure BS, but it persists none-the-less.

Terminator Seeds:

The claim is that Monsanto developed terminator seeds that will grow for one generation, but the seeds from the resulting crop are sterile. In fact, Monsanto simply acquired a company who had a patent on a terminator seed, but they never developed it further or brought it to market. Monsanto never marketed a terminator seed, and promises they never will.

Saving seeds

This is now perhaps the most common complaint against the business practices of Monsanto (who is the poster child for big agro). The claim is that farmers for thousands of years would save seeds from one year to replant the next. This is presented as if it were a natural right. Seed companies, however, through their GMO monopoly, force farmers to buy new seeds every year.

I’m not going to argue with whether or not it is better for farmers to save seeds or buy new ones each year. I will just point out – this issue is not unique to GMO, and when put into perspective, is really a non-issue.

First, many seeds on the market are hybrids. 

“Today, somewhere around 99 percent of U.S. corn is grown from hybrid seed. The same is true for wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum, cotton, peanuts, and many other crops.”

So basically, most crops are hybrids. This is critically important because – you can’t replant the seeds from hybrid plants. Because of the nature of genetics, hybrid traits do not breed true. The mix of dominant and recessive traits will be unpredictable in the next generation.

Therefore, farmers already cannot save their seeds from one year for the next for the vast majority of crops, because they are hybrids. Yet, I never hear anti-GMO activists railing against hybrid crops because they force farmers to buy new seeds every year. Hybrids have been popular since the 1930s and are “natural,” so I guess it’s OK.

Even without the hybrid issue, many farmers choose to buy seeds each year rather than save their seeds because it can be time consuming and not cost effective. Some small farms save their seeds and cultivate their own heirloom varieties, but of course they aren’t buying GMO varieties from big seed companies anyway.

One might argue also that farmers choose to buy seeds each season because it makes financial sense for them. Don’t assume farmers are idiots or have no choice.

At least in the US and Europe, and whole issue of saving seeds and GMO is simply a non-issue. It may be different for some third world farmers, but I have read conflicting information on this issue. Suffice it to say, if this is your concern (and again, this is not about GMOs, but big seed companies in general) then advocate for better regulations for third world farmers, not to ban GMOs.

Suing Farmers for Contamination

It just doesn’t happen.  In fact, organic farmers sued Monsanto in order to protect themselves from the possibility that Monsanto might sue them in the future for contamination, but they could not cite a single case in which this has already happened.

The claim that Monsanto will sue for contamination is based on a misrepresentation of a few cases in which farmers tried to nullify Monsanto’s patent for a particular GMO (by claiming patent exhaustion, for example). In every case the farmers deliberately stole seed from Monsanto or tried to violate the patent and their contract. These were not cases of simply accidental contamination – but that is how anti-GMO activists have spun these cases.

Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian canola farmer, is one famous case.

Monsanto and Agent Orange

To prove that Monsanto is “evil” some opponents point out that Monsanto produced Agent Orange for the US government in the 1960s and 70s. This is true but – who cares? They, along with many other companies, took a government contract to produce a chemical. This has absolutely nothing to do with GMO and is a transparent attempt to poison the well.

GMO Research

This is an issue that actually does deserve attention, but I rarely hear raised by the anti-GMO crowd. This is a good example of letting the propaganda overshadow genuine concerns.

The big seed companies control who can do independent research on their seeds, and have been accused of blocking any unflattering research. In 2009 26 seed researchers wrote an anonymous complaint to the EPA about such restrictions on research.

The result was a roundtable with the researchers and the big seed companies, leading to research agreements with many universities. The seed companies are worried about piracy of their technology, but the researchers need to be able to do independent research on safety and environmental effects. They came to an agreement, and the situation is now much better.

Conclusion

In my opinion, GMO is a very important technology that will help us (in conjunction with other biotech, including more traditional methods) to improve the crops on which we rely to feed a growing population in an environmentally sustainable way.

Like any new powerful technology, GMO needs to be studied, monitored, and regulated, which it is. I do not agree with arguments that it is inherently risky, even transgenic GMO, and so far the technology has proven extremely safe. Cries of Frankenfood and impending environmental disaster are little more than ideologically driven fearmongering.

Of course, any large and vital industry needs thoughtful regulation and watchdogs to keep an eye on them. As we saw with the research issue, sometimes pressure needs to be placed on big companies to play fair. We can also have a meaningful discussion about how best to balance a variety of economic forces, between seed companies, farmers, governments, and consumers. The role of patents is certainly worth discussing, as is the impact of farming technology (including but not limited to seeds) on our environment, water use, and food security.

Let’s talk about the actual issues, and stop wasting time with these ridiculous debunked myths that seem to dominate public discourse.

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202 responses so far

202 Responses to “Persistent Anti-GMO Myths”

  1. BillyJoe7on 05 Aug 2014 at 8:52 am

    SN: “Let’s talk about the actual issues, and stop wasting time with these ridiculous debunked myths that seem to dominate public discourse”

    I wait with interest to see what happens in the comments…

  2. rezistnzisfutlon 05 Aug 2014 at 9:08 am

    Great assessment! It seems you’ve leaped into the fray both feet, and that you’ve accepted that pretty much all of the objections anti-GMO types are fear-mongering hysteria that have little basis in science.

    Many anti-GMO activists will use any and all means necessary to have GMOs banned, even if it’s through dishonest means. This is who we’re dealing with.

    As far as the “unintended consequences”, really that argument can be made about any cultivar that is introduced into an ecosystem. Every new stressor will have a resultant effect, whether it’s organic, GMO, or anything for that matter. It’s smart to always determine what effect a specific stressor has on an ecosystem, but to claim that GMOs are in any way more risky in this scenario is fallacious.

    Currently, pro-GMO is losing the PR war and it may come to a point to where GMOs are either severely restricted, or outright banned, for purely political reasons. It seems that most people are swayed by fear-mongering and appeals to emotion more than facts and sound logic, and anti-GMO activists have made great strides in appeals to emotion. I’m not sure what it’ll take to sway people, but currently it doesn’t look good. It’s unfortunate that lies and misinformation are more compelling to the greater public consciousness than scientific reality.

  3. Bill Openthalton 05 Aug 2014 at 10:09 am

    Anti-GMO is an ideology/belief system, meaning its believers cannot rationally approach it. They effectively have no choice but to defend it against reality. The ideology colours their perception, and they become impervious to information discrediting or invalidating their ideology. This seems to be a fundamental modus operandi of the human brain, in my opinion related to the human ability to form hive-like societies (where the founding beliefs of the society must trump the observations of the individuals).

  4. _Arthuron 05 Aug 2014 at 10:39 am

    Monsanto is always the poster child for GM crops.
    You can endlessly debate for or against soybeans that resist vast quantities of herbicide, without having made any point establishing if *all* genetically modified crops are unsafe or not.

    It’s a kitchen sink approach: one decides from the start that GM crops are evil, and then gathers arguments, of any type, to support that “conclusion”.

    These opponents are dead certain that GM foods _must_ be poisonous somehow. That’s why they applaud “research” like the Seralini paper, or that the monarch butterfly larva is inconvenienced when eating milkweed liberally sprinkled with BT maize pollen.

    Generally, no argument will ever convince the typical BT opponent that genetics can indeed improve crops and feed this hungry world.

  5. jsterritton 05 Aug 2014 at 10:53 am

    Dr Novella…

    “You can use the “unintended consequences” argument about any technology. This is a common opposition tactic – people understand fear, and calling for safety research sounds benign. Antivaxxers take this tactic often. The real question is, though, how much testing is enough? For the opposition, it’s never enough.”

    I couldn’t agree more about this obnoxious tactic. I’ve argued against the naturalistic fallacy with chemophobes, anti-vaxxers, and anti-GMOers — but to little avail. On the Mike Adams is a Dangerous Loon post, a commenter was echoing the anti-vaxxers war cry and essentially calling to “green our GMOs.” As far as I can tell, this means that GMOs are perfectly acceptable — once every single shortcoming in farming and business practices is corrected and the GMOs themselves have been tested until the end of time to prove their 100% safety. See, not anti-GMO, pro-safe GMO.

  6. Bruceon 05 Aug 2014 at 11:08 am

    I am not sure there is any activity in human history that has ever been proven to be 100% safe. A person can die doing anything, and there would be instances where you could not specifically say that the activity they were doing did not in some way contribute to their death.

    That is assuming safe is roughly means “does not cause death”… if you broaden it to mean “does no harm” you enter an ever bigger fuzzier ceiling of requirements that can never be met.

  7. hardnoseon 05 Aug 2014 at 12:53 pm

    “In my opinion, GMO is a very important technology that will help us (in conjunction with other biotech, including more traditional methods) to improve the crops on which we rely to feed a growing population in an environmentally sustainable way.”

    That is almost always the central pro-GMO argument. The same person who worries about global warming, seems to accept an ever-growing human population.

    If you don’t like human-made global warming, then you should not be ok with an ever-growing human population.

    The urgent focus should be on stopping or at least slowing population growth, not on growing more food.

    Developing countries usually have the fastest growing populations, and as they become westernized they will create ever more pollution. Global warming, if it really is human-caused, will get ever more out of control.

    So if we really do care about this planet, we really do not need GMOs.

    And you neglected to mention the real central reason for being anti-GMO. It is because DNA is poorly understood, and we cannot guess the long term effects.

    Mainstream science advocates are usually extremely optimistic about current scientific understanding. But we are babies playing with fire, so I do not think our experiments with the foundations of life will turn out well.

    THAT, imo, is the real objection of the GMO skeptics.

  8. rezistnzisfutlon 05 Aug 2014 at 1:08 pm

    The same person who worries about global warming, seems to accept an ever-growing human population.

    Who says that a “pro” person isn’t concerned about growing human population?

    The urgent focus should be on stopping or at least slowing population growth, not on growing more food.

    And how are we supposed to accomplish that? Accelerate war? Attrition by starvation? Gas chambers? Interesting that you accept that GMOs aid in “growing more food”, usually anti’s claim that GMOs have a “failure to yield”.

    So if we really do care about this planet, we really do not need GMOs.

    Why does one preclude the other? Most people who accept GMOs as part of the “agricultural toolkit” also care about the planet. We also realize that GMOs can go a long way in helping with that. For instance, the usage of Bt crops means reduced usage of chemical pesticides. Or, no till crops reduce carbon emissions caused by tilling. We can work on better environmental stewardship with the help of GMOs.

    It is because DNA is poorly understood, and we cannot guess the long term effects.

    That is where you’re wrong. DNA is so well understood that we’ve made a science around it and can manipulate it with predictive results. The “long term effects” are better known with direct manipulation than with other techniques that alter DNA more randomly. Of course, when constantly moving goalposts, utilizing the Nirvana Fallacy, and demanding 100% safety guarantee, it’s easy to claim that we don’t know the risks.

    On that level, we know far less about the risks of organic farming which has an actual history of harm, primarily with the use of uncured manure and compost as fertilizers that pass on pathogens to consumers. The demand for impossible safety testing is irrational when the same demands for safety testing aren’t extended to ALL agricultural types.

    The only ones who have the poor understanding of science are typically the anti-GMO activists.

  9. mumadaddon 05 Aug 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Hardnose,

    “If you don’t like human-made global warming, then you should not be ok with an ever-growing human population.”

    This is a bizarre thing to say. We don’t have to be in favour of population growth to acknowledge that it’s happening and take measures to ensure that people are properly fed. Support for GMOs and concern about the expanding population are not mutually exclusive, or even in opposition to each other.

  10. Steven Novellaon 05 Aug 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Others have already pointed out the flaws in hardnose’s logic – false choice, non-sequitur.

    But more, GMO has potential benefits beyond increased yield.

    Improved nutrition (such as golden rice)
    Disease resistance – necessary to keep ahead of evolving pests and pathogens
    Possibility of reduced nitrogen inputs, reduced fertilizer, which is perhaps the most significant environmental effect.
    Lower land and water use
    Better food security (drought resistance)
    Reduce pesticide use.

    Even without population growth (which we can’t magically make happen) getting more for less with a smaller footprint is a good thing.

    Regarding “DNA is poorly understood” – this is a meaningless statement. Operationally define “poorly” in this context. Genetics is actually a mature science. Of course, we don’t know everything. We don’t know everything about physics, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be transmitting massive levels of electricity to every home, enough to kill someone if they get exposed. We also pump explosive gas into homes – homes with CHILDREN. Don’t get me started on cars, nuclear energy, and air travel.

    Bottom line – our understanding of genetics, the research that has been done and is being done, and the nature of the changes of most GMO crops represent manageable and acceptable risk – less risk than many other things we take for granted in our society.

    But – it is easy to overhype risk and the unknown for ideological purposes.

  11. meiguizion 05 Aug 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Excellent summary of the silliness associated with criticisms of GMO’s.

    A point of (well-intentioned) pedantry though: the term Third World has a very specific historical context (namely countries not aligned with either the Eastern or Western bloc during the Cold war) that gets very murky in modern contexts. For example, Laos is one of the poorest countries in Asia, but wouldn’t traditionally be considered a Third World country based on its communist government. A much more descriptive, and accurate term would be developing country, as that is accurate regardless of political or economic system, or any historic allegiances.

    Not a huge deal either way, common usage being what it is, but economic development is what I spent too much money studying in graduate school, and that was one of the few linguistic arguments I didn’t cringe at whenever it was brought out again.

  12. kevinfoltaon 05 Aug 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Great work Steven. Glad to see you really digging into this topic, and I hope NDT does too.

    In my 14 years of public discussion of this topic I’ve found the anti-GMs to be more vicious and difficult than Creationists or anti-vaxers (which I’ve debated endlessly as well).

    You touch on it more in the comments– What are the missed opportunities that anti-GM causes? Silberman’s group says lack of Golden Rice caused 1.4 million human life years lost. We have plants in academic/industry/go’vt labs that can tolerate flooding, heat, cold, freezing, pests. We have higher vitamin A, iron, folate and many others. We have plants that require less insecticide and fertilizer. These are not dreams- they exist now, but are not developed or moved toward commercialization.

    So for us it is not about simply setting the science straight. It is now about a body count and environmental impact from NOT employing a safe and effective technology. That’s why we need to win the hearts and minds of the middle. The activists have controlled the dialog with misinformation.

    Time for scientists to step up. Thank you for your great work. kevin

  13. Steven Novellaon 05 Aug 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks, Kevin. BTW – those strawberries you sent me taste amazing. It would be awesome to get those flavors into a commercial strawberry.

  14. rezistnzisfutlon 05 Aug 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Kevin, nice to see you commenting here!

    At the very least, all the noise that anti-GMO activists create is preventing any meaningful conversations from being had about GMOs, or agriculture for that matter. We end up spending most of our time dispelling myths, correcting misinformation, and putting out other fires intended to distract and create fear. It is indeed unfortunate that we are not seeing more benefits GE crops can potentially bring.

  15. Karl Withakayon 05 Aug 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I don’t think that pointing out that we have been genetically modifying our food for thousands of years by hybridization and selective breeding really does much good with any intended audience. My guess is that most fence sitters and nearly all anti-GMOers would differentiate between “natural” genetic modification via hybridization and selective breeding and “synthetic/aritfical” genetic modification.

    I think it’s more important to point out that we have been artificially genetically modifying plants for more than 80 years through various forms (chemical & radiation) of mutagenic breeding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation_breeding

    I would argue that mutagenic breeding is less controlled and more haphazzard than what is done with transgenic GMOs, but there are absolutely no labeling requirements for mutagenically derived foods, and they are allowed in certified organic foods/products without restriction, and there doesn’t appear to be a huge mutagenic breeding manufactuversy.

    From the Wikipedia article: “Reports from the US National Academy of Sciences state that there is no scientific justification for regulating genetic engineered crops while not doing so for mutation breeding crops”

    Anti GMOers: Be consistent or explain the difference for your positions in regards to GMOs and mutagenically bred foods.

  16. grabulaon 05 Aug 2014 at 4:07 pm

    @hardnose

    “That is almost always the central pro-GMO argument. The same person who worries about global warming, seems to accept an ever-growing human population.”

    You mean accept it’s true? It’s the only way I can see this sentence making any sense in context at all.

    “If you don’t like human-made global warming, then you should not be ok with an ever-growing human population.”

    Just hit the ground running making up things hardnose? Where are you getting this huge assumption?

    “Developing countries usually have the fastest growing populations, and as they become westernized they will create ever more pollution. Global warming, if it really is human-caused, will get ever more out of control.”

    Thanks for joining us in 2014.

    “And you neglected to mention the real central reason for being anti-GMO. It is because DNA is poorly understood, and we cannot guess the long term effects.”

    WTF does this even mean?

    “But we are babies playing with fire, so I do not think our experiments with the foundations of life will turn out well.”

    Hardnose, this statement right here is how I know you are lying about your ‘scientific’ background.

    Queue Mlema swamping this thread with sweet anti-GMO articles from Indian newspapers while JAQ’ing off.

  17. Sylakon 05 Aug 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Anti-gmo activist try to convince peoples that gmos are automatically bad for the environment. But if they are diseases resistant, so you need to grow less of them to have the same yield, because less of you crop die, if they use less water, if you can use less pesticide., if their can resist more harsh condition, so you can grow them in place were people are starving. In the end you can reduce the quantity of resources used to grow food to feed more people. What in all that is bad for the environment?

    BUT a lot of anti-GMO activists defend global warming, and when you talk to them about the AGW deniers and the strategies they use, they agree with you, and become «Pro-Science», but shift the topic on GMO, and the become exactly the same as AGM deniers, and they don’t even see it. and reallt don’t like to be point as the same. ( I had the same problem with a lady friend of mine who is Anti-fluoride).

    Luckily At least One of them did! and really, koodoo to Mark Lynas.

    On a SGU episode you talked about Fungus being a great cause of dying crops, destroying the equivalent of crop to feed 600 millions person, it is a lot spoiled food. If a GMO could help reduce that problem, in what universe is this bad?

    I totally agree with the way you see this topics. You put this in words, a lot better and with a lot more science, than I could ever done! Thanks!

  18. MikeBon 05 Aug 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Great writing on an interesting topic!

    I’m a (very small) farmer who has completely flipped my pov on GMOs. I’m all for them.

    There’s one thing people don’t mention much when the topic comes up: GMOs are just COOL.

    Imagine a goat that produces silk protein in its milk, which is then separated from the milk and spun into material for surgical use!

    What the space program was to my generation, GMOs should be to current youngsters: the newest, coolest thing.

    BTW: that mensch, Kevin Folta, is featured in an online book called The Lowdown on GMOs. It also features and essay by yours truly, showing how a lay person can change his mind about the topic.

  19. kevinfoltaon 05 Aug 2014 at 5:53 pm

    rezistnzisfutl- I agree, the only way to communicate this with a well-fed public is to win back the emotion- we need pathos. They can claim lumpy rats, but we don’t wheel out blind kids. We need to focus away from Bt and roundup ready and focus on missed opportunities. What didn’t we do? What are the costs ?

    Karl- you’re right too, mutation breeding is truly the frankenest frankenfood. Traditional breeding and polyploids are not far behind! Google “Frankenfood Paradox”. Actually it is here: http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-frankenfood-paradox.html

    It is a really useful table for discussing this topic!

