From frankenfruit to corn that is sentient, everyone knows the dangers of GMO foods are real!
Here are five reasons why you might avoid GMOs:
1. The idea of children needlessly being blind and dying is appealing to you.
Approximately 250 million (yes, 250,000,000) children have a Vitamin A deficiency. Of those, 250,000 to 500,000 lose their vision, and about half of those children die each year. Foods like Golden Rice and the GM Banana may increase the bioavailability of Vitamin A, helping to resolve the micronutrient deficiency. While there are Vitamin A supplement programs in practice already, they require constant attention (people & money) to maintain implementation and are not available in all areas.
What’s ironic is that anti GMO groups love to claim that biotech companies use people in underdeveloped countries as guinea pigs to test GM food. So when Iowa State University planned a study for the GM banana (where participants would eat one GM and two non-GM bananas and have their Vitamin A levels tested after each), anti GMO groups actually protested the testing. Makes sense if you don’t think about it.
Golden Rice and GM Banana aren’t creations of Monsatan or any other US biotech company, and they don’t use any special kind of pesticide. The push isn’t coming from a US company; rather, local governments are trying to implement the GM crops. No anti GMO argument applies to the research and development of the crops, leaving no valid reason to oppose them. The pushback is coming from antiGMO groups that simply don’t want these GM crops to be successful, because they know that the success will help GMOs gain acceptance in the US, which will hurt Big Organic’s profits.
Summary: If you’re anti GMO, you’re pro-children being blind and dying.
2. You are experiencing “Heavy Wallet Syndrome.”
A quick gander into the “organic” section of your local grocery store and you’ll quickly see that organic food is more expensive than conventional. Despite being nutritionally equivalent, organic crops such as strawberries can literally cost nearly twice as much as conventional. This list put together by the Genetic Literacy Project has even more price comparisons of common grocery items.
There are a few reasons organic food costs more. Production costs are higher for organics, as they require more labor and have have lower yields. The organic industry also does a great deal of marketing their products, which costs money. Additionally, there’s the issue of companies paying a fee to label their product as Non-GMO or USDA Organic.
But don’t feel bad for the organic industry. In 2014, they had nearly $40 billion in sales.
Summary: Get a second job if you want to “go organic.”
3. Because “you can’t patent nature!”
Well, we have a word for thoughts like that: Wrong.
Biotech companies patent their GM seeds, but it’s also true that Non-GM seed companies patent their own hybrid seeds. In fact, companies have been patenting seeds for over 85 years, long before the advent of GMOs and the USDA “organic” label.
This isn’t a community center- seed companies exist to make money. They have to patent seeds. If they didn’t, there would be no motivation for them, as private sector companies, to develop new products. Companies have to be paid for their products, else they cannot reinvest in research and development.
Farmers will often buy new seeds each year for a couple of reasons. One simply being the daunting nature of seed selection itself. Amanda from The Farmer’s Daughter discusses one example of a seed catalog having 48 different varieties of soybeans and 56 different varieties of corn, each having special characteristics that are advantageous for different situations. Plus, the offspring of a hybrid plant may not have the exact same characteristics as the original plant. Buying the new seed each year ensures that the farmer knows exactly what they’re planting and that it is free from disease.
Also, no farmer is “forced” to buy seeds from a biotech company- that just doesn’t make any sense. If a farmer doesn’t want to buy seeds from Monsanto/Syngenta/etc, there are numerous other companies that would be happy to sell to them.
This is fundamentally an appeal to nature fallacy for people who like to romanticize the past. Sorry, but everything has always been awful.
Summary: Not wanting to pay companies for their product is a great way to stifle innovation.
4. You think organic farmers use rainbows and fairies to kill pests.
Sorry-not-sorry to continue breaking the bad news to you, but organic farmers use pesticides. Some organic pesticides are even known to be carcinogenic. But wait- hold on to your irrational fear of evil chemakillz for a minute here!
Plants naturally produce their own pesticides. You can think of it as their version of our own immune system. If plants didn’t make their own naturally occurring pesticides, then they would be far more susceptible to disease and pests.
However, through selective breeding, we have actually made plants like the tomato weaker and more susceptible to pests. The naturally occurring pesticides plants produce can have flavor, which may make the plant taste bitter. Given a choice, most people would probably rather consume a sweeter plant rather than a bitter one. Over time, we have selected sweeter crops with less built-in pest resistance. Even so, most of the pesticides we consume are produced by the plants themselves rather than applied by farmers. Now this doesn’t mean that organic food is dangerous or should be avoided. All food you can buy at the store is safe to eat. As always, the dose makes the poison. But avoiding GM foods based purely on the notion that they’re “chemical/toxin free” is an outright lie that organic industries don’t want to dispel.
Summary: The Organic Industry has systematically misinformed the public about pesticide usage.
5. You don’t understand the science.
… And that’s okay! Science is hard. I get it- not everybody is interested in science. The danger lies in bio-conspiracy theorist websites like Natural News, Vani Hari (Food Babe) and March Against Monsanto. They prey on those who do not have as strong of an interest in science and skepticism. Most people who are anti-GMO shouldn’t be ridiculed, as they’re victims of people like Food Babe.
“GMO” is not a scientific term. There is no one definition of “GMO.” GMO, as used by non-scientists, usually refers to biotechnology techniques used for artificial horizontal gene transfer, which is surprisingly common in nature. In fact, you may even have over 100 genes from other species.
Research shows that currently available GM crops are better for both the economy and for the environment. This meta-analysis found (the top of the hierarchy of scientific research) that GM crops increase yields, lower pesticide usage, and increase farmer profits. Additionally, this study, this study, this study, this study, this study, and this study, found similar results. So did this one, too. Science works by others being able to replicate results on their own.
When you see a headline such as “Peer-Reviewed Paper Suggests GMO Soy Produces Excess Formaldehyde” (by Ayyadurai) red flags should immediately go off. Instead of believing whatever the abstract of the paper says