    Steve! Glad you and the girls are enjoying the strawberries. Some of them are absolutely amazing– hopefully you got a Mara des Bois to flower… !

  20. BillyJoe7on 05 Aug 2014 at 5:55 pm

    hardnose,

    I invite you to do something practical in line with your sentiments regarding overpopulation and get yourself off to a developing country and slowly starve yourself to death.

  21. MikeBon 05 Aug 2014 at 5:59 pm

    That should read “a goat the produces SPIDER SILK PROTEIN in its milk.”

  22. Bill Openthalton 05 Aug 2014 at 6:37 pm

    hardnose –

    The urgent focus should be on stopping or at least slowing population growth, not on growing more food.

    You might not have noticed (anti-GMO blinkers oblige), but raising living standards, and giving people things to desire happens to be the best way to slow down population growth. Countries with the lowest living standards tend to have the highest birth rates. Many developed countries will have to deal with population decreases in the near future.

    While purposefully starving people, as you apparently advocate, isn’t a very ethical way to rein in populations, creating a perceived shortage of resources by making it possible (and socially required) for people to acquire a house, a vehicle, holidays and other material goods has exactly the same result (fewer children). As a bonus, no one can dispute the morality of improving people’s lives.

  23. hardnoseon 05 Aug 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I don’t advocate starving anyone. I advocate not promoting GMOs as a way to provide for an ever-increasing population. That is the ONLY justification I have seen from GMO proponents.

    GMOs won’t help to westernize poor undeveloped nations. If you want to westernize people because you think it’s a better way to live, and so they will have something to do besides have babies, that is a different subject.

    The need for ever more food is a justification for reckless genetic engineering.

    Let’s face it, scientists in general enjoy messing with nature. I can’t really blame them for that. So they find supposedly compassionate reasons why it must be done. But it’s just an excuse.

    The general public, on the other hand, does not feel safe with GMOs, and I can certainly understand why. Monsanto, etc. have enough money to suppress research findings they don’t like. They can ruin the career of anyone who dissents. Don’t be naïve and say that doesn’t happen here, it surely does.

    Have there really been enough long-term studies to assure us that GMOs don’t contribute to allergies, autoimmune disorders, cancer etc.? I really doubt it.

  24. scpecoraroIIIon 05 Aug 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Hard nose- every single one of your points had been addressed in this page.

  25. Bill Openthalton 05 Aug 2014 at 7:27 pm

    hardnose –

    I don’t advocate starving anyone.

    … but you’re vying for Mlema’s backpedalling crown.

  26. Knigelon 05 Aug 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this Steven. It helps tremendously when people such as yourself weigh in on these issues because it makes us science communicators come off just a little less crazy when we’re in the wasp nests and viper pits trying to inject a little bit of reason and scientific evidence.

    I know you’re a meticulous and thorough researcher, and I don’t know if any of this will be useful to you, but in my little corner of the internet we have a dedicated bunch of people volunteering for a project called Skepti-Forum. Together our community has discussed extensively the claims you’ve written about and much more. We’ve been trying to put together a few resources to make everyone’s lives easier, and there might be some data here you could use.

    For example, we’re working on this Wiki of scientific literature which includes people such as Seralini, Carmen, and Huber. We include critical evaluations and references that people can read to understand these situations more clearly. You can find that page here: http://wiki.skeptiforum.org/wiki/Scientific_Literature_on_GMOs

    That page begun out of our evidence-based Facebook discussions and is our attempt at trying to get more organised. While a little less organised given we’re using Facebook tools, we’ve been collecting our discussions covering a wide range of issues surrounding genetic-modification: http://wiki.skeptiforum.org/wiki/GMO_Skepti-Forum_Threads

    By doing this, we’ve been able to receive then apply skeptical inquiry to the various claims and memes that circulate around social networks such as Facebook. A lot of people have found this endeavour to be useful, so I thought I should share here.

    All in all, I really appreciate you speaking up on this issue because your words and references significantly help small projects such as ours.

    If you ever have some information you think should be on our Wiki, please let me know. I also know that you’re a bigger public speaker and might have contractual obligations, but if you’re ever bored, there are many people on our forum who would love to have a Q&A with you.

    Thanks again!

  27. grabulaon 05 Aug 2014 at 10:20 pm

    @hardnose

    You’re premises are ridiculous but I’m feeling spunky

    “I advocate not promoting GMOs as a way to provide for an ever-increasing population”

    What would you advocate for feeding these ever growing populations?

    “That is the ONLY justification I have seen from GMO proponents.”

    Other than general pest resistance, expanded growth in variable climates or other value added reasons like better nutritional value you mean?

    “I can’t really blame them for that”

    Don’t you mean ‘us’ since you know, you claim to be a scientist?

    “The general public, on the other hand, does not feel safe with GMOs, and I can certainly understand why”

    The general public appears benevolent on the matter. Don’t mistake a few squeeky wheels for ‘the public’.

    “They can ruin the career of anyone who dissents. Don’t be naïve and say that doesn’t happen here, it surely does.”

    Don’t naively make statements like this without providing evidence. I know it’s not your forte but feel free to try.

    “Have there really been enough long-term studies to assure us that GMOs don’t contribute to allergies, autoimmune disorders, cancer etc.? I really doubt it.”

    Yes. On top of that, we also understand how the body works and the biology involved fairly well. You’re arguing from ignorance here.

  28. grabulaon 05 Aug 2014 at 10:22 pm

    scpecaroraroIII said:

    “Hard nose- every single one of your points had been addressed in this page.”

    I think the irony of his statements on this particular blog post eludes him.

  29. grabulaon 05 Aug 2014 at 10:23 pm

    “… but you’re vying for Mlema’s backpedalling crown.”

    Don’t you worry Bill O, it’s only a matter of time before our resident anti-GMO fan shows up to push forward…and then backpedal.

  30. kevinfoltaon 05 Aug 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Hardnose, I guess you’d call me a proponent, and it is not only about more people. It is about a smarter planet of well cared for people that can make good decisions for a common goal.

    We can’t expect the hungry in places with rampant disease and malnourishment to participate in family planning.

    My hope is that we’d use the best of all technologies to raise up the living standards everyone, to the point where they can become educated, safe, healthy, and able to participate in a larger plan for humanity.

    GM is also about the resources. We’re looking at limited phosphorous and water in the next fifty years. How do we sustain production?

    GM is also about the environment. How do we make more on less space with fewer inputs?

    It is about helping farmers remain in business. Someone has to make the food, and by controlling input costs and ensuring yields, GM can be of value.

    So there you have it. It is not just about feeding more. It is a technology with positives and negatives, but with many more benefits than risks– and that will only get better with time. Use all technology as soon as possible to make the future a good place to end up.

  31. Sylakon 05 Aug 2014 at 11:30 pm

    At least, we can’t accuse Hardnose of not being honest with his nick name. Despite be shown facts, logic and reason, he’s still have is nose down hard in his closed minded belief.

  32. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:00 am

    I’m of the opinion hardnose is a troll. He generally drops in, makes a few offhand, ridiculous statements then disappears. I can’t ever recall him having a consistent conversation about anything here. Occasionally he even claims to be a scientist himself but as you can see from his posts this is nearly impossible.

  33. Sylakon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:21 am

    Yeah, His inconsistency is consistent lol :-) He is definitively a troll, maybe a true believers, maybe not. who care really about him, it’s the people that read stuff like he write and are fence sitters that counts.

  34. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:36 am

    I think it’s good when people making mistakes engage in a discussion. Whether they will consider changing their stance is really unimportant. What’s more important is when those fence sitters do come across these types of discussions they can get an understanding of where people like this go wrong and hopefully that pushes them in the direction of reason.

  35. Bruceon 06 Aug 2014 at 4:39 am

    Grabula,

    ““The general public, on the other hand, does not feel safe with GMOs, and I can certainly understand why”

    The general public appears benevolent on the matter. Don’t mistake a few squeeky wheels for ‘the public’.”

    Interestingly, I linked this blog post on facebook last night and I was fully expecting some of my more “interesting” friends to make comments, if not here then definitely on the facebook post itself. Nothing, not one word.

    As for hardnose being a troll, I don’t think so, I think he is genuine in his beliefs. He gives the impression of being an older gentleman who has some very fixed and jaded views on just about everything and while honestly wanting to engage lacks the tools and the deeper understanding. Very much an armchair critic.

  36. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 5:45 am

    Yeah GMO’s are one of those things I think people sort of cringe at but don’t really understand what the discussion actually is. They make that gut naturalistic fallacy because they’ve seen a few memes on facebook or whatnot but really I don’t think most people care where their food comes from.

  37. BillyJoe7on 06 Aug 2014 at 8:18 am

    Bruced,

    “He gives the impression of being an older gentleman who has some very fixed and jaded views on just about everything ”

    hardnose has stated that he is a retired scientist.
    I can fully believe the “retired” bit, though I suspect that it should be “LONG retired”.
    The “scientist” bit, however, is not believable.

  38. Bill Openthalton 06 Aug 2014 at 8:39 am

    BillyJoe7 –

    The “scientist” bit, however, is not believable.

    Many scientists are quite un-scientific outside of their comfort zone. The human mind can partition itself in rational and irrational (ideological) parts quite easily, and use different standards of reasoning without even becoming aware of the lack of coherence.

  39. BillyJoe7on 06 Aug 2014 at 9:24 am

    But he doesn’t even seem to understand science.

  40. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 10:01 am

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-genetically-modified-food/

    This Scientific American article is mostly pro-GMO but also considers some of the anti-GMO arguments valid. If you read the whole article, you will see.

  41. Steven Novellaon 06 Aug 2014 at 10:41 am

    I have read the whole article, and just re-read it. The authors states essentially that “some GMO critics maintain” that there are possible unknown risks. It’s just lip service to the unintended consequences thing. They do not give credence to any specific anti-GMO claim.

  42. pnambicon 06 Aug 2014 at 10:48 am

    The Scientific American article states that there is a small minority of reasonably credible scientists who are worried that, further down the line, there might be unforeseen negative consequences to GM foods, and therefore call for continued vigilance and testing. Apart from the lone toxicologist defending the Seralini rat study – if the results are so striking, why aren’t we seeing the effects, epidemiologically, all over the place? – there is nothing remotely unreasonable in there.

    However, there is also nothing in there that contradicts anything said in this blog post. The popular claims of the anti-GMO movement as detailed here remain outright lies. To side with people who spread those lies only serves to obscure the actual, far more relevant issues. Richard Dawkins said as much (and more, and better than I ever could) more than 14 years ago in his open letter to Prince Charles (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2000/may/21/gm.food1). It’s sad that we still have to repeat this over and over again, while hundreds of thousands of people died and continue to die preventable deaths due to the ignorance and fear of a vocal minority.

  43. Bronze Dogon 06 Aug 2014 at 11:13 am

    Everything has possible, unknown risks. Everything. That’s the danger of not being omniscient and living in an uncertain universe. The thing is, science gives us useful, predictive theories that give us more accurate odds than our instincts and superstitions as well as some ideas of what to expect when we do something new.

    The problem I have with the anti-GMO crowd is that they don’t seem to have a coherent theoretical framework that lead to their dire predictions. The closest I’ve seen them come is an appeal to hazards that arise from unexpected interactions between genes, which is possible, but they don’t apply that standard consistently: Breeding also produces novel combinations and can produce mutations that are just as likely to produce the same sorts of hazards. Nature isn’t as static, sterile, and passive as the anti-GMO double standard assumes.

    We’ve done okay with the opaqueness of GM by breeding for millennia, so why would a more transparent and controlled GM process be inherently riskier? If something does go wrong with the newer method, it’d be a lot easier to track down and analyze. If something goes wrong as a result of good old fashioned breeding, there’s no paper trail to follow.

  44. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:05 pm

    “I have read the whole article, and just re-read it. The authors states essentially that “some GMO critics maintain” that there are possible unknown risks. It’s just lip service to the unintended consequences thing. They do not give credence to any specific anti-GMO claim.”

    No, I will have to paste specific quotes then.

  45. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:17 pm

    EXAMPLE QUOTE #1:

    “across campus, David Williams, a cellular biologist who specializes in vision, has the opposite complaint. “A lot of naive science has been involved in pushing this technology,” he says. “Thirty years ago we didn’t know that when you throw any gene into a different genome, the genome reacts to it. But now anyone in this field knows the genome is not a static environment. Inserted genes can be transformed by several different means, and it can happen generations later.” The result, he insists, could very well be potentially toxic plants slipping through testing.

    Williams concedes that he is among a tiny minority of biologists raising sharp questions about the safety of GM crops. But he says this is only because the field of plant molecular biology is protecting its interests. Funding, much of it from the companies that sell GM seeds, heavily favors researchers who are exploring ways to further the use of genetic modification in agriculture. He says that biologists who point out health or other risks associated with GM crops—who merely report or defend experimental findings that imply there may be risks—find themselves the focus of vicious attacks on their credibility, which leads scientists who see problems with GM foods to keep quiet.”

  46. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:24 pm

    EXAMPLE QUOTE # 2:

    “Not all objections to genetically modified foods are so easily dismissed, however. Long-term health effects can be subtle and nearly impossible to link to specific changes in the environment.”

  47. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:27 pm

    EXAMPLE QUOTE # 3:

    And opponents say that it is not true that the GM process is less likely to cause problems simply because fewer, more clearly identified genes are switched. David Schubert, an Alzheimer’s researcher who heads the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., asserts that a single, well-characterized gene can still settle in the target plant’s genome in many different ways. “It can go in forward, backward, at different locations, in multiple copies, and they all do different things,” he says. And as U.C.L.A.’s Williams notes, a genome often continues to change in the successive generations after the insertion, leaving it with a different arrangement than the one intended and initially tested. There is also the phenomenon of “insertional mutagenesis,” Williams adds, in which the insertion of a gene ends up quieting the activity of nearby genes.

    True, the number of genes affected in a GM plant most likely will be far, far smaller than in conventional breeding techniques. Yet opponents maintain that because the wholesale swapping or alteration of entire packages of genes is a natural process that has been happening in plants for half a billion years, it tends to produce few scary surprises today. Changing a single gene, on the other hand, might turn out to be a more subversive action, with unexpected ripple effects, including the production of new proteins that might be toxins or allergens.

    Opponents also point out that the kinds of alterations caused by the insertion of genes from other species might be more impactful, more complex or more subtle than those caused by the intraspecies gene swapping of conventional breeding. And just because there is no evidence to date that genetic material from an altered crop can make it into the genome of people who eat it does not mean such a transfer will never happen—or that it has not already happened and we have yet to spot it. These changes might be difficult to catch; their impact on the production of proteins might not even turn up in testing. “You’d certainly find out if the result is that the plant doesn’t grow very well,” Williams says. “But will you find the change if it results in the production of proteins with long-term effects on the health of the people eating it?”

  48. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:32 pm

    DON’T IGNORE THIS ONE:

    Schubert joins Williams as one of a handful of biologists from respected institutions who are willing to sharply challenge the GM-foods-are-safe majority. Both charge that more scientists would speak up against genetic modification if doing so did not invariably lead to being excoriated in journals and the media. These attacks, they argue, are motivated by the fear that airing doubts could lead to less funding for the field. Says Williams: “Whether it’s conscious or not, it’s in their interest to promote this field, and they’re not objective.”

    Both scientists say that after publishing comments in respected journals questioning the safety of GM foods, they became the victims of coordinated attacks on their reputations. Schubert even charges that researchers who turn up results that might raise safety questions avoid publishing their findings out of fear of repercussions. “If it doesn’t come out the right way,” he says, “you’re going to get trashed.”

    There is evidence to support that charge. In 2009 Nature detailed the backlash to a reasonably solid study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA by researchers from Loyola University Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. The paper showed that GM corn seemed to be finding its way from farms into nearby streams and that it might pose a risk to some insects there because, according to the researchers’ lab studies, caddis flies appeared to suffer on diets of pollen from GM corn. Many scientists immediately attacked the study, some of them suggesting the researchers were sloppy to the point of misconduct.

  49. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:34 pm

    MODERATE VIEW:

    There is a middle ground in this debate. Many moderate voices call for continuing the distribution of GM foods while maintaining or even stepping up safety testing on new GM crops. They advocate keeping a close eye on the health and environmental impact of existing ones. But they do not single out GM crops for special scrutiny, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Jaffe notes: all crops could use more testing. “We should be doing a better job with food oversight altogether,” he says.

    Even Schubert agrees. In spite of his concerns, he believes future GM crops can be introduced safely if testing is improved. “Ninety percent of the scientists I talk to assume that new GM plants are safety-tested the same way new drugs are by the fda,” he says. “They absolutely aren’t, and they absolutely should be.”

  50. mumadaddon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:37 pm

    There’s not much substance in there, HN, just some vague allusions to tinkering with nature being a bad idea. They even acknowledge:

    “True, the number of genes affected in a GM plant most likely will be far, far smaller than in conventional breeding techniques.”

    Okay, so why would deliberate gene insertions on a ‘far, far’ smaller scale than occurs through breeding be dangerous?

    “Yet opponents maintain that because the wholesale swapping or alteration of entire packages of genes is a natural process that has been happening in plants for half a billion years, it tends to produce few scary surprises today. Changing a single gene, on the other hand, might turn out to be a more subversive action, with unexpected ripple effects, including the production of new proteins that might be toxins or allergens.”

    Oh, I see – naturalistic fallacy plus ‘we don’t know but it might be bad’. No suggested mechanisms and no empirical data to back this up?

  51. Bronze Dogon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:45 pm

    So what’s stopping good old fashioned GM by way of breeding and ERVs from inserting single genes into these sacred packages and causing similarly vague disasters?

  52. mumadaddon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Hardnose,

    “There is a middle ground in this debate.”

    I don’t know a lot about the science behind GMOs, which is why I’ve not commented much, but I have been following the comments thread, and I don’t recall anyone arguing against your last quote ‘MODERATE VIEW’.

    I think this tallies pretty well with the view espoused in the original post in fact. Nobody here has argued that GM is completely without risk, or that testing and safety procedures and regulation should be relaxed, just that the common objections tend to be based on conspiracy thinking and appeal to emotion rather than the science, and don’t address the real issues.

  53. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 12:56 pm

    The Scientific American article acknowledged that anyone who tries to publish research that does not confirm the mainstream pro-GMO consensus, gets trashed.

    THAT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER.

  54. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 1:06 pm

    “Nobody here has argued that GM is completely without risk, or that testing and safety procedures and regulation should be relaxed, just that the common objections tend to be based on conspiracy thinking and appeal to emotion rather than the science, and don’t address the real issues.”

    If you consider any controversial issue at all, you will find crazed conspiracy theorists. These crazed conspiracy theorists are used to discredit anyone who dissents from Big Science, Big Drug or Big Gov.

    Anyone who is not a trusting placid sheep gets thrown in with the wackos.

    That is not fair or honest.

    It is very easy to demolish the arguments of wackos, much harder to deny the reasoning of sober skeptics.

    We should be very careful about GMOs, especially regarding possible subtle long-term health effects.

  55. mumadaddon 06 Aug 2014 at 1:32 pm

    “The Scientific American article acknowledged that anyone who tries to publish research that does not confirm the mainstream pro-GMO consensus, gets trashed.

    THAT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER.”

    Okay, so do you have any specific examples. Can you link to or reference such research? Do we just need to accept their/your assertion?

  56. mumadaddon 06 Aug 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Also, you have not been lumped in with the ‘wackos’ when you have not said wacky things. You’ve had a lot of responses based exclusively on your own words.

  57. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 1:49 pm

    “Okay, so do you have any specific examples. Can you link to or reference such research? Do we just need to accept their/your assertion?”

    I think it should be adequate for now that Scientific American admits there may be a mainstream pro-GMO mob, which prevents dissenting voices from being heard or respected.

  58. mumadaddon 06 Aug 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Sigh.

    ‘admits’ there ‘may’. That’s not enough for me. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if there were some of this happening, sometimes, but this is far from evidence of a systematic suppression of negative research. Grand conspiracy this ain’t.

  59. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 2:14 pm

    mumadadd,

    It is probably only a small percentage of researchers that even try to dissent. And of those that try, who knows what percentage are trashed.

    Most scientists are more concerned about their careers than about discovering truth. This is understandable, since everyone has to survive somehow. But it means that science is very far from being an infallible oracle. Wherever you find a mainstream consensus, you will also probably find a mob. And mobs are generally vicious. They have too much invested in their “truth.”

  60. Bruceon 06 Aug 2014 at 2:17 pm

    “Most scientists are more concerned about their careers than about discovering truth.”

    Do you know how many people you have just insulted?

  61. Steven Novellaon 06 Aug 2014 at 2:42 pm

    It is common for scientists in the small minority to feel persecuted by the majority. It’s mostly bullshit. If the evidence were there, the minority would become the majority.

    Those quotes all add up to – speculation about unforseen consequences. When you drill down on any specific concern, there isn’t much there to be concerned about. Of course, this all warrants further research, we need to monitor and research new GM strains, and tread carefully. That is the general position of those who are positive toward GM technology (that you dismiss as placid sheep).

    We are criticizing the excessive abuse of the precautionary principle. For ideologues, they take it to an absolute degree, so no amount of research would ever be enough.

  62. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 3:01 pm

    “Do you know how many people you have just insulted?”

    Saying that people have to survive is an insult? I thought it was an obvious fact. But if your head is in some idealistic cloud, maybe you can’t see it.

  63. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 3:03 pm

    “It is common for scientists in the small minority to feel persecuted by the majority. It’s mostly bullshit. If the evidence were there, the minority would become the majority.”

    Sometimes the evidence isn’t there — yet — because the mob blocks it.

  64. Mlemaon 06 Aug 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Dr. Novella, that’s not a realistic portrayal of what independent scientists are saying. Even the IAASTD, which I think can be considered to be the IPCC equivalent on food, science and technology for 2050 says that development in biotechnology has outpaced testing and regulatory capability. Until you take time to investigate this technology you won’t be able to make a critical assessment of its applications or the political and economic environment in which they’re employed. A number of legitimate concerns have been raised. You’re simply not interested in looking at them. You’ve got access, and we’ve had discussions before. Why not take some time to gain some expertise?

  65. Steven Novellaon 06 Aug 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Mlema – you are making false assumptions. I have looked at these issues. I have spoken to scientists in relevant fields, such as genetics. I understand the issues raised.

    As I have written at least several times, I favor further research and careful study of new GMOs. Research is never complete, nor are regulations ever perfect.

    I agree that there are legitimate concerns about biotech. As I wrote – we should focus on the actual concerns, and not the myths. In this regard, it is the anti-GMO crowd that are counterproductive. They are the ones generating the myths.

    Having said that – so far, specific safety concerns brought up about GMOs, when you take a close look at the actual published evidence, are not major. They certainly do not warrant taking an anti-GMO stance, or criticizing the entire technology with vague warnings about unintended consequences.

    If you disagree, then refer to a specific technological concern with GMOs and let’s take a deep dive.

  66. Hosson 06 Aug 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Mlema
    “Even the IAASTD, which I think can be considered to be the IPCC equivalent on food, science and technology for 2050 says that development in biotechnology has outpaced testing and regulatory capability.”

    That is not in the IAASTD report. I could be wrong, its a long report, so if you could directly quote the part in the report, that’d be great.

    I think you probably got that from an article that just made it up. If you did get that information from an article, could you link to it?

  67. Mlemaon 06 Aug 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Cool Doc. I will qualify my comments in this way:
    I’ve never said that my concerns warrant taking an anti-GMO stance, or criticizing the entire technology. As you know I feel that this technology has been of untold benefit in medicine. Also, I’ve said that particular agricultural applications have given temporary benefit, and may also play some specific role in disease prevention – although I think that is so far more efficiently done through genetic tools other than transgenic.
    And since I’m not an expert, I’ll just present this as a question of sorts. We know the technology is mutagenic:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1559911/
    And equivalence is generally established as:
    the plant is the same as the parent, and the added genes as expressed in bacteria (typically, and which have a relatively simple secondary metabolism compared to plants) don’t cause concern – therefore, the GMO plant is safe.

    Is equivalence which is established in this way adequate to prevent problems caused by the method and gene by which we’ve altered the parent? Please let me know if I’m not explaining this well. In other words – we don’t typically test the whole transgenic plant. We say: if the parent is safe, and the product of the inserted gene is safe – then the transgenic product is safe. But this doesn’t take into account the effects of the process and the resultant “new” disregulation which always happens when you insert the transgene.

    Further, feeding trials don’t rule out problems. So, for instance (on something topical), there were apparently feeding trials done on bt brinjal prior to release. But this dude says:
    “The safety claims made for these plants are not supported by existing data. On the contrary, there are alarming signs that the consumption of food derived from these plants could result in adverse health effects. In addition the feedings studies show major deficiencies in the protocol used for the feeding trial and do not meet international standards.”

    http://www.testbiotech.org/sites/default/files/Report%20Gallagher_2011.pdf

    He was funded by a group that wants to keep gmos out of agriculture, which is probably a fair counterpoint to the industry that wants to add them. So can someone impartial examine the feeding studies and tell us if they were or weren’t deficient? and do the results show concerns?

  68. Mlemaon 06 Aug 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Hoss, here’s the report:
    http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/est/Investment/Agriculture_at_a_Crossroads_Global_Report_IAASTD.pdf

    there’s also a synthesis:
    http://apps.unep.org/publications/pmtdocuments/-Agriculture%20at%20a%20crossroads%20-%20Synthesis%20report-2009Agriculture_at_Crossroads_Synthesis_Report.pdf

    and, since I don’t know how familiar you are with the subject, “biotechnology” covers a number of genetic technologies, not all of which are GMO. So note remarks limited to transgenic or GMO. I would say the report see no major role for GMOs as they’re currently utilized in industrialized nations.

  69. Mlemaon 06 Aug 2014 at 4:09 pm

    http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/bt_brinjal.html

  70. jsterritton 06 Aug 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Hardnose…

    That you would cherry pick and misrepresent the author’s intent with your extracted quotes from Freedman’s article is hilarious. You do understand that the following is intended to convey how few qualified people there are challenging GMO safety, right? It is not championing the scrappy few rebels under Admiral Ackbar’s command with the courage to stand against the Empire.

    “Schubert joins Williams as one of a handful of biologists from respected institutions who are willing to sharply challenge the GM-foods-are-safe majority.”

    ***

    You don’t have too dig: The subtitle explains that the article is about listening to “proponents” and “critics” to decide “who is right.” You have simply discarded Freedman’s coverage of the proponents, leaving only the critics — the equivalent of showing only the debits (and not the credits) on a balance sheet and then exclaiming aha! because there are only negative numbers. Even for you, this is silly.

  71. jsterritton 06 Aug 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Grabula…

    It is your turn to handle Mlema, who has arrived to “green our GMOs!”

    Just sayin’…

  72. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 4:36 pm

    “it is the anti-GMO crowd that are counterproductive. They are the ones generating the myths.”

    That statement is not fair or objective. Who are the “anti-GMO crowd?” Some GMO opponents are irrational conspiracy theorists, and others are thoughtful skeptics.

    When you throw everyone who questions the safety of GMOs into one big crowd, you intentionally create the impression they are all anti-science hysterics.

  73. hardnoseon 06 Aug 2014 at 4:39 pm

    “You have simply discarded Freedman’s coverage of the proponents, leaving only the critics ”

    When I first linked the article I said it was mostly pro-GMO but also included some arguments against. Then Steve N read it and said it was pro-GMO. So I showed some of the anti-GMO excerpts.

  74. Bruceon 06 Aug 2014 at 4:42 pm

    “Saying that people have to survive is an insult? I thought it was an obvious fact. But if your head is in some idealistic cloud, maybe you can’t see it.”

    You are full of shit. Calling most scientists opportunistic liars and then backpeddling by trying to pretend it is all they can do to survive.

    I take back my earlier comments, you are a horrible troll and I won’t be engaging in discussion with you anymore.

  75. jsterritton 06 Aug 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Mlema…

    “He was funded by a group that wants to keep gmos out of agriculture, which is probably a fair counterpoint to the industry that wants to add them.”

    This is why people accurately characterize you as an ideologue. If you can’t parse this statement of yours for fallacies and specious reasoning, then I simply call ‘baloney.’ You can’t have haunted these pages for so long and still claim to be a babe in the woods.

  76. Mlemaon 06 Aug 2014 at 5:02 pm

    so, we shouldn’t question the safety studies commissioned by the industry – we should instead discard any examination of those studies done by industry opponents. Have I got that right?

  77. Mlemaon 06 Aug 2014 at 5:05 pm

    and actually, Lou M Gallagher is an independent scientist who was paid to evaluate the safety assessments. He included his resume at the end of the paper.

  78. jsterritton 06 Aug 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Mlema..

    As usual, you have crafted exactly the words I meant to say and stuffed them in my mouth. It’s uncanny.

  79. Hosson 06 Aug 2014 at 5:36 pm

    @Mlema

    Mlema: “Even the IAASTD, which I think can be considered to be the IPCC equivalent on food, science and technology for 2050 says that development in biotechnology has outpaced testing and regulatory capability.”

    Hoss: That is not in the IAASTD report. I could be wrong, its a long report, so if you could directly quote the part in the report, that’d be great.

    Mlema: Hoss, here’s the report: [Link]
    there’s also a synthesis: [Link]
    and, since I don’t know how familiar you are with the subject, “biotechnology” covers a number of genetic technologies, not all of which are GMO. So note remarks limited to transgenic or GMO. I would say the report see no major role for GMOs as they’re currently utilized in industrialized nations.”

    I searched the 600 page report again, this time more thoroughly. I still can’t find what you’re attributing to the report. Again, if you could quote the report directly, that would be great.

    In regards to the definition of biotechnology in the report:
    “The IAASTD definition of biotechnology is based on that in the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Carta- gena Protocol on Biosafety. It is a broad term embracing the manipulation of living organisms and spans the large range of activities from conventional techniques for fermentation and plant and animal breeding to recent innovations in tissue culture, irradiation, genomics and marker-assisted breeding (MAB) or marker assisted selection (MAS) to augment natu- ral breeding.”

    Mlema: “I would say the report see no major role for GMOs as they’re currently utilized in industrialized nations.”

    Are you sure about that? Here are a couple quotes from the report.

    “A number of challenges—scientific, regulatory, social and economic—will fundamentally influence the degree to which genetic engineering is used in crop and livestock improve- ment research over the coming decades. Greater or lesser use of genetic engineering will, in turn, shape the evolution of the agricultural sector and biodiversity. Conventional breeding and genetic engineering are complements; thus the reference case development pathway includes a combina- tion of a strong traditional plant breeding capacity together with the use of transgenic traits when useful, cost-efficient, pro-poor, and environmentally sustainable. A wide range of new traits are at various stages of development, some of which are likely to lead to varieties that are drought-resis- tant, exhibit improved nutritional content of feed and feed- stuffs, and offer enhanced shelf-life (Graff et al., 2005). It is likely that a combination of transgenic and conventional breeding approaches will be necessary to meet the crop im- provement requirements of the next 50 years.”

    “5.5.4.2 Alternative pathways—more biotechnology
    In spite of the limited growth in the development of trans- genics, it is possible that these technologies will reemerge as a major contributor to agricultural growth and productivity.”

    I have a suspicion you’ll somehow weasel your way out of this.
    I’ll only say that these are projections. Treat them as such.

  80. jsterritton 06 Aug 2014 at 5:45 pm

    One of the “Persistent Anti-GMO Myths” mentioned in the title is the one about GMO research somehow being bought and paid for by industry. It is a myth, because it isn’t true. If you make the claim that the world’s safety and regulatory bodies — or anyone here — have based their claims about GMO safety on tainted, industry-paid junk-science, you are spreading a myth. By doing so, you are calling everyone, from the AAAS down to little old me, a shill.

    The Unpaid Shill Myth

    This is the thing where a critic of GMO doubles down on calling you a whore by saying you give it away for free.

  81. Teaseron 06 Aug 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Jeffrey Smith rebuts Neil Degrasse Tyson on GMO’s.

    Short version (3:26 mins)
    http://youtu.be/LTCI_R8kciA

    Long version (22 mins)
    http://youtu.be/CU9LmFLaC18

    Jeffrey M Smith Bio
    http://www.responsibletechnology.org/resources/media-kit/jeffrey-m-smith-bio

  82. Steven Novellaon 06 Aug 2014 at 7:13 pm

    I will be doing a take down of Smith’s video on tomorrow’s post. It is all misleading, cherry picking, and already demolished.

  83. Steven Novellaon 06 Aug 2014 at 7:21 pm

    mlema – It is true that gene insertion can cause regional mutagenesis, usually upregulating or downregulating protein production. This is partly why the process is so tedious and time consuming. Many insertions are made, and only the healthy cells are used. After multiple selections, the plant with the new gene is back crossed multiple times to the parent to establish a stable and healthy line with the new gene.

    FDA requires (http://www.fda.gov/food/foodscienceresearch/biotechnology/ucm346030.htm) that any new proteins are tested, but also the new food has to be tested for equivalence, including nutritional and potential for allergens and toxicity. This would account for any mutagenic changes.

  84. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 9:28 pm

    @Bill O

    “Many scientists are quite un-scientific outside of their comfort zone.”

    With hardnose it’s not simply a case of someone expressing opinions outside of his wheel house. He often expresses views and opinions that are completely ignorant of the basic things all scientists should be aware of.

  85. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 9:45 pm

    @hardnose

    pnambic culled the important message from that scientificamerican article you posted:
    “The Scientific American article states that there is a small minority of reasonably credible scientists who are worried that, further down the line, there might be unforeseen negative consequences to GM foods, and therefore call for continued vigilance and testing.”

    The key to note here is that those of us who support GMO aren’t advocating uncontrolled experimentation or dissemination of GMO products. I certainly feel that it’s something we need to keep an eye on and definitely needs to be regulated. However, the potential for good it can do outweighs any irrational fear I might have. As Bronze Dog points out, everything has an aspect of risk. I equate concern with GMO’s as similar to concern that LHC will create a black hoe that destroys the world.
    All the specific concerns in that article are dealt with reasonably by ongoing monitoring and testing.

    “Many scientists immediately attacked the study, some of them suggesting the researchers were sloppy to the point of misconduct.”

    This doesn’t sound like an “attack” as it is a genuine criticism of the study.

    “The Scientific American article acknowledged that anyone who tries to publish research that does not confirm the mainstream pro-GMO consensus, gets trashed.”

    No, your only citation was ‘backlash” and “attack” that sounds more like criticism of bad science.

    “These crazed conspiracy theorists are used to discredit anyone who dissents from Big Science, Big Drug or Big Gov”

    First of all, the minute you begin to use ‘Big’ anything you’re sliding into conspiracy land. Dissent is one thing, and as skeptics we naturally encourage questioning, however we also appreciate scientific consensus. Once you part from that, again you begin your slide into conspiracy land.

    “I think it should be adequate for now that Scientific American admits there may be a mainstream pro-GMO mob, which prevents dissenting voices from being heard or respected.”

    So one editorial article implying questioning bad science is an ‘attack’ is sufficient for you? And you wonder why you’re claims of a science background won’t be taken seriously?

    “It is probably only a small percentage of researchers that even try to dissent.”

    Supposition.

    “Sometimes the evidence isn’t there — yet — because the mob blocks it”

    Now ay you should be lumped into the conspiracy crowd hardnose…

  86. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 10:01 pm

    @mlema

    See, I told you he’d show up

    ” Until you take time to investigate this technology you won’t be able to make a critical assessment of its applications or the political and economic environment in which they’re employed.”

    You mean appeal to your biased sources for information on anti-GMO views? Should I point out Dr. Novella has posted several blogs on this subject, provided plenty of useful and reasonable sources for his information, all that implies he’s done some research? Meanwhile you sling newspaper articles as evidence mlema, who do you think appears to have done the more reasonable research?

    “I’ve never said that my concerns warrant taking an anti-GMO stance, or criticizing the entire technology”

    Do I need to go ahead and dig through for some more deliciously biased quotes from you on several articles on this blog indicating otherwise? this is one of your more egregious claims because 1 – you’re bias strongly shows you are anti-GMO and 2 – it’s easy enough to find all the support from your quotes directly to prove you do not mean what you say here. Stop being disingenuous and just fess up mlema. This backpedaling has just got ridiculous.

    ” we don’t typically test the whole transgenic plant. We say: if the parent is safe, and the product of the inserted gene is safe – then the transgenic product is safe.”
    This is a lie. In fact, whenever a change is made the product is run through a series of tests. This is easy to find, I found right away doing research for my paper
    http://www.gmotesting.com/Testing-Options
    http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/safety/human_health/41.evaluation_safety_gm_food_major_undertaking.html
    “so, we shouldn’t question the safety studies commissioned by the industry – we should instead discard any examination of those studies done by industry opponents. Have I got that right?”

    Of course you don’t have that right, but it’s convenient to paint our view that way to sustain your bias is it not?

    @Hoss

    “I searched the 600 page report again, this time more thoroughly. I still can’t find what you’re attributing to the report. Again, if you could quote the report directly, that would be great.”

    Don’t expect mlema to help you out here. His MO is to generally require YOU do the footwork for him.

    “Jeffrey Smith rebuts Neil Degrasse Tyson on GMO’s.”

    Smiths’ a biased idiot but it looks like Dr. Novella will be discussing why in detail so I’ll leave it alone.

  87. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 10:02 pm

    @jsterritt

    “It is your turn to handle Mlema, who has arrived to “green our GMOs!””

    His first post started with his classic ‘I’m not against new technologies, I’m just asking questions’…starting to see the pattern?

  88. jsterritton 06 Aug 2014 at 10:24 pm

    @Gabula

    “I equate concern with GMO’s as similar to concern that LHC will create a black hole that destroys the world.”

    This is a gem. For some reason, every overstuffed idiot on the internet thinks they are an expert on food science (presumably because they eat). Only a few know quite so little about high energy particle physics to be scared of black holes at CERN. But you nailed it: they equate. Mlema will invoke the precautionary principle until we’re all frozen in time and Hardnose will rankle at the shadowy reach of Big Proton.

  89. grabulaon 06 Aug 2014 at 10:31 pm

    @jsterritt

    “Only a few know quite so little about..”

    That’s the problem, and why they coincide in my mind. In both cases it’s an extreme level of misunderstanding. In both cases they don’t understand the science and so their irrational fears feed their activism. Look at the crux of hardnose and mlemas most ‘reasonable’ argument – that we don’t know what will happen in the future. The truth is we have a strong idea, but no one would insist we ‘know’ anything about what might happen in the future. However if we balked every time we didn’t know what results down the road would be exploration would be dead in the water – we’d never have discovered other cultures, other lands, gone to the moon, or really accomplished much of anything.

    The only reasonable approach is to be cautious but optimistic. Mlema likes to paint himself as just that, but his rhetoric doesn’t support that.

  90. rezistnzisfutlon 06 Aug 2014 at 11:17 pm

    That’s what it comes down to, is the Nirvana Fallacy – they want unattainable and unrealistic guarantees of safety, things that they don’t even demand of their vaunted “certified organic” anyway.

    I recall in my first engineering mechanics of materials class when we were utilizing Safety Factor that structures comprising specific materials cannot exceed, and the discussion came up as to how these Factors of Safety (FOS) were determined, and why they weren’t higher/lower. In essence, if we were to make cars, for instance, with an extremely high Safety Factor, they’d weigh many tons and would get terrible fuel economy, and there would not be many cars on the road because they’d be prohibitively expensive. The same goes with pretty much any engineering endeavor where structural considerations are taken into account. Many of the conveniences we now take for granted would never have been introduced, and many of the life saving and life extending things, we wouldn’t know about.

    Nothing in the world is risk free. We could hole ourselves up in our homes and move as little as possible, and we’d still be at risk (most accidents occur around the home, sedentary lifestyle, etc). Furthermore, to demand all but a perfect safety guarantee without making similar demands on similar things (certified organic, for instance) is irrational. That is what they are abusing the precautionary principle to the point of Nirvana Fallacy. Nothing in the world is without some element of risk to it.

  91. jsterritton 06 Aug 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Hardnose…

    “Many scientists immediately attacked the study, some of them suggesting the researchers were sloppy to the point of misconduct.”

    As @grabula pointed out, these “attacks” were in fact criticisms of the study. Digging up a five-year-old article about a seven-year-old paper is pretty far to have to go for evidence of a conspiracy. It goes without saying that this “smoking gun” of yours has nothing to do with food or environmental safety. Even if you spin it just right, it is a stretch to say the Nature article is about bullying. It is about how, on certain charged topics, a scientist can expect an outsized reaction from the scientific community and should better know their territory. No passes given for rookie mistakes.

    Since Kevin Folta has been visiting here, and I am particularly fond of quoting him on this exact point, I will explain, using his words, why you need to bring your A game if going against scientific consensus:

    “Those that support the hypothesis that GM crops are dangerous need to have the cleanest experiments, perfect controls, massive numbers, good replicates and appropriate statistics.”

    Rosi-Marshall’s paper did not. Criticisms of the study include: that there was no dose-response assessment (there should have been); that assumptions were made about toxicity in pollen (they should not have been); that improper controls were used; that the study’s conclusions were overstated; and that the study’s data did not support statements made by its authors in the paper.

    You essentially went back in time five years to find a fluffy feature article concluding that GMO science is a hot-button topic. Stop the presses!

    ___
    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/7/E10
    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/7/E9.full

  92. Hosson 07 Aug 2014 at 9:29 am

    @grabula
    “Don’t expect mlema to help you out here. His MO is to generally require YOU do the footwork for him.”

    I expected as much, but its yet another demonstration of Mlema not checking sources that mesh with his ideology. You’d think with being called out on it so frequently, that it’d cause a change in behavior, but such is the life of an ideologue.

  93. Bruceon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:28 am

    Yes, I call it the Google-Gallop: Have a view, hit google up for a few links that look like they support your view and then copy and paste them into the conversation with a few lines about “Scientists always lie but the internet doesn’t!!! LOOK… I FOUND BLUE UNDERLINED CLICKY TEXT!!!”

    Wait for people to concede out of pure frustration.

  94. mumadaddon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:36 am

    “Those that support the hypothesis that GM crops are dangerous need to have the cleanest experiments, perfect controls, massive numbers, good replicates and appropriate statistics.”

    Or put more bluntly:

    If you’re going to argue against the scientific consensus, you really need to have your shit together.

  95. roton 07 Aug 2014 at 2:02 pm

    How is it that a survey of the criticisms have been laid out in the post and we are 90+ comments in and no one has brought up Nassim N Taleb’s gauntlet dropping paper in response to the pro-GMO community? A thorough understanding of risk is essential to any meaningful examination of this issue. So far no one has been able to provide a valid on point criticism to his position.

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8nhAlfIk3QIbGFzOXF5UUN3N2c/edit pg.7-8 in particular to GMO’s

    which addresses the naive conflation of bottom up, top down GMO modifications at the heart of Neil deGrasse’s defense.

  96. falloonacyon 07 Aug 2014 at 8:23 pm

    “LOOK… I FOUND BLUE UNDERLINED CLICKY TEXT!!!”

    Sorry folks. Despite all of the arguments, Bruce just won the internet for the day.

  97. David Haddadon 07 Aug 2014 at 9:57 pm

    It’s a testament to how educated the readers of this blog are that it took quite a few posts before someone showed up and linked to the crackpot Jeffrey Smith (and I’m not even sure if they were endorsing him or just posting it). Or it’s at least a testament that this article hasn’t yet been linked to by any anti-GMO sites.

    Steven, one point I don’t know if I’ve ever seen made – considering the widespread use of GMO’s (granted it’s still only on some crops), IF they caused all the horrible health issues claimed for them, statistically wouldn’t we have seen HUGE spikes in all sorts of diseases over the last 20+ years that would have put the entire scientific community in a panic to determine the cause?

    Granted the loony bin anti-GMOers already makes all sorts of outrageous claims about disease being on the rise, but that’s beside the point.

  98. David Haddadon 07 Aug 2014 at 10:07 pm

    On a side note, I don’t know how often other folks here search on GMO’s, but if you want to see just how badly the science side is losing when it comes to informing about GMO, do a Google search. You’ll likely find that 95% or more of the hits are fear mongering pseudoscience sites. And the worse part is they all SOUND like they are promoting science, the average person would never be able to tell the difference.

    That’s a separate subject, but as long as the Internet allows anyone to publish and search results are based on popularity and not expertise, how can science combat that type of misinformation? I’m simply posing a question, not suggesting we should limit the Internet. I would though, like to see some type of Internet search that filters based on “established science”.

  99. grabulaon 07 Aug 2014 at 10:52 pm

    @david haddad

    “On a side note, I don’t know how often other folks here search on GMO’s, but if you want to see just how badly the science side is losing when it comes to informing about GMO, do a Google search. You’ll likely find that 95% or more of the hits are fear mongering pseudoscience sites.”

    Yep, doing research for my paper was a drag. A lot of them are obvious up front about their stance but some start out looking like a science based website then quickly turn into a hive of scum and villainy. I can’t imagine what the average person would get from this if they decided to do a little research on their own

  100. Mlemaon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Hoss, I don’t know how serious you are in wanting to know what the IAASTD document is saying. It really is a pretty astounding accomplishment, directed by the same gentleman who was the IPCC chairman from 1997 to 2002 – Robert Wilson. I can’t pull out just one statement matching my own – because this paper is a comprehensive assessment of everything having to do with science and agriculture – and GMOs are only a tiny part of what’s addressed in a global setting. I would say read the first chapter, then go to chapter 3, read the “key messages”. Then go through 3.2 and scan the italicized statements. Then, if you want to go back to 5.5.4 and read the whole of section 5, it will be more clear that 5 is about projections in consideration of a number of drivers and “synergies”. A reference case is given and alternative pathways are portrayed.

    Hopefully if you’re willing to do that you’ll understand why I said that the consensus doesn’t see a major role for GMOs as they are today – which is 99% corporate-owned pesticide producing or pesticide resistant commodity crops. There are too many problems with access, biodiversity, environmental and economic issues.

    Your quote regarding the definition of biotechnology is a perfect illustration of what I’ve warned against. That is: many breeding technologies utilize modern genetic knowledge and tools but aren’t transgenic. All those you’ve listed are considered extensions of conventional breeding. (although gene splicing is of course GMO) Basically: biotechnology, including genetic tools, isn’t all GMO. I guess you understand that, but I wasn’t sure from the quote you pulled. One industry hope is that we’ll all refer to all breeding as “genetic modification” – thereby confusing the differences between these technologies and removing regulatory barriers.

  101. Mlemaon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Dr. Novella – thanks for your reply, such as it was. I’ll reply under the next post as it seems there’s quite a bit of overlap.

  102. Mlemaon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:23 pm

    It doesn’t seem to me that Mark Lynas was ever much of an anti-gmo activist. He claims to be a founder of the anti-gmo movement. I’m sure someone here will find some evidence of that. I do find evidence that he was recruited by biotech to further their interests in Europe by influencing public opinion. Of course, those who uncritically support anything “gmo” will not see anything untoward in this (despite the fact that “gmo” doesn’t narrow down what we’re actually talking about very much.)
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/interactive/2011/oct/20/gm-food

    He said he engaged in vandalism of field trials of GMOs. So you know he’s not a rational person, or somebody that has the ability to discriminate cause and effect. He’s not a crop scientist, or a molecular biologist or genetic engineer – so why should i believe he knows what he’s talking about or isn’t being disingenuous for personal gain? Everything he says seems to be pretty standard fare for an industry proponent.

  103. Mlemaon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:25 pm

    In a similar non-scientific way, Keith Kloor is a writer (not a scientist) who has actively sought to disseminate the idea that anti-gmoers are equivalent to climate change deniers. I first have to say: I do think there’s a consensus among scientists that the climate is changing due to human activity. But – I don’t see any scientists who are anti-gmo. It’s not really possible for a scientist to be anti-gmo. It’s like saying “I’m anti-technology”. I do, however, see a lot of non-scientists who are anti-gmo and anti-monsanto (the company that has become synonymous with “gmo” due to it’s development of transgenic crops which comprise nearly 100% of all gmos in existence) When someone is anti-monsanto, they are automatically anti-gmo – because that is Monsanto’s products. If those people realized that some of the medicines their families depend on were genetically engineered, their approach to gmos might be different. But, as it turns out, many pro-gmoers are similarly indiscriminate in their approach to the science. There’s plenty of mythologizing to go around. Industry advocates (biotech, organic industry, etc.) work hard to exploit this lack of knowledge on both sides. They point out the pseudoscience on one side, or misrepresent the real science on the other.

    For instance, there are plenty of climate change deniers who avidly support biotech. There’s no real equivalency on these issues (beyond the fictional one created by industry proponents in order to marginalize scientists who raise legitimate concerns)

  104. Mlemaon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Regarding the Indian cotton farmer suicide myth. Dr. Novella makes the common mistake of reacting to an extreme narrative to in turn dismiss the actual and complex story of bt cotton in India. He refers to Mike Stone’s report on his work with Indian cotton farmers to support increased yields.
    http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone/stone-wd-largerquestions.pdf
    But he fails to consider what the paper is actually about (latching on to “yields” in the abstract perhaps.)
    Statistics on yield are widely variable. But more importantly, they don’t paint the whole picture of overlaying American biotech on Indian farming. This same author provides the following discussion on bt cotton narratives
    http://makanaka.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/understanding-how-bt-cotton-deskilled-farmers-in-india/
    If you spend much time trying to figure out the correlation between bt cotton and yields, you’ll find that anything you want to believe can be supported by someone with more or less credibility.

    I guess Dr. Novella liked the paper I linked to earlier on income and bt cotton (Jonas Kathage/Matin Qaim; University of Goettingen), but didn’t like the one I linked to which discusses the ongoing debate its findings are a part of.
    http://www.scidev.net/global/biotechnology/news/bt-cotton-yields-come-at-hidden-cost-to-farmers-study-1.html
    Basically, bt cotton is just another pesticide product. Built-in instead of purchased separately. The bt cotton in India still needs pesticide applications for a number of pests not affected by, or resistant to the Cry toxins. So, the reduction in pesticide is good, right? Yes. And temporary. And harmful to some insects beneficial in integrated pest management. But what’s not temporary is that the Cry toxin genes are now engineered into almost all Indian cotton hybrids. If a farmer decided he wanted to try something different, he’d be hard-pressed to find any non-bt seeds at this point.

  105. Mlemaon 07 Aug 2014 at 11:40 pm

    whoa – my last two links are wrong. Let me fix:

    Constructing Facts, Bt Cotton Narratives in India
    http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone/Constructing_Facts.pdf

    Regarding the debate on bt cotton farmers’ income – there are a number of studies which paint a more complex picture than the Jonas Kathage/Matin Qaim; University of Goettingen paper.
    http://www.scidev.net/global/biotechnology/feature/farmers-income-study-stirs-up-gm-cotton-debate.html

  106. jsterritton 08 Aug 2014 at 12:02 am

    @Mlema #anothercolossalfail

    “Hoss, I don’t know how serious you are in wanting to know what the IAASTD document is saying.”

    Yeah, Hoss, you only asked several times that Mlema produce a source and back up his claim about what the “the IAASTD says.” But you didn’t let him know if your were really serious. Perhaps you were just kidding around. Ha. Ha.

    In the short time I’ve been commenting here, @Mlema has proved himself (pretty sure Mlema’s a he) to be a writer, not a reader. That is, Mlema writes endlessly, even referring you to other comments of his and footnoting himself, while clearly glossing over or ignoring what is written by others. But now we see that Mlema doesn’t even require others to engage in his particularly perverted form of JAQing off — he is quite content to write lines for everyone, “correct” copy in articles, and generally revise history to suit his desires.

    I other words, @Mlema possesses the uncanny ability to always knows what everybody is really saying. This saves everyone from having to go through the trouble of actually saying it.

    “Even the IAASTD … says that development in biotechnology has outpaced testing and regulatory capability.”

    “Regarding the last link immediately above, I would just correct a few things written in that article.”

    “So, everywhere this article reads “in the last 5 years” – read instead: since bt cotton became a notable % of planted cotton.”

    “So, we shouldn’t question the safety studies commissioned by the industry – we should instead discard any examination of those studies done by industry opponents. Have I got that right?”

    This last one is something I didn’t think to say. I can only imagine how the IAASTD feels.

  107. jsterritton 08 Aug 2014 at 12:13 am

    “Regarding the Indian cotton farmer suicide myth. Dr. Novella makes the common mistake of reacting to an extreme narrative to in turn dismiss the actual and complex story of bt cotton in India.”

    Well, Dr Novella, it looks like Mlema has got your number: how dare you post an entry on your blog about Mike Adams’ anti-GMO propaganda just to avoid the thorny, storied, and complex history of Bt cotton in India. It’s almost like you’re trying to redirect a narrative for some reason.

    Snicker.

  108. jsterritton 08 Aug 2014 at 1:19 am

    Mlema…

    Pointing out that Kloor is a writer and not a scientist is a very bad way to cast aspersions on his bona fides. Kloor is a science writer, which means he is professionally required to not only understand science, but to be able to report on it and explain it to morons like you. The likening of anti-GMOers to climate change deniers is pithy and apt. It has become a meme and a slogan for GMO proponents. That doesn’t make it fake or a lie or a myth (like your Indian farmer genocide). Analogy is a very effective way of making a point and the GMO/climate change analogy resonates. As long as the analogy isn’t false, the argument isn’t false. In this case, the two are precisely analogous: ideologues on one side of an issue use motivated reasoning to deny the scientific consensus on that issue. Are the two exactly the same thing? Of course not: one is about climate change, the other about GMO. Please stop being so willfully dense. You just don’t like Kloor because he demolished your favorite fairy tale. Definitively. For all to see.

    ***

    “It’s not really possible for a scientist to be anti-gmo.”

    This is beyond dense. This is utter gibberish. You used to just put words in peoples’ mouths, now you’re deciding what is and isn’t possible for them to do. Next you’ll be telling me how to cut my hair and I just got it the way I like it! Sad face.

  109. grabulaon 08 Aug 2014 at 2:23 am

    @mlema

    “Regarding the Indian cotton farmer suicide myth. Dr. Novella makes the common mistake of reacting to an extreme narrative to in turn dismiss the actual and complex story of bt cotton in India”

    Stop, just stop. This myth has been put to bed to all serious and rational minds. you’ve been given enough evidence to choke a credulous donkey and yet here you are still blathering on about it. I would have thought that about 3 or 4 GMO blog posts on Neurologica you’d have realized how very wrong you are in relying on this myth but you just keep hammering away at the bones of what was once a dead horse. I’m not interested in engaging with you on anymore of your dogmatic thinking but I’d like to see you at least stop making the most egregious mistake you continue to insist on making.

    @ Hoss

    Told ya. Mlema INSISTS we post and pinpoint very specific evidence and topic discussions so he can engage in his linguistic acrobatics but when asked to post some specifics to support his evidence you get a lot of evasion and ‘do your own work’ type responses.

  110. Maximilianon 08 Aug 2014 at 6:04 am

    @Steven Novella, thanks for the post, very informative.

    “Also @Steven Novella, are you alerted when someone comments on one of your posts? Because I have been considering posting a comment on one of your posts from a few years ago, but I wasn’t sure if you would ever see it.”

    ^the quotations are because I asked this same question on your previous two posts as well.

  111. mumadaddon 08 Aug 2014 at 7:17 am

    Oh Jesus. ‘Moms Say No to GMOs’:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-N0-1FC6As

    Kill me now.

  112. Bruceon 08 Aug 2014 at 9:35 am

    Max,

    I have seen Steve respond to necro-posts before, so if you think it adds something new to the discussion I don’t see the harm.

  113. Teaseron 08 Aug 2014 at 12:14 pm

    This letter from 64 scientists proposes to diversify the panel in charge of a pending study. I wonder how the letter sits in the skeptic community. I agree with their points that the current panel is way too narrow in expertise to accurately assess GMO in totality.

    “SCIENTISTS CALL FOR DIVERSITY ON NAS GMO PANEL: A group of 64 scientists is raising concerns over the panel selected by the National Academy of Sciences for its new study on genetically engineered crops, arguing that the group “does not contain the necessary expertise required” to fully answer the questions at hand. The panel put together for the study, entitled “Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects,” falls short on biophysical science, social science and international expertise, and would benefit from farmer representation as well as a better gender balance among panelists, the scientists say in their August 4 letter, which is available here: http://bit.ly/1oa43bp

    A friendly reminder: the NAS panel will hold its first public meeting on the study, Sept. 15-16. Brush up on the study here: http://bit.ly/1op7wwF

  114. jsterritton 08 Aug 2014 at 1:26 pm

    @grabula

    “Mlema INSISTS we post and pinpoint very specific evidence and topic discussions so he can engage in his linguistic acrobatics but when asked to post some specifics to support his evidence you get a lot of evasion and ‘do your own work’ type responses.”

    Perfectly captured. As Mlema’s goalposts recede into the distance and you suffocate under an avalanche of shifted burden-of-proof, your own repeated request for a single source for a single statement goes unheeded. Still, the failure is yours, never Mlema’s (you just weren’t serious enough).

    Has @Mlema ever been a fair-minded participant in discussions here? A good egg? A critical thinker? Of open mind? Not so…maddening (i.e., Mlema-y)?

  115. Hosson 08 Aug 2014 at 3:31 pm

    @Mlema
    “I can’t pull out just one statement matching my own – because this paper is a comprehensive assessment of everything having to do with science and agriculture – and GMOs are only a tiny part of what’s addressed in a global setting.”

    You need to concede that your statement has nothing to do with the IAASTD report. Your excuse for not being able to find supporting statements in the report is a non-sequitor and a distraction. Also, I did a few google searches, and I still couldn’t find anything to support your statement.

    “I would say read the first chapter, then go to chapter 3, read the “key messages”. Then go through 3.2 and scan the italicized statements. Then, if you want to go back to 5.5.4 and read the whole of section 5, it will be more clear that 5 is about projections in consideration of a number of drivers and “synergies”.”

    If you can’t give a simple source quote, then I’m not doing your ridiculous f***ing reading assignment just to prove you wrong yet again.

    “Hopefully if you’re willing to do that you’ll understand why I said that the consensus doesn’t see a major role for GMOs as they are today – which is 99% corporate-owned pesticide producing or pesticide resistant commodity crops. There are too many problems with access, biodiversity, environmental and economic issues.”

    Actually you’re wrong. Please read the IAASTD report to find out why. I also bet you didn’t know the report suggested the relax some testing and regulations(I don’t remember off the top of my head the specifics, but they are covered in the report, which you can read for yourself) of transgenic crops.

    “One industry hope is that we’ll all refer to all breeding as “genetic modification” – thereby confusing the differences between these technologies and removing regulatory barriers.”

    That’s a pretty general statement. Do you have any support that Big GMO is trying to use an equivalency fallacy to undo science based regulations? My guess is that’s just another myth.

    If I had to bet, I’d bet “Persistent Anti-GMO Myths” was written because of you.

    @jsterritt
    “I other words, @Mlema possesses the uncanny ability to always knows what everybody is really saying. This saves everyone from having to go through the trouble of actually saying it.”

    lol That’s spot on. It’s really annoying how Mlema has a tendency attribute statements to papers, when the paper says no such thing.

    @grabula
    “Told ya. Mlema INSISTS we post and pinpoint very specific evidence and topic discussions so he can engage in his linguistic acrobatics but when asked to post some specifics to support his evidence you get a lot of evasion and ‘do your own work’ type responses.”

    I find Mlema’s evasiveness when pressed to be extremely dishonest. Mlema’s commenting history demonstrates he’s currently incapable of an objective analysis of GMOs. I’m tired of reading the consistent nonsense, which stands contrary to the science.

    Sorry Mlema for this sounding like a personal attack against you(it’s not). I just find your reasoning and your beliefs annoying as f***.

  116. Bronze Dogon 08 Aug 2014 at 4:22 pm

    One industry hope is that we’ll all refer to all breeding as “genetic modification” – thereby confusing the differences between these technologies and removing regulatory barriers.

    I thought it was the fact that words mean things that was making us do that.

    I don’t understand the thing about bypassing regulatory barriers. Shouldn’t all food be regulated for safety?

  117. jsterritton 08 Aug 2014 at 4:32 pm

    @Hoss

    “Sorry Mlema for this sounding like a personal attack against you(it’s not). I just find your reasoning and your beliefs annoying as f***.”

    Mlema has pretty thick skin, but keeps the “wounded to the core” card right up his sleeve. He will play it when backed into a corner (he did with me). But I think Mlema is playing a longer game: the ol’ “driven to suicide” gambit. When we’re all dead or drunk or institutionalized, Mlema wins!

  118. Hosson 08 Aug 2014 at 4:58 pm

    @jsterritt
    “When we’re all dead or drunk [or stoned] or institutionalized, Mlema wins!”

    I had to slightly change what you said so it’d be applicable to me.
    Damn you Texas. Why can’t you be more like Colorado?!

  119. mumadaddon 08 Aug 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I’m not so sure mlema is the idealogue some of you take him for. I’d call him a contrarian. Or her.

    This might just be arguing for the fun of it.

  120. mumadaddon 08 Aug 2014 at 8:58 pm

    It’s a pretty good forum if you’re bored, think you’re highly intelligent, and also think that truth is entirely mutable. For everyone, including skeptics.

  121. grabulaon 08 Aug 2014 at 9:25 pm

    @Teaser

    ” I wonder how the letter sits in the skeptic community.”

    Which skeptical community are we talking about? Something specific? This skeptical community? Are you part of this skeptical community? Do you consider yourself a skeptic? Are you trying to build some sort of dichotomy between what you call a “skeptic” and what you think a real skeptic is?

    Moving forward I’m going to have a hard time taking anyone seriously on a skeptical public forum who uses skeptic as a label for ‘other’. This tactic is tiresome and childish.

  122. grabulaon 08 Aug 2014 at 9:27 pm

    @jsterritt

    “Has @Mlema ever been a fair-minded participant in discussions here? A good egg? A critical thinker? Of open mind? Not so…maddening (i.e., Mlema-y)?”

    Generally no. Mlema is one of those individuals who spends a lot of time jaq’ing off and generally tends to argue from a credulous perspective. He’s guaranteed to show up in GMO related blog comments, it’s his sacred cow but he’s pretty consistent with other subjects occasionally as well.

  123. grabulaon 08 Aug 2014 at 9:41 pm

    @Hoss

    “If you can’t give a simple source quote, then I’m not doing your ridiculous f***ing reading assignment just to prove you wrong yet again.”

    Let’s not forget he wants you to cherry pick for him instead of providing the context for his claims. We’ve already seen he’s got a way of selecting very specific pieces to interpret the way he feels supports his views.

    “If I had to bet, I’d bet “Persistent Anti-GMO Myths” was written because of you.”

    My first thought when Dr. Novella posted it. I can’t tell if mlema is just so in lock step with the anti-GMO crowd that the myths addressed here just seem to be initiated by his ramblings or if Dr. Novella decided to specifically hit some of the talking points mlema has been marching out in order to support his bias.

    “I find Mlema’s evasiveness when pressed to be extremely dishonest. Mlema’s commenting history demonstrates he’s currently incapable of an objective analysis of GMOs. I’m tired of reading the consistent nonsense, which stands contrary to the science.”

    But Hoss, he’s not against science and technology of any kind, he’s just concerned about local farming.

    As far as sounding like personal attacks my feeling on mlema and his argument style is similar to my attitude with Fullerton. Eventually you cross so far over into dogmatic noncritical thinking that you begin to ignore any evidence presented to you, creative interpret or just dismiss science based evidence presented against your stance and generally make an @ss of yourself that your argument can’t be taken seriously and your argument style has to be attacked. I chose several discussions ago not to engage mlema in the details of argument – he doesn’t care and his message is clearly biased. If you continue to show up spouting the same old crap, there’s no real point in attacking the substance of the argument. In this case mlema is planted firmly in his anti-GMO stance and has shown no movement to consider a more rational approach.

  124. BillyJoe7on 09 Aug 2014 at 2:38 am

    Teaser,

    Grabula has already echoed my own reflexive response to your reference to the “sceptic community”.
    But for a more specific response:

    “and would benefit from…a better gender balance among panelists”

    Gender balance on a panel considering the scientific aspects of GMO???
    They don’t even attempt to explain why!
    Surely you just try to get the best experts available in the respective fields.

    “and would benefit from farmer representation…among panelists”

    I would think the panelists might get the farmers’ perspective, but I fail to see why there should be a farmer sitting on the panel. The panel requires scientific experts.

  125. grabulaon 09 Aug 2014 at 2:53 am

    “and would benefit from…a better gender balance among panelists”

    I missed that. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything involving this kind of science. Sounds to me like the touchy feelies getting too touchy and feely without really considering what the goal is.

  126. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Aug 2014 at 2:59 am

    I echo both BJ7 and Grabula’s responses. It seems that the authors of the letter want to completely restructure the panel to something that it wasn’t intended for in the first place. The way it is now is fine.

    That being said, I think it’s a good idea to have other academic panels having discussions that may be more focused on economics and social aspects of agriculture, hopefully with as much objectivity and as little bias as possible. The authors of the letter definitely don’t apply (looking at their profiles, and the fact that their group is called Pesticide Action Network who’s stated goal is “…to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.”, I doubt their objectivity, sincerity, or ability to offer much use to a meaningful conversation). In fact, there are already discussions being had about it.

    The unfortunate thing is, anti-GMO activists, well meaning but misinformed activists, and other ideologically-based groups too often muddy the waters and prevent real conversations from being had about modern agriculture and how things can be improved. Most of the time is spent debunking myths and correcting factual errors, but much of that is not heard over the cacophony of fear mongering and appeals to emotion.

  127. rezistnzisfutlon 09 Aug 2014 at 3:00 am

    That should read ,”well meaning but misinformed environmental activists”.

  128. Bill Openthalton 09 Aug 2014 at 7:50 am

    “and would benefit from…a better gender balance among panelists”

    That caught my attention as well. There seems to be an ever increasing push towards “gender balance” for the sake of gender balance, and that reeks of ideology. Hardly the best foundation for a scientific inquiry into a sensitive and ideology ridden subject.

    We’re not male, female, white, black, European, Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, old, or young scientists, but scientists. We are trying to get the most reliable information in the full knowledge that as individuals, we are susceptible to all kinds of cognitive foibles, and we combine our efforts to minimize their effect.

    If we accept that scientific knowledge should reflect the moral and ideological choices of a society (choices which I respect if not always understand :) ), we are in no better shape than the soviet or christian scientists of yonder.

  129. Maximilianon 09 Aug 2014 at 4:04 pm

    @ Bruce

    Okay thanks.

  130. Bronze Dogon 09 Aug 2014 at 10:37 pm

    The comment about the gender balance of the panel sounds more like the sexist idea that women are innately more “sensitive” than men or an assertion that interpretation of the evidence is entirely dependent on sex, rather than a desire for women to be encouraged into science or get equitable treatment there.

  131. Teaseron 10 Aug 2014 at 1:24 am

    @grabula

    Really? What skeptic community? Really? Ah I don’t know…..maybe this one? What is a Skeptical Society? Is a society a form of community? If you are stuck on the words “skeptical community” then you have disappeared around the bend of self awareness. Objecting to that phrase is truly bizarre given the context of Novella’s public persona and web presence. Novella constitutes a skeptical community petri dish.

    “Dr. Novella is an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He is the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society. He is the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. He is also a senior fellow and Director of Science-Based Medicine at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and a founding fellow of the Institute for Science in Medicine.

    The NeuroLogicaBlog covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society.

    Dr. Novella also contributes every Monday to SkepticBlog, and every Wednesday to Science-Based Medicine, a blog dedicated to issues of science and medicine.”

    Beyond the inane “skeptic community” objection, the letter I have referenced illuminates a schism within the scientific community regarding the parameters of pro-GMO scientific studies. You can nit pick about anti-GMO science all you want and I will call you a industry dupe everytime. 64 scientists have signed on and put their careers and reputations on the line. A lot of you have careers in science. How willing are you to sign your name to a document that runs against the consensus? How much do you value your tenure or funding? Are skeptics going to call these scientists biased because they are in opposition to the pro-GMO position? These scientists are calling out the methodology and efficacy of GMO studies. You cannot claim the position of objective science when objective science is not whats happening on the pro-GMO side. Pro-GMO science is biased. Pro-GMO science is completely influenced by industry. This letter seeks to level the playing field and remove the bias in these industry sponsored studies.

  132. BillyJoe7on 10 Aug 2014 at 4:38 am

    Teaser,

    The others can speak for themselves, but I am not part of any sceptical community. I have a sceptical outlook on life – meaning that my degree of acceptance of any proposition is in proportion to the evidence for that proposition and the scientific plausibility of that proposition.

    I am here because I have found Steven Novella has this same sceptical outlook – as do the regular posters here, save a few contrarians who are useful as examples of how not to think about things.

    I have no idea why some individuals believe what they do based on what they wish to be true, or what feels right, or what some fringe scientist has to say on the subject.

    “I wonder how the letter sits in the skeptic community”

    The sceptical community probably does not have an opinion. The sceptical community probably has not even assessed the letter. The sceptical community has probably not come to any consensus about the letter. The sceptical community probably does not even have consensus positions on anything.

    The sceptical community is probably just trying to promote scepticism in the wider community so as to counteract the pervasive touchy feely, wish it were true, science illiterate, pseudoscientific, and anti-science, fringe dwellers.

    In the mean time, some of us who have a sceptical outlook, have provided our initial reactions to the letter. But it seems you would rather complain about our objections to your question than understand why we objected.

    And it seems in you were so excited about complaining that you completely forgot to reply to our actual responses to the letter.

  133. grabulaon 10 Aug 2014 at 5:40 am

    @teaser

    “Novella constitutes a skeptical community petri dish.”

    I see, so your idiotic responses are for us “skeptics” at neurologica blog? Hard to tell when you use scare quotes and force dichotomies that don’t exist for the rest of us.

    “Beyond the inane “skeptic community” objection,”

    You mean beyond the “you people” dichotomy you’re trying to push?

  134. jsterritton 10 Aug 2014 at 1:50 pm

    @Teaser

    “You cannot claim the position of objective science when objective science is not whats happening on the pro-GMO side. Pro-GMO science is biased. Pro-GMO science is completely influenced by industry. ”

    Show your work. These three claims are not true because you say they are. Please stop inventing terms like “objective science,” “pro-GMO science,” and “anti-GMO science.” There are no such things; there is only good science (rigorous) and bad science (flawed methodology, conclusions not supported by data, etc). You make it sound as though people make a choice about which science to accept or believe in. This is called motivate reasoning and cherry-picking. A good scientist will not engage in these practices and a smart person shouldn’t either. Certainly you cannot expect such fatally flawed arguments to be accepted here in the “skeptical community.” Science is not loyalty-based or a belief system. Science follows the evidence whether it is ideologically convenient or not. You should do the same.

    The ‘evilness’ of industry and the ‘heroism’ of your 64 scientists are red herrings — they have no bearing on GMO safety.

  135. Bill Openthalton 10 Aug 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Teaser –

    Valiantly into the fray after the battle has been waged :)

    You can nit pick about anti-GMO science all you want and I will call you a industry dupe everytime.

    In other words, your mind is made up. If people do not share your opinion, they have been duped…

    How much do you value your tenure or funding?

    … or they are mercenary and dishonest.

    Are skeptics going to call these scientists biased because they are in opposition to the pro-GMO position?

    Actually, they have problems with the composition of a panel of scientists about to evaluate the history, purported benefits and purported negative effects of GMOs. They are not necessarily “anti-GMO” — that’s what your adversarial mindset reads into the letter. They express a number of concerns, some of which might be relevant (I have not looked at the CVs of the panelists, so I cannot offer any comment on their concerns), and some of which seem spurious (like the gender balance). I have seen scientists write far more critical, and far better crafted letters without any risk for their career or funding.

  136. grabulaon 10 Aug 2014 at 11:19 pm

    @Teaser

    ““You cannot claim the position of objective science when objective science is not whats happening on the pro-GMO side. Pro-GMO science is biased. Pro-GMO science is completely influenced by industry. ””

    Along with showing your work as jsterritt asks, you’re also making a huge assumption. I’m personally not ‘pro’-GMO, I’m pro-science. At the moment the science supports it as a viable way to solve some issues we have and the risk appears to be minimal.

  137. rezistnzisfutlon 11 Aug 2014 at 1:24 am

    Pro-GMO science is completely influenced by industry.

    This is your premise. “Pro-GMO is flawed and fallacious (P) because the science is completely influenced by industry (C)”. It’s begging the question. You make a factual statement that any research supporting the safety and efficacy of GMOs must be flawed because it’s driven by industry. For one, it’s already been demonstrated to the contrary that much research has been done completely independent of industry. For another, industry research isn’t necessarily incorrect. This is yet another conspiracy theory that assumes anything industry must be bad, that all scientists are somehow in collusion with industry, and that all research to the contrary has been suppressed or silenced by industry. None of that have you or anyone else been able to demonstrate, it’s a massive assumption on your part, and there is much evidence to the contrary.

    Like grabula says, it’s not so much that we are pro-GMO, it’s that we’re pro-science, the science supports the safety, efficacy, and positive contributions GMOs make to medicine and agriculture, and in that light we are pro-GMO. I am pro-GMO because I see how useful they already are, and that there is much potential in the future for them.

    As usual, you’re dead wrong and the science is against you. All you have is a bag of conspiracy theories chock full of misinformation.

  138. grabulaon 11 Aug 2014 at 2:03 am

    “it’s that we’re pro-science, the science supports the safety”

    I’m finding it more and more true that the type of person that uses ‘skeptic’ or ‘skepticism’ in scare quotes or as a way of trying to support an us vs them type argument miss the point of this.

    I’d certainly support a new endeavor in science if it were interesting to me but if the evidence shook out that it wasn’t going anywhere then I’ll move on. If it begins to provide evidence to support continued interest then I’m comfortable supporting it as far as that goes. The important point here is that I believe other skeptics understand that sometimes you have to let something go, especially when the evidence just stops supporting it.

    Along with that I think I’ve just grown bored with this kind of dogmatic blindness. Teaser, Mlema, the fullerton types who have a hard time sussing out the difference between what they want to believe and what the evidence and consensus support.

  139. Mlemaon 11 Aug 2014 at 4:24 am

    Dr. Novella, I think I have to continue our “deep dive” here as the most appropriate post – even though I have a feeling it will get lost in all the vitriol. I apologize for that because it’s probably at least partly my fault for comments I made on an earlier post. But anyway…

    Dr. Novella: “It is true that gene insertion can cause regional mutagenesis, usually upregulating or downregulating protein production. This is partly why the process is so tedious and time consuming. Many insertions are made, and only the healthy cells are used. After multiple selections, the plant with the new gene is back crossed multiple times to the parent to establish a stable and healthy line with the new gene.”

    Mutations aren’t limited to the region of insertion, but can be found at relatively great distances from the site. Back-breeding can mitigate effects, as you’ve said. And as some scientists have suggested, sequencing up to 50Kbp on each side of the insertion site to ensure a match to the parent may help. But more importantly, since the transgene is the mutation we want to keep – it’s the concomitant changes linked to the transgene or vector that can’t be bred out. And even if that were possible, what we’re left with in the ideal transgenic cell with no changes other than the transgene is: a cell that continually expresses a protein not evaluated as it’s manufactured by the plant cell, but, instead, as it’s manufactured in a bacterium (where, for example, glycosylation doesn’t happen as it does in the cell) and the possibility of new metabolic reactions from the transgene product’s effect on metabolic pathways.
    http://www.naturpedia.info/alimentazione/Prescott.pdf
    http://www.bfn.de/fileadmin/MDB/documents/service/skript239.pdf

  140. Mlemaon 11 Aug 2014 at 4:26 am

    Dr. Novella: “FDA requires …that any new proteins are tested, but also the new food has to be tested for equivalence, including nutritional and potential for allergens and toxicity. This would account for any mutagenic changes.”

    We have to ask: what sort of safety assessments are appropriate in light of the above differences from conventional breeding? Currently, “substantial equivalence” is enough to garner a GRAS approval. The FDA has a voluntary consultation process through which the developer submits a summary of its safety and nutritional assessment, promising that the new protein is safe and the rest of the plant doesn’t substantially differ from the parent plant.

    Scientists say that the proteins tested aren’t necessarily equivalent to those manufactured in the new plant because they aren’t tested as expressed in the transgenic plant, but instead are tested as they’re manufactured by microbes. A plant’s secondary metabolism is many hundreds of times more complex than that of a bacterium. And the means by which equivalency of nutrients is tested don’t reveal the presence of unknown toxins or unfamiliar allergens. The protein that the gene manufactures through bacteria is compared to known allergens, and we look for toxins typical to the parent plant (like glycoalkaloids in potatoes).

    “The concept of substantial equivalence has never been properly defined; the degree of difference between a natural food and its GM alternative before its ‘substance’ ceases to be acceptably ‘equivalent’ is not defined anywhere, nor has an exact definition been agreed by legislators. It is exactly this vagueness that makes the concept useful to industry but unacceptable to the consumer…..scientists are not yet able reliably to predict the biochemical or toxicological effects of a GM food from a knowledge of its chemical composition…Substantial equivalence is a pseudoscientific concept because it is a commercial and political judgment masquerading as if it were scientific. It is, moreover, inherently antiscientific because it was created primarily to provide an excuse for not requiring biochemical or toxicological tests. It therefore serves to discourage and inhibit potentially informative scientific research.” – E. Millstone, E. Brunner and S. Mayer

    There are a number of examples of pleiotropic changes in GM crops which only became evident through investigation done post-commercialization. And the potential risk becomes greater as we “stack” traits (like pesticide resistance) or attempt to engineer nutritional changes. Developers don’t typically do feeding studies, and the results of their safety evaluations aren’t made available for scrutiny by independent scientists. It’s happened that when raw data is made available, it’s been interpreted differently by scientists as warranting feeding studies. And in general, feeding studies have been scarce and without consistent controls or parameters. Even so, there appear to be indicators of some consistent problems, regardless of which GMO is being looked at.
    http://www.biosafety.ru/ftp/domingo.pdf
    http://www.unionccs.net/images/library/file/Agricultura_y_alimentacion/Health_Risks_GMOs.pdf

  141. Mlemaon 11 Aug 2014 at 4:29 am

    WARNING: this is MY OPINION on the contentious GMO debate that continues and continues:
    Here’s how I see the war between pro and anti:
    On the one side we have unscientific people, motivated by fear of the technology or anger at the industry, crying out that 100′s of thousands of Indian farmers have killed themselves because of GMOs, and that GMO seeds have “terminator genes”, etc.
    And on the other side we have those with vested interests in the industry, or techno-fix thinking, claiming there’s a growing “body count” because regulations are too strict and expensive, and that GMOs are precise, and can “feed the future” with reduced nitrogen inputs, lower water use, reduced pesticides, etc.
    And I think there are social commitments to these viewpoints as well. I’m more likely to be on one side or the other if my friend is too.
    And somewhere off to the side of these two “sides” is the science.

  142. RickKon 11 Aug 2014 at 6:16 am

    Mlemma said: “claiming there’s a growing “body count” because regulations are too strict and expensive”

    Interesting…. I can’t find a single comment from the Neurologica crowd that claims regulation should be relaxed or is too expensive. I think I’m safe in saying that most of us want much more of the government’s budget to go to the FDA and to enforcing sensible, science-based regulation on our food and drugs.

    As for GMOs “feeding the future” – plant and animal genetics are indeed a vital tool for continuing to feed a growing population. I think you will find this has been the case for all of human recorded history. This “techno-fix” thinking you apparently dismiss is, in fact, a major reason why you have enough to eat today. This is not a radical concept. GMO is just another in a very long line of tools for manipulating plant and animal genetics.

    You can continue to paint anyone arguing “pro GMO” as being aligned with industry goals and you can dismiss us as shills to industry, but you will continue to be wrong.

  143. Bronze Dogon 11 Aug 2014 at 9:41 am

    I don’t support relaxing regulation. I’m not aware of any pro-GMO people who do. I advocate closing loopholes for “organic” crops so that they have to live up to the same safety standards as GMOs. That’s how I’d prefer to make the standards more uniform and less arbitrary. I like the idea of the FDA and equivalent regulatory bodies having teeth.

    If anyone wants to propose new regulations specifically for GMOs, they’d better have a good reason for singling them out. That reason had better be based in science and data, not marketing, propaganda, urban legend, or popular paint-by-numbers journalist narratives.

  144. jsterritton 11 Aug 2014 at 11:00 am

    Mlema…

    How do you expect ever more cherry-picking to support your ever more rarefied worries about GMO safety when you cherry-pick papers that directly countermand each other? You link to 2 papers in the same breath: but the first (by Pescott et al) is demolished by the second (by Valenta/Spök) for its flawed methodology and conclusions. This shows how unconsidered your cherry-picking is: as someone has already noted, it’s like you feverishly mine Google for anything that remotely resembles support for your “argument” and link to it without discrimination. Maybe you just have to explain to us how to read them, or what the authors really meant.

    Anyway, we know this is all just blowing smoke so you can continue trying to salvage your beloved Indian farmer genocide myth, which is becoming synonymous with “Mlema.” Your “opinion” on this subject has zero value or credibility. The tenacity with which you cling to this disturbing fantasy is fantastic. And disturbing.

  145. jsterritton 11 Aug 2014 at 2:11 pm

    RickK..

    Do not get your hopes up for a source for Mlema’s “body count” claim. Mlema doesn’t “do” sources. The “body count” claim merely suits Mlema, who thinks it nicely balances out the Indian farmer suicide meme that he won’t let go of. I would point out to Mlema that even if this equivalence existed in reality (which it doesn’t), two wrongs don’t make the Indian farmer suicide myth right.

    “You can continue to paint anyone arguing “pro GMO” as being aligned with industry goals and you can dismiss us as shills to industry, but you will continue to be wrong.”

    Nicely said.

  146. jsterritton 11 Aug 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Mlema, mlema, mlema…

    “Developers don’t typically do feeding studies, and the results of their safety evaluations aren’t made available for scrutiny by independent scientists.”

    Dr Novella addresses the second part of your claim in his blog post (see “GMO Research” on this very page). Moreover, Nathanael Johnson covers this ground thoroughly in his seminal Grist series on GMOs. If you claim you haven’t read it, then you haven’t even begun to try to understand the topic on which you presume to teach.

    As for the first part, it is my understanding that feeding studies are not required to demonstrate safety. Rather, developers of GMOs must demonstrate that new breeds are identical to existing breeds except for the new traits. In turn, those traits must be tested for immunogenicity and allergenicity (safety). To require long-term feeding studies for foods that have already been demonstrated safe would be taking the precautionary principle too far and without any plausible reason — only free-floating, ignorance-based fears of “what if?” Most GM breeds do not contain substances that are significantly different from those already in the diet. Those that do require testing and approval. We’re talking about atoms composing molecules composing chemically identical food products here. What exactly would a feeding test of two chemically identical foods conceivably hope to show, other than spurious results introduced by the testing itself? Btw, there has been one remarkable large-scale feeding study of GM food: billions of people have consumed them without adverse effect for decades.

    “It’s happened that when raw data is made available, it’s been interpreted differently by scientists as warranting feeding studies.”

    Obvious red flags include: “It’s happened that,” “interpreted,” and “warranting.” This is as flaky a statement as any you’ve ever come up with. Show your work. What data? By whom? The cherry-picked single studies you link to? Or is it just something that, you know, like, happens?

    What do you think is more likely: that the world’s regulatory bodies of experts have chosen to ignore these studies for some strange reason; or that their findings were based on all the evidence and that these esoteric ones you chase down didn’t have the merit (or rigor, replicated results, or gravitas) to tip the balance against GMO safety? I know you think it’s the latter, but that’s what makes you a scrappy zealot. Dr Novella, the commenters here, and internet-accessible authorities around the world keep giving you hundreds, even thousands of studies in support of our arguments. You counter with a handful of cherry-picked ones — and half the time they don’t even say what you say they do! You’re not David going up against Goliath, you’re pissing into the wind. Keep it up.

    “And in general, feeding studies have been scarce and without consistent controls or parameters. Even so, there appear to be indicators of some consistent problems, regardless of which GMO is being looked at.”

    Hmmmm, sounds familiar. What you claim as well-established scientific fact, I can only find written in the introduction to the Domingo paper you linked to: “The results of most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause some common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects and may alter the hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters. However, many years of research with animals and clinical trials are required for this assessment.”

    You will notice that the final sentence of this grave utterance directly contradicts the first. Which is it: do most studies indicate GMO toxicity? Or are many years of animal and clinical research required for this assessment? I have placed this sweeping statement in bold, because of how colossally stupid it is.

    Speaking of colossally stupid, I would remind you that you are not arguing in favor of safety, and I am not arguing against it. Your strategy is the well-worn dopey one of begging the question that GMOs are somehow unsafe, the same one-note song you have sung ad nauseum in these pages. This ‘testing gambit’ completely resembles the anti-vaccinationists’ absurd claim of not being “anti-anything,” but merely “pro -safe vaccines.” Safety may have been determined to the satisfaction of the world’s experts, but what about Mlema’s personal journey and impossible standards? It is the same old JAQing and special pleading.

    Hugs (not vitriol),
    jsterritt (aka the italics kid)

  147. grabulaon 11 Aug 2014 at 9:51 pm

    @Bronze Dog

    “I don’t support relaxing regulation. I’m not aware of any pro-GMO people who do. I advocate closing loopholes for “organic” crops so that they have to live up to the same safety standards as GMOs.”

    This is where many folks like mlema go horribly wrong. For example, I’m sure an argument could be made that companies like monsanto would benefit from relaxed regulations. We see that battle everyday in other industries and we just need to stay vigilant.

    In fact, much like the agnostic/atheism argument, I think the most rational point an anti-GMO type could take is to understand the science involved, understand that GMO’s aren’t the horrible disaster waiting to happen they want them to be, and focus instead on making sure legislation and monitoring remain consistent and steady so it DOES remain a viable solution to many of our problems.

    But of course a little emotion goes a long way and tends to blind those who already don’t want to bother seeing.

  148. grabulaon 11 Aug 2014 at 9:56 pm

    @jsterritt

    “This shows how unconsidered your cherry-picking is: as someone has already noted, it’s like you feverishly mine Google for anything that remotely resembles support for your “argument” and link to it without discrimination”

    It’s his MO as you’re starting to see. Latch on to a few key words without bothering to understand the meat of the source. He won’t stick around to argue each point very long, he’ll move on to other horrible sources and other horrible claims.

    Of course it’s mostly emotional rhetoric, why he’s stuck so hard to the suicide myth. The growing ‘body count’ to which he refers I assume means the people dying all over the world from starvation and malnutrition. I still wouldn’t advocate relaxing regulations for this kind of science for a temporary boost in lives potentially saved. It would be nice however if the anti-GMO crowd wasn’t so damned vehement that more magical thinking 3rd world countries are fighting the concept of using GMO’s. In my opinion any growing body count has nothing to do with regulation and a lot to do with ignorance and a huge case of the naturalistic fallacies.

  149. rezistnzisfutlon 11 Aug 2014 at 10:24 pm

    I’m finding it more and more true that the type of person that uses ‘skeptic’ or ‘skepticism’ in scare quotes or as a way of trying to support an us vs them type argument miss the point of this.

    Those who use scare quotes around “skeptic” or “skepticism” are typically shooting for special pleading – they don’t want their pet ideology to be critically evaluated, or worse, rejected, so they condemn skepticism as some sort of dogma of its own. It’s much like creationists who adamantly deny evolution or condemn science altogether, and then accuse those who do accept evolution of practicing scientism. They don’t want their ideology to be beholden to the rigors of actual science. Or, they try to redefine it to mean something that it’s not in order to evade criticism. This is one of the biggest reasons why I’m a skeptic, because I value science enough to want to protect its integrity, keep it from being sullied.

    We’ve seen denigration of “skepticism” by several people here: teaser, mlema, sonic, and hardnose are good examples. Skepticism requires adequate amounts of high quality evidence. Those who denounce skepticism and science want us to accept low standards of evidence, or to be free from the rigors of science. Classic special pleading.

  150. Teaseron 12 Aug 2014 at 10:31 am

    @rezistnzisfutl

    “We’ve seen denigration of “skepticism” by several people here: teaser, mlema, sonic, and hardnose are good examples. Skepticism requires adequate amounts of high quality evidence. Those who denounce skepticism and science want us to accept low standards of evidence, or to be free from the rigors of science. Classic special pleading.”

    What’s next? Burning at the stake for denigrating skepticism (scepticism*)? Are you wearing a pilgrim hat with a giant buckle on the front? Will Ye Smite the Blasphemers of Skepticism (scepticism)?

    I thought that nobody on this skeptic (sceptic) blog (created by the person who founded the New England Skeptic Society) wants to be known as a skeptic (sceptic). Here you are defending the very honor of the skeptic (sceptic) label. Why are skeptics (sceptics) so defensive of being labeled skeptics (sceptics)? For christsake, google skeptic and see what comes back. That’s you people! You aren’t flying under the radar!

    ” Those who denounce skepticism and science want us to accept low standards of evidence, or to be free from the rigors of science.”

    I don’t want you to accept anything. Actually I want you to be free to gloriously bask in “rigors of science.” Slip into your Borat swimsuit and be scientifically rigorous! Work up a good scientific lather! Get your scientific sweat on! BE RIGOROUS!

    *http://grammarist.com/spelling/sceptic-skeptic/

  151. jsterritton 12 Aug 2014 at 11:57 am

    @Teaser

    It only takes a minute to read through your comments here. You are adversarial and repeatedly try to characterize your opponents as something monolithic, when the only thing they have in common as far as you know is their opposition to your science-ignoring anti-GMO evangelizing. You have taken great pains to be dismissive of your critics in these comments and have invented all sorts of labels and terms and semantic distinctions with which to do so. You have called those you disagree with “industry dupes” and rejected out of hand any criticism of what you call “anti-GMO science.” You declare that you are completely close-minded on the subject at hand — the opposite of skeptical. Then you are flabbergasted when commenters bristle at your use of the ol’ “skeptic gambit” (sometimes the “scientism gambit”) — wherein you equate skeptics with dogmatists and ideologues. It’s a tired well-worn piece-of-sh!t dumb tactic that we see here all the time when someone on the wrong side of science seeks to reduce and dismiss science and/or skepticism as some sort of cultish choice that people make. In other words, it’s something people invoke when they have no decent argument (basically an ad hominem).

    Upping the ante by calling your opponents witch-burners and illiterates who don’t even know how to define themselves correctly and “you people” is not the smartest way to dig yourself out of this particular hole, but it is a popular choice. Maybe you should learn, by the responses you’ve encountered (you know, context), that there are some words you don’t know how to use correctly. As someone obviously familiar with using slippery language, I’m sure you can see how sometimes one just gets away from you.

  152. Bruceon 12 Aug 2014 at 12:10 pm

    “What’s next? Burning at the stake for denigrating skepticism (scepticism*)? Are you wearing a pilgrim hat with a giant buckle on the front? Will Ye Smite the Blasphemers of Skepticism (scepticism)?”

    Massive straw man… with a healthy dose of hyperbole.

    “I thought that nobody on this skeptic (sceptic) blog (created by the person who founded the New England Skeptic Society) wants to be known as a skeptic (sceptic).”

    Can you please qualify this? Who said they don’t want to be known as a skeptic? Does that person speak for all of us? Have you asked all of us? Please… show where you get this notion from.

    “skeptic (sceptic)”

    Stop being an arse of a pedant. One is British, one is American, we all know what it means spelt either way. Whatever point you are trying to prove, you are just making yourself look more foolish.

    “I don’t want you to accept anything. Actually I want you to be free to gloriously bask in “rigors of science.” Slip into your Borat swimsuit and be scientifically rigorous! Work up a good scientific lather! Get your scientific sweat on! BE RIGOROUS!”

    And to top it all off you end with verifying what we all know by now, you clearly evidence that you have no respect or even understanding for the process of scientific rigour and the process used to understand the world objectively.

  153. Bronze Dogon 12 Aug 2014 at 1:16 pm

    First question: what exact behavior has you worried about witch hunts, Teaser?

    1. Asking for rigorous evidence of harm before acting on it?
    2. Asking for a coherent theoretical basis behind assertions of hypothetical harm before acting on it?
    3. Pointing out double standards between age old methods of GM like breeding versus newer methods?
    4. Pointing out the unreliability of today’s mainstream journalistic practices?
    5. Pointing out the propaganda methodology of scaremongering?
    6. Attempting to disentangle complaints about one particular company’s policies from complaints about GM technology?
    7. Pointing out logical fallacies?
    8. Using side insults that can be ignored without losing any substance from our main arguments?
    9. Other?

    Second question: how will it lead to witch hunts?

  154. Teaseron 12 Aug 2014 at 2:40 pm

    @Bruce – Perhaps I misread BillyJoe7′s tone[1], but he appeared to resent being called a skeptic (sceptic). Grabula also intimated a sense of hrrrrrmph and the skeptic label. I did not see anybody proudly accepting the skeptic label.

    Additionally Bruce, I provided a footnote regarding skeptic v sceptic.

    I HAD to absolutely respond to rezistnzisfutl fearful statement that people who do not agree with him (her?) wish to change his feelings about science. That is an especially illogical and emotional statement. “I am fearful people want me to stop thinking the way I think!” I would never special plead to anybody for any reason.

    Other than those points I am guilty as charged on all accounts of hyperbole, fallacy indulgement, logic collapse and whatever else you want to pile on.

    BronzeDog – I purposely characterized the tone of his statements to make a point. It’s obvious to anybody the proponents of GMO’s are completely owning this comment section. His level of concern regarding the “anti-GMO” crowd response seemed unnecessarily fearful of the opposition comments. I throw out a few sly observations and the sky is falling and science is going to die.

    @jsterritt –
    I do get a laugh when I am charged with being adversarial when I have seen the absolute shredding and ridicule of people who offer to post/debate on this blog.(i.e. fullerton)
    For what its worth the title of this blog entry contains the word “Anti-GMO”. I was using the language of the original post.
    I can’t let this ridiculous statement from you slip by without a comment:

    “Btw, there has been one remarkable large-scale feeding study of GM food: billions of people have consumed them without adverse effect for decades.”
    (Rebuttal to Mlema (sterritton 11 Aug 2014 at 9:21 pm)

    Confusing cause and effect?
    Hasty generalization?
    When did this study start? When did it end? I never received the enrollment form. Why wasn’t I notified I was part of a study? Should I stop now?

    I will close with this observation:
    To make a counter claim or statement in this blogs comments section is equivalent to charging the stone wall along the Sunken Road at Fredericksburg. Dissenters are subject to a verbal enfilade and have little chance of succeeding.

    [1] BillyJoe7on 10 Aug 2014 at 4:38 am

  155. Teaseron 12 Aug 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Any guesses as to why the Chinese are kicking GMO to the curb? Don’t they have a bunch of starving people? Why the heck would they abandon GMO crops? It’s a real head scratcher!

    http://sustainablepulse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2014-08-08-Food-Safety-and-Sustable-Agriculture-Forum-2014-Beijing.pdf

    “BEIJING DECLARATION
    July 26, 2014
    (English translation from the Chinese document)
    We are a gathering of scientists and agricultural practitioners from 13 countries and regions and 5 continents, who have just attended the Food Safety & Sustainable Agriculture Forum 2014 in Beijing, China.
    The experience in the cultivation and consumption of GMO, and the definitive scientific facts and analysis presented, have led us to the conclusion that arguably GM technology does not increase production yield. On the contrary, this has led to the increase in the application of pesticides, causing calamitous damage to the ecosystem upon which the survival of humankind depends.
    The commercial application of GM technology in agriculture for the last two decades has exposed the entire planet and the very existence of humankind to serious threats. We unanimously condemn the GM vested interests in usurping the right of the human race to use natural seed resources for its sustainable survival and development. While the undeniable evidence of the dangers of GMO is exposed, the facts have been denied and suppressed, the media have been manipulated in order to freely expand the production of GMOs, and the global crisis has been pushed to new heights.

    We believe that scientific research must be subordinate to the welfare and long term development of humankind, and should never be the tools to profit a few persons or interest groups. Agricultural production is the basis for human survival. To protect agricultural production and the earth,our home base, we hereby call upon all people with a conscience to:

    1.Stop all commercial production of agricultural GMOs, and strictly prohibit the proliferation of GMOs outside laboratories.

    2.Open public discussion and stop suppressing dissenting views and independent scientific research to ensure public knowledge and expression. Increase scientific research on the negative effects of GM technology.

    3.Protect bio-diversity, return the rights to own and utilize seeds to the cultivators and the people, and fight against seed monopoly. Protect people’s freedom to acquire safe food and object to food monopoly and hegemony of a few commercial enterprises.

    4.Call for a rational and sustainable mode of agriculture to return it to Mother Nature.

    Mankind has no retreat confronting the threats brought about by the overall proliferation of GM products. Let us take up the holy responsibility and take joint action to protect the health and survival of the human race!

  156. Bruceon 12 Aug 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Teaser:

    “I did not see anybody proudly accepting the skeptic label.”

    We are all skeptics, but we are not all only skeptics.

    “Additionally Bruce, I provided a footnote regarding skeptic v sceptic.”

    What a load of bollocks, you were just trying to appear intelligent or were trying to be funny and failed at both.

    “I am guilty as charged on all accounts of hyperbole, fallacy indulgement, logic collapse and whatever else you want to pile on.”

    And this is where I end my discussion with you. Either you are being serious, in which case I agree fully, or else you are again attempting humour or sarcasm and to that I say: What a load of self indulgent, poor me, victimisation complex claptrap. You choose your preferred outcome.

  157. Ekkoon 12 Aug 2014 at 3:52 pm

    “Any guesses as to why the Chinese are kicking GMO to the curb? Don’t they have a bunch of starving people? Why the heck would they abandon GMO crops? It’s a real head scratcher!”

    Assuming the translation you presented is accurate, it boils down to their claim that “GM technology does not increase production yield”. I’m not sure which specific crop yield they are referring to here though. What follows then is a lot of bloviating that is head-scratchingly unrelated (in my mind anyway) to a specific crop not producing expected yields. Assuming one didn’t work as promised, maybe another will? If not, was a traditionally bred version performing better yields? Stick with that then. There’s not much useful in what you posted to learn anything specific though…

  158. Steven Novellaon 12 Aug 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Teaser – I’m shocked that an anti-GMO symposium resulted in an anti-GMO declaration that reads like blatant propaganda, rather than a scientific review. I guess you can’t tell the difference.

    Are you sure the signers speak for China?

    In any case, is it difficult for you to think of reasons why certain interests in China might want to issue propaganda against competitive imports from the US? They seem particularly interested in GM rice.

    Meanwhile China is seeking to develop its own GMO. http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/03/07/china-seeks-its-own-gmo-food-path/

    Again – I smell competition, not science.

  159. Bronze Dogon 12 Aug 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Teaser:

    BronzeDog – I purposely characterized the tone of his statements to make a point. It’s obvious to anybody the proponents of GMO’s are completely owning this comment section. His level of concern regarding the “anti-GMO” crowd response seemed unnecessarily fearful of the opposition comments. I throw out a few sly observations and the sky is falling and science is going to die.

    Did it ever occur to you that we react strongly because we don’t like lies and misrepresentations? Emotion doesn’t affect the cogency of an argument, so all I see is a transparent attempt to deflect the issue. It gets extraordinarily frustrating to see the same stupidity all the time, so yeah, we get frustrated, sometimes. It’s also a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If we show emotion, we’re deemed irrational and dismissed. If we don’t show emotion, we’re deemed coldhearted sociopaths and dismissed.

    Did it ever occur to you that we aren’t on here for a pro-GMO stance, but because we want to talk about the science, no matter which conclusion it leads to? I’m pro-GMO simply because I don’t see any good reason to be anti-GMO, not to mention a lot of dishonesty and naivete from anti-GMO people. So far, all the reasons I’ve seen to be anti-GMO are inherently fallacious or contradicted by the evidence. I’m capable of changing my mind, but I don’t intend to let people trick me into doing it by exploiting known bugs in my monkey brain or dubious experimental protocols.

    Did it ever occur to you that disagreeing with someone commonly leads to people arguing to find out the truth, not to silence dissent? Criticism and censorship are two entirely different things. The big thing I value about free speech is that I’m free to criticize any ideas or arguments I disagree with and explore a topic by gasp talking about it with other people who have other positions and ideas.

    Did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t engage in hyperbole in a heated topic where your opponents already get subjected to straw men in virtually every discussion about GMO? In this era, I suspect parody, satire, and similar forms of humor are dying because it’s easy to find extremists who will say the same things with a straight face. There’s this thing you might have heard of called Poe’s Law. Instead of trying insincere rhetorical tricks to play games with people’s emotions, try saying what you actually mean.

  160. Teaseron 12 Aug 2014 at 5:35 pm

    @Novella “Are you sure signers speak for China?”

    The article in Sustainable Pulse states:
    “The China Development Strategy Research Society Committee of Cultural Strategy organized a unique event in Beijing during the last week of July to discuss the global harm caused by GMOs and glyphosate-based herbicides.”

    I searched on the explicit terms “China Development Strategy Research Society” and “Committee of Cultural Strategy”. For “China Development Strategy Research Society” explicitly…all roads lead back to anti-GMO sites. That explicit phrase exists nowhere else that I could find. There was something similar on Wikipedia, but not exact. Committee for Cultural Strategy has no match. The two phrases combined loop back only to the anti-GMO site. The Sustainable Pulse site appears to be an aggregator of anti-GMO news of dubious pedigree.

    So to answer your question, no I am not sure.

    Are you proposing China has a hand behind the anti-GMO rhetoric?

    The WSJ article and the associated links were discussing mostly soybeans and corn.

  161. jsterritton 12 Aug 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Teaser—

    You’re not a “dissenter,” you’re a dummy. There is no ideological cabal arrayed in line with some “science” dogma here. If you can’t bring a good argument and instead resort to tropes, fallacies, conspiracies, and name-calling, you will get spanked. There is a level playing field of debate here. If you can’t support your statements with logical and consistent reasoning, you invite education, then wonder, then mirth, then ridicule, and…if you persist, even scorn. But you’re not being bullied by a clique. You’re just losing an argument (not gracefully, I might add).

    “Btw, there has been one remarkable large-scale feeding study of GM food: billions of people have consumed them without adverse effect for decades.” I apologize for not making clear that this is not, in fact, a real study. You are not a guinea pig. It is a shame that you have cornered the market on “sly observations” and the rest of us have to speak in machine code lest we be taken out of context or misunderstood.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my comments. You should check out the ones about scientific consensus and appeals to popularity.

  162. jsterritton 12 Aug 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Bronze Dog

    “Did it ever occur to you that we react strongly because we don’t like lies and misrepresentations? Emotion doesn’t affect the cogency of an argument, so all I see is a transparent attempt to deflect the issue.”

    I’ve been enjoying your comments immensely. Thank you for your clear and well-thought-out explanation of some of the finer points of commenting here. You perfectly capture many of my frustrations, but with a better grace and more patience than I’ll ever have.

  163. Bronze Dogon 12 Aug 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Glad to be of service.

  164. grabulaon 12 Aug 2014 at 6:13 pm

    @teaser

    “What’s next? Burning at the stake for denigrating skepticism (scepticism*)? Are you wearing a pilgrim hat with a giant buckle on the front? Will Ye Smite the Blasphemers of Skepticism (scepticism)?”

    Yes, pointing out your logical flaws is tantamount to burning you at the steak, nice leap there Teaser. Martyr syndrome much?

    “I thought that nobody on this skeptic (sceptic) blog (created by the person who founded the New England Skeptic Society) wants to be known as a skeptic (sceptic).”

    Now you’re just making stuff up. I’m fine being known as a skeptic. What I’m not fine is your mischaracterization of it as anything but a desire to see evidence before buying into most extraordinary claims. Using scare quotes and insinuating skeptics are anything but what we are is revisionist and misleading and it’s disingenuous.

    “I don’t want you to accept anything. Actually I want you to be free to gloriously bask in “rigors of science.”

    And imply there’s something wrong with understanding that science provides the evidence anyone needs to understand something. You buy credulously into what you want to believe and spend time implying anyone who follows the scientific method is somehow wrong, or ironically as dogmatic as you actually are.

  165. Teaseron 12 Aug 2014 at 6:26 pm

    @Bronze Dog – I will offer an apology if will do any good. Thanks for the explanation.

    Here is my position.
    I am primarily anti-GMO.

    I operate on percentages. I am 80% against GMO. 20% for GMO. I can entertain the potential benefits of GMO. That’s what brings me here.

    Reasons against:
    * I do not care for the dependence on specific pesticide/herbicides to make the crop successful.
    * I do not care for the swinging door between government/industry. Similar to the SEC/Wall Street, D.O.D/military contractors. The classic fox guarding the hen house.
    * I do not care for the way the companies involved do business.
    * I do not care for the way the products are tied to global trade agreements negotiated by the US Government. Let the product compete on the global market on it’s merits.
    * I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. My hunch is there is something similar to “The Pentagon Papers” lurking in the wings of the GMO industry.
    * I do not buy the argument that people will starve if GMO’s aren’t cultivated.

    Reasons for:
    * The genetic manipulation and combinations derived from that process are compelling.

  166. grabulaon 12 Aug 2014 at 6:30 pm

    @Teaser

    “@Bruce – Perhaps I misread BillyJoe7′s tone[1], but he appeared to resent being called a skeptic (sceptic). Grabula also intimated a sense of hrrrrrmph and the skeptic label”

    BS. You use skeptic as a negative label, as if to demand evidence for a thing is somehow wrong. You didn’t misunderstand or misinterpret anyone’s post, as usual you’re just steeped in emotional response and a revulsion for science that forces you to examine your own beliefs.

    “I would never special plead to anybody for any reason.”

    You begin to special plead the minute you imply skeptics are anything but what we are. You special plead every time one of these GMO blog posts come about. You heartily ignore the science and evidence for your own narrative and it’s always emotionally laden.

    “His level of concern regarding the “anti-GMO” crowd response seemed unnecessarily fearful of the opposition comments.”

    You read you want into our replies then backpedal when you’re called on your ridiculous over reaction. You KNOW where you go wrong but you do it anyway. No one here is ‘fearful’ of your anti-science stance Teaser, any more than we’re afraid of the list of others who don’t get science.

    “I throw out a few sly observations and the sky is falling and science is going to die.”
    You mean a witch burning?

    “I do get a laugh when I am charged with being adversarial when I have seen the absolute shredding and ridicule of people who offer to post/debate on this blog.(i.e. fullerton)”

    LOL, your sympathies go to Fullerton?! Your skeptical pants are down Teaser. Careful, you might trip over them.

    “Dissenters are subject to a verbal enfilade and have little chance of succeeding.”

    Ah, poor Teaser. You expect to come here and make anti-science claims then not get dinged for it? If you were capable of having a reasonable conversation about it, you’d probably find responses more moderate. Instead you come in, try to turn an us vs them attitude into an argument, and continue to fail to understand the science so you can persist in your dogmatic views. You absolutely deserve to be lambasted everytime you do it for the same reasons Fullerton was ‘absolutely devastated’ in his poor thinking. When you put yourself out there, choose an anti-science stance, filled with emotionally laden rhetoric and appeals and attack the people you’re demanding respect from, just what do you think the response is going to be?

    “Any guesses as to why the Chinese are kicking GMO to the curb? Don’t they have a bunch of starving people? Why the heck would they abandon GMO crops? It’s a real head scratcher!”

    I’m sure ‘sustainable pulse” and the ever consistent Scientific community in China are reliable sources of unbiased information on anything lol. Never mind the claims they make in the article are backed by no other research in the field. For example: “On the contrary, this has led to the increase in the application of pesticides, causing calamitous damage to the ecosystem upon which the survival of humankind depends.”…motivated reasoning much? You and Mlema must come from the same school of evidence.

    “Are you proposing China has a hand behind the anti-GMO rhetoric?”

    Yes Teaser, it’s China and not that dubious source you linked that is the problem.

  167. grabulaon 12 Aug 2014 at 6:33 pm

    @Teaser

    “Reasons against:
    * I do not care for the dependence on specific pesticide/herbicides to make the crop successful.
    * I do not care for the swinging door between government/industry. Similar to the SEC/Wall Street, D.O.D/military contractors. The classic fox guarding the hen house.
    * I do not care for the way the companies involved do business.
    * I do not care for the way the products are tied to global trade agreements negotiated by the US Government. Let the product compete on the global market on it’s merits.
    * I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. My hunch is there is something similar to “The Pentagon Papers” lurking in the wings of the GMO industry.
    * I do not buy the argument that people will starve if GMO’s aren’t cultivated.”

    So you don’t like the business behind it and you think there’s probably a government conspiracy. Seems rational and sound to me. Not to mention the strawman in that last statement.

    “* The genetic manipulation and combinations derived from that process are compelling.”

    Oh, I’ve totally misrepresented you Teaser, I didn’t realize you were keeping an open mind…or something.

  168. Teaseron 12 Aug 2014 at 7:05 pm

    @grabula

    “So you don’t like the business behind it and you think there’s probably a government conspiracy. Seems rational and sound to me”

    If you want to label my hunch as such that is your choice.

    Isn’t the “people are going to starve without GMO’s” an established position? I swear that’s been trotted out around here. If not I happily withdraw it.

    “Oh, I’ve totally misrepresented you Teaser, I didn’t realize you were keeping an open mind…or something.”
    In this case 20% open!

  169. Bronze Dogon 12 Aug 2014 at 8:05 pm

    * I do not care for the dependence on specific pesticide/herbicides to make the crop successful.

    When pests develop resistance to one pesticide, we move to another. Ideally, I imagine a long cycle where old pesticides become effective again because the old resistance was selected out for being a waste of resources. There’ll also be regional variations. We’ve been in this arms race with pests since the beginning of agriculture. No use whining about the normal state of affairs, as if it was a new and unexpected thing.

    * I do not care for the swinging door between government/industry. Similar to the SEC/Wall Street, D.O.D/military contractors. The classic fox guarding the hen house.

    Yeah, politics is hard because we have to keep setting lots of checks and balances to keep any one group from dominating. That doesn’t mean everyone should just give up on looking for solutions or declare certain tools useless.

    …Also, what’s that got to do with the safety and efficacy of GM technology?

    * I do not care for the way the companies involved do business.

    If anything, I’d say that’s an argument for making GM technology more accessible. Keep the barriers to entry reasonable, and more companies will be able to afford the development costs. Impose arbitrary and unreasonable barriers, and you’re only going to concentrate GMOs into the wealthiest of companies who can afford to work through it all. It’s also going to discourage people from developing public domain GMOs that aren’t so easily controlled by corporations.

    * I do not care for the way the products are tied to global trade agreements negotiated by the US Government. Let the product compete on the global market on it’s merits.

    I find it ironic that you can say this in light of how I’ve seen the anti-GMO crowd misinform and disinform the public about the merits of GM technology with textbook scaremongering. Meanwhile, there’s considerable overlap between anti-GMO groups and “organic” farming corporations. The reason I want regulatory oversight is because I don’t trust any companies to do anything except increase profits.

    I see Fox A, Fox B, and a bunch of Dogs. I only trust Fox A so long as the Dogs are breathing down its neck. A fox might be able to corrupt one or two Dogs at a time, but never the whole pack. The more Dogs a Fox has to bribe, the smaller the cut of stolen chicken it gets. A Fox won’t steal a chicken if he has to give it all away to the Dogs as a bribe. From my point of view, it seems more like you’re asking me to trust Fox B to work alone because Fox A is untrustworthy. But I already know Fox A is untrustworthy. That’s why I have the Dogs watching him as well as each other, reporting any suspicious activity. I wouldn’t bother with the Foxes if they weren’t useful or easy to get rid of.

    * I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. My hunch is there is something similar to “The Pentagon Papers” lurking in the wings of the GMO industry.

    Fallacy: Appeal to the future. If anything, this is a concession that you’re basing your decision on wishful thinking about what information you want to be out there, rather than what information is available. If you’re wrong, and there is no such information out there, how could you ever find out you were wrong? Or do you mean to suggest you have some kind of godlike, superhuman prescience or precognition?

    * I do not buy the argument that people will starve if GMO’s aren’t cultivated.

    People are already starving right now. If we have a technology to produce more food, more reliably, using less land, it will make life easier, reduce the mortality rate, and such so that people can confidently invest more resources into fewer children without fear that they’ll die so easily. Throw in improved reproductive freedom and family planning, and it’ll reduce the birth rate so we can actually get population growth under some measure of control. Of course, GMOs aren’t going to be a magical panacea, just one more tool that can be used for this difficult task. Why shouldn’t we use it?

    The question remains, why fixate on GM technology? If you’ve got complaints about business and government policy, why are you deflecting blame onto a morally neutral tool, as if it’s retroactively responsible for preexisting corruption instead of the people?

  170. Argument from the fifth gradeon 12 Aug 2014 at 8:41 pm

    It’s been mentioned in this thread and other GMO-themed threads that population growth is out of control but no one has really quantified it. I haven’t extensively studied the topic, but one of the most interesting TED talks I’ve seen addressed the issue, and if the speaker’s analysis was correct, we seem to be on track to stabilize at around 10 billion people. (Now whether we can deal with that is another question.)

    Basically birth rates have been steadily declining across all world religions and the key driver of high birth rates is high infant / child mortality rates.

    If nothing else, watch it for the awesome charting software he shows off! :) It’s a short 13 min.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies

  171. grabulaon 12 Aug 2014 at 10:09 pm

    @teaser

    “If you want to label my hunch as such that is your choice.”

    a hunch…based on what? Your ongoing distrust of “Big”

    “Isn’t the “people are going to starve without GMO’s” an established position? I swear that’s been trotted out around here. If not I happily withdraw it.”

    The simple fact is people ARE starving now. GMO’s have in some places been able to help alleviate that, not to mention the nutritional value they can bring to poor areas of the world. We’re talking about places where traditional methods of farming have consistently failed to support local populations. But much like the anti-vaccine movement, the decriers who operate on hunches and emotion are doing more damage than good, with some governments failing to accept GMO products based on unscientific misinformation. In essence, your paranoia leads to people starving.

    A few blog posts ago it was pointed out that Mlemas argument hinges on a general mistrust and dislike of business. This is no reason to deny the science, science that can be helpful no matter what your gut says. The reasonable stance here is to keep up regulations and testing and keep working with the technology.

    The difference as a few of us have already pointed out is down the road, if GMO is found to be a problem, we can move on to try something new. The anti-GMO crowd cannot be budged from their dogmatic view. We’re (the skeptics as you’re so fond of pointing out) are ok with moving with the science, asking for reasonable oversight moving forward and hopeful the technology can help solve the worlds issues. The anti-GMO crowd wants to eradicate all GMO because it’s ‘unnatural’ and people are making money on it. Who’s more willing to take the middle ground here?

  172. grabulaon 12 Aug 2014 at 10:13 pm

    @Bronze Dog

    “I find it ironic that you can say this in light of how I’ve seen the anti-GMO crowd misinform and disinform the public about the merits of GM technology with textbook scaremongering.”

    This more than anything else is what gets my goat with these types of people. They’ll spin how evil corporations and governments are. They’ll tell you all these entities want to do is murder you while trying to collect your last dollar (great business plan by the way) and then turn around and claim your killing thousands of people (a lie), farmers are killing themselves because of the evil of GMO (a lie) and that governments are collapsing because GMO’s are causing irreparable harm (a lie).

    Every time it appears the anti-science crowd is doing the most actual harm, an irony that kills me Every time I see it.

  173. rezistnzisfutlon 12 Aug 2014 at 11:13 pm

    They’ll spin how evil corporations and governments are.

    The hypocrisy is, there are no similar calls for safety testing, claims of conspiracies and collusion, or profit motive for “big” organic, although combined the organic industry is worth far more than all of biotech combined.

    http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/organic-food-market.html

    $103 billion by 2015, that’s huge. They also have a tremendous lobby in local and national governments, every bit as big as biotech.

    Yet, we have zero regulations regarding safety testing and efficacy on organics, and we hear not a word from the anti-GMO crowd regarding this even though new organic cultivars are routinely introduced, and we know very little about the actual safety of organic farming methods, other than the periodic deadly food pathogen outbreaks directly caused by organic farming methods.

  174. rezistnzisfutlon 12 Aug 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Should read “$105 billion by 2015″.

  175. grabulaon 12 Aug 2014 at 11:39 pm

    “The hypocrisy is, there are no similar calls for safety testing, claims of conspiracies and collusion, or profit motive for “big” organic, although combined the organic industry is worth far more than all of biotech combined.”

    yep, the organic community can’t even decide what exactly ‘organic’ means lol. It all goes together to underline a chosen narrative based around the naturalistic fallacy. If it’s ‘natural’ (whatever that means) it’s ok, if it’s ‘unnatural’ it’s got to be horrible and back up by conspiracy.

  176. Bronze Dogon 12 Aug 2014 at 11:56 pm

    I seem to recall reading that some really harsh, overly broad pesticides are considered “organic” in some definitions because they simply got grandfathered in from that magical time when farmers were perfect. Like when their environmentalism brought about the Dust Bowl, you know.

  177. grabulaon 13 Aug 2014 at 12:02 am

    Mike something or other that occasionally hits these discussions has mentioned this before – he worked in the organic industry for a while and has mentioned that ‘organic’ farming isn’t as organic as they would like you to believe.

    Another point I’d like to make is I’m not opposed to anything that’s better for the environment. It’d be nice to find the perfect answer but that never really happens. We can continue to use pesticides, we could continue to use vague ‘organic’ methods which so far have proven unreliable and wasteful, or we can continue to explore the science and see where it takes us. Science, contrary to what some would have us believe, isn’t out to get us.

  178. jsterritton 13 Aug 2014 at 12:46 am

    I do not understand how environmentalism and anti-GMO reconcile. It’s not just the head-in-the-sand science-denying of the naturalistic fallacy that puzzles me. To my mind GMOs are a snug fit with the sense of responsibility any environmentally-minded person should feel towards sustainable agriculture, greenhouse emissions, and repair of damage already done.

    More tools, better rules, best practices.

  179. grabulaon 13 Aug 2014 at 1:28 am

    @jsterritt

    “I do not understand how environmentalism and anti-GMO reconcile.”

    lol, this irony hasn’t escaped me either but I think that’s the problem really. Emotional responses get you ironic behavior. That was one of the first questions I asked when I heard there was some opposition to the idea of GMO’s. Why? It sounds like it could provide more sustainable farming, little or no pesticides, healthier crops that produce more per acreage, better nutritional value.

    But you hit upon the problem – the naturalistic fallacy really is the source of about 99% of it. Most anti-GMO are pro-organic and the like because they believe natural is better. They fear the worst with anything that doesn’t come from mother earth. It’s irrational and illogical.

  180. BillyJoe7on 13 Aug 2014 at 8:21 am

    BillyJoe: “The others can speak for themselves, but I am not part of any sceptical community. I have a sceptical outlook on life – meaning that my degree of acceptance of any proposition is in proportion to the evidence for that proposition and the scientific plausibility of that proposition”

    Teaser: “Perhaps I misread BillyJoe7′s tone, but he appeared to resent being called a skeptic”

    I was simply stating that I am not part of any sceptical community. I am not a member of any sceptical organisation, and I have never attended any sceptical meetings.

    I reject the term “sceptical community” because there should not be a “community of sceptics” – everyone should have a sceptical outlook on life. Everyone should accept any proposition to a degree that is in proportion to the scientific plausibility and the evidence for that proposition. I don’t understand why anyone would not want to have a sceptical outlook if, for no other reason, than self preservation in a world of self-deluded self-promoters and scam artists.

    So instead of asking what the “sceptical community” thinks about the letter your referenced, you could simply have asked your fellow posters to cast their sceptical eye over that letter. After all, your fellow posters might not have a unanamous opinion! That is what your use of the phrase “sceptical community” implies – that we speak as one voice. It also implies that there is a “non-sceptical community” (presumably one with beliefs divorced from scientific plausibility and the evidence) that has a point of view worth considering.

  181. RainStaffon 13 Aug 2014 at 9:26 am

    I just found this article: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/08/the-new-scientism/ in one of Massimo Pigliucci’s tweets and it really rubbed me the wrong way. I wonder if Massimo shared this to support it or to criticize it. Either way, most of the myths debunked by Steve here are relayed uncritically in this opinion piece.

  182. Steven Novellaon 13 Aug 2014 at 10:24 am

    I don’t know what the resistance is to the notion of a “skeptical community.” There is a scientific community. There is a neurological community, withing which there is a headache community, etc. There is also a gaming community, a “fan” community for just about anything.

    In this context the “community” is not a monolithic group or top-down organization. It is a loose bottom-up social construct organized around a common interest and worldview.

    In the case of the skeptical community, we generally share a basically skeptical approach to claims. This includes understanding and using science, understanding critical thinking, and all the cognitive failings that might tempt a person away from a valid logical and empirical process.

    As a loose community with this overlap, we are otherwise fairly diverse, with a range of ideology and opinions on many topics. The majority of self-identified skeptics tend to come to similar conclusions about topics that have an obvious scientific answer.

    But there are no marching orders, there is no dogma or ideological purity. As a group skeptics tend to be fiercely intellectually independent, which makes us a group of people who do not like belonging to groups.

    Because of this, and our dedication to process, my sense is that we are not as liable to groupthink as your average group. I’m not suggesting we’re impervious, just resistant.

    However, I think it’s self-deception to claim that you are not part of a community when you are actively engaging with that community over social media. Intellectual engagement is at the heart of any intellectual community.

  183. The Other John Mcon 13 Aug 2014 at 11:09 am

    “As a group skeptics tend to be fiercely intellectually independent, which makes us a group of people who do not like belonging to groups”

    I always suspected this might be a major reason why agnostics/atheists have almost no representation in the political/social arena….we just tend to hate the whole “group thing”.

  184. grabulaon 14 Aug 2014 at 2:34 am

    @BJ7

    “I reject the term “sceptical community” because there should not be a “community of sceptics” – everyone should have a sceptical outlook on life”

    I have to agree with Dr. Novella on this. I don’t see a problem with having a skeptical community. In fact I don’t see any other way to get skepticism as a whole out to the general public – it’s not going to spontaneously occur. Communities have a way of bringing like minded people together, but also it pulls together larger resources those communities can use to accomplish their goals.

    It’s ideal for everyone to practice skepticism but that’s not going to happen. I don’t personally object to being part of a community, even when I don’t always agree with the people in that community – that level of synergy is unreasonable and unrealistic anyway – and it’s boring. I only object to the way it’s popular amongst the anti-science crowd to use skeptic as if it’s a horrible thing, a label to separate us from the rest, whomever they perceive that is. They want to convince us they’re just asking questions – like an actual skeptic, and trying to reverse the situation so as to make it appear that we’re the close minded, or magical thinking crowd. I’ll continue to call BS on this tactic.

  185. Bill Openthalton 14 Aug 2014 at 7:32 am

    grabula –

    The problem with the “skeptical community” is that skepticism by itself is not sufficient to build a community. Communities are based on shared values, and many of these shared values are arbitrary, even though that is difficult to accept for those who believe in them.

    Science tells us there are statistical differences between males and females (for example, autism is more prevalent in males than in females), but as a society we have made a choice to emphasize equality. This does make sense because population differences do not apply to individuals (on average, males are physically stronger than females, but a female is often stronger than many males), but some of the differences are not merely statistical — males cannot bear children. This society has also chosen to prefer gathering resources (i.e. working to earn money) over procreation –quite understandable given the proliferation of the species– leading to difficult arbitration between career, relationship and children. But these are arbitrary social choices, and don’t make our society inherently superior over a society that chooses to differentiate between male and female occupations (or dress codes, etc.).

    Being arbitrary, these choices cannot be approached in a skeptical fashion — there is no scientific evidence for them. Nonetheless, they are of prime importance when it comes to creating a community. It is very difficult to forge a community out of MRAs and feminists, or democrats and conservatives, or baptists and muslims (who all observe the world through subconscious filters that give them ample evidence for their respective ideologies).

    You could argue that “true” skepticism would recognise the relativity of social, moral and religious convictions, and I would answer that the evidence shows this to be very, very difficult.

  186. Bill Openthalton 14 Aug 2014 at 11:30 am

    grabula –

    The fact that many people strenuously resist the idea science delivers results they “have” to accept doesn’t make things easier. I have often run into trouble through a science-based, well-researched and clearly delivered argument, because some feel they have no option but to accept my position and use my using “force” as justification to reject the argument. Subsequently, every attempt at clarification or rephrasing causes more rejection.

    Humans seem to have a very strong desire for freedom, and apparently resent the perceived lack of choice a science and logic based argument entails. In fact, most of the really effective group-building beliefs are beyond stupid — maybe because accepting these kinds of beliefs emphasizes the separation between groups.

  187. grabulaon 14 Aug 2014 at 9:49 pm

    @Bill O

    “The problem with the “skeptical community” is that skepticism by itself is not sufficient to build a community. Communities are based on shared values, and many of these shared values are arbitrary, even though that is difficult to accept for those who believe in them.”

    It’s rare I meet a skeptic I don’t often share many of my values and outlooks with. We’re not going to meet up on anything but if your life is driven by a rational view, in general it’s going to line up enough to give you some common ground. Communities can be formal or informal. Formal communities tend to become clubs, or associations or whatnot. Informal communities can be gatherings of like minded individuals who share some common views. I don’t belong to an organized skeptical movement, mostly because I just don’t have the time. But I swim in skeptical circles enough to consider myself part of the community.

    “The fact that many people strenuously resist the idea science delivers results they “have” to accept doesn’t make things easier.”

    Human beings are stubborn. Ever had a discussion where you insist on pointing out an individuals logical fallacies and improper thinking? It almost never goes well. However, having an open discussion where you can steer someone gently – typically by getting them to realize the errors they make on their own – it’ll go much better. It’s never 100%, I have some extremely intelligent, independent friends who are religious. No matter how much we discuss their religious beliefs and how irrational they are, they refuse to accept that. Some people are comfortable in ignorance.

  188. grabulaon 14 Aug 2014 at 9:51 pm

    “We’re not going to meet up on anything but if your life is driven by a rational view”

    should be everything not anything

  189. Mlemaon 15 Aug 2014 at 1:46 am

    Dr. Novella –

    “It is true that gene insertion can cause regional mutagenesis, usually upregulating or downregulating protein production. This is partly why the process is so tedious and time consuming. Many insertions are made, and only the healthy cells are used. After multiple selections, the plant with the new gene is back crossed multiple times to the parent to establish a stable and healthy line with the new gene….FDA requires …that any new proteins are tested, but also the new food has to be tested for equivalence, including nutritional and potential for allergens and toxicity. This would account for any mutagenic changes.”

    The industry says the potential toxicity of the gene products and their metabolites are assessed. But unless the plant is assessed for these gene products and their metabolites, the safety of the plant cannot be claimed. Metabolites can be and have been altered by the insertion of transgenes – if you test the gene product as produced in E.coli recombinant – and not the transgenic proteins isolated from the GM plant – the safety assessment is invalid. The evolutionary level of an organism affects the post-translational processing of proteins – so recombinant proteins produced by the plant and the bacteria are structurally and functionally different. The protein must be isolated from the plant in order to establish it’s stability.
    The industry says: the same transgene produces the same protein whether in a GM plant or E.coli. But DNA is only decoding for the amino acid sequence and not necessarily for the conformation, function, and biological activity of the protein. There’s ample evidence that post-commericalization GMOs exhibit unexpected gene disregulation and unwanted pleiotropic changes.
    The industry says: “we’ve been eating GMOs for decades” But we’re still not eating GMOs as GMOs. We feed them to grow meat or extract oils, sugars for processed foods.
    Beyond this, animal feeding studies should follow strict protocols and have consistency from one to the next, and should be carried out with the transgene protein purified from the transgenic plant.

    You have said we have hundreds of studies that show GMOs are safe. I say we don’t. And I say it’s not scientific to make a blanket statement like “GMOs are safe”.

    “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” – Philip Angell, a former Monsanto director of corporate communications

    “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.” – US Food and Drug Administration

    Dr. N – am I waiting for a reply from you or did you decide you don’t want to look at this issue any more closely than your above comment?

  190. BBBlueon 18 Aug 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Big Donor to GMO Labeling Campaigns Gets in Trouble for One of its Own Labels

    http://bit.ly/1pWb7H1

  191. grabulaon 18 Aug 2014 at 10:52 pm

    No way BBBlue, you mean the all natural crowd is motivated by money? Big Natural? Big Woo?

  192. Mlemaon 18 Aug 2014 at 11:11 pm

    Good thing Big Ag and the Food corporations have more $ to put behind their campaigns! That way we’ll be able to keep the woo on their side :)

  193. grabulaon 18 Aug 2014 at 11:22 pm

    @mlema

    “Good thing Big Ag and the Food corporations have more $ to put behind their campaigns!”

    they certainly seem to be using it more for actual science than the woo side.

  194. BBBlueon 19 Aug 2014 at 12:56 am

    Both sides of the argument are motivated by profit and influence, but as Mr. Grabula suggests, there sure seems to be a disproportionate amount of woo on the anti side of the equation. Perhaps skeptics should start campaigning for WOO labels on products that are marketed with claims that fit that description.

  195. grabulaon 19 Aug 2014 at 1:13 am

    I think for the most part that’s happening. The woo is slippery these days avoiding outright claims of miracles and just hinting. Slowly but surely though it’s happening, whether it’s a losing battle or not has yet to be seen.

  196. BBBlueon 19 Aug 2014 at 11:00 am

    GMO AMA: Kevin Folta, Professor and Chairman in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida.

    http://bit.ly/1kRHLKL

  197. Mlemaon 20 Aug 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I have to apologize to grabula and BBBlue here. I forget how aggravating some of the “natural” stuff can be. BBBlue, I followed your link to the Food Safety page on that product. I was reminded of the silliness of some of these products (that actually say “magic” on them) I don’t think these products are sold where i live, or if they are I haven’t run across them, since I don’t shop for magic. :)

    But, as I returned to write this note, and tried to look at the page again (which linked to the FDA) it’s gone. It’s looks like Bonner’s did get a warning from the FDA, but the article you linked to was apparently pulled due to some falsities.
    https://www.drbronner.com/media-center/united-states/press-releases/food-safety-news-pulls-false-story-regarding-dr-bronners-organic-virgin-coconut-oil/

    the FDA letter is linked on that page if you want to read it.

    But, please: you’ve got to know that there are many x the millions from biotech and Food corporations being put into lobbying and PR than from companies like Dr. Bonner’s. In fact, in California, the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with regard to Prop 37 was misrepresented in the voter’s guide to the issue. The were cited as “against” when in reality they had no stance on the issue.

    So, sorry if I seem overly defensive on what appears to be “woo”. I would say that, in reality, I’m trying to stick with the facts, but in an arena where the anti-woo has really stirred up the anger, I appear to be an opponent. I’m not.
    cheers!
    http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=6442472418#.U_TOTkg_2ys

  198. Mlemaon 20 Aug 2014 at 1:04 pm

    oops – s/b Dr. Bronner’s

  199. grabulaon 20 Aug 2014 at 9:08 pm

    @Mlema

    You seem to be having several discussions at once, GMO safety, who’s behind the research and GMO versus “natural”.

    On the natural thing, I don’t really care, it’s a label along with organic to allow manufacturers to charge higher prices for ill defined requirements on how to produce and process ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. To use a term favored by many anti-science types, it’s ‘Big Business’.

    Certainly every industry has their lobbying and they certainly throw money at the system in order to get what they want. However, one, see my note on natural and two, understand that it’s not one big conspiracy to mutate our food and kill us in the millions. Also understand that most of us skeptics are aware of this and the issues that come with it. Currently, and hopefully ongoing oversight into GMO’s is consistent and fruitful and there is no reason to doubt the science, no matter who’s funding the study. As we know it’s difficult to get away from biases but as more and more science is done a consensus is formed. The scientific consensus on GMO’s currently is that we are on the proper track but we still need to behave responsibly.

    The ‘woo’ here mlema is your bias for natural. Deny it all you want, your narrative is pretty dang easy to establish. It’s difficult to defend a position if all you can do is misinterpret studies and refer to loose and heavily biased sources for evidence. There are plenty of studies and plenty of scientists out there not necessarily aligned with ‘Big GMO’ who understand the science and understand it’s ok. You’ve been given any number of sources that are credible on the science and continue to deny based solely on your bias. THAT is what most of us take issue with. You show absolutely no ability to move with the science.

  200. Mlemaon 20 Aug 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Yeah, you’re right regarding the “natural” label. Non-organic food companies also promote products as being “natural”.

    But otherwise what you’re saying in your last comment is pretty meaningless. And some of it’s untrue.

    I’ve just scanned this page and it looks there aren’t any number of credible sources. So what exactly are you talking about? Do you mean: when a bunch of people insult you up and down and sideways you’re supposed to agree with us no matter what we’re saying and what scientific basis we have for for what we’re saying? Gotchya ;)

  201. Mlemaon 20 Aug 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I’ve enjoyed my discussions here, but since Dr. Novella has declined to examine safety and regulation of GMOs, I will decline further participation.

    Thanks Dr. Novella.

  202. BBBlueon 27 Aug 2014 at 2:31 pm

    This is the home of the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas, or GENERA, which is a searchable database of peer-reviewed research on the relative risks of genetically engineered crops that includes important details at-a-glance. GENERA is a project of Biology Fortified, Inc.

    http://genera.biofortified.org/

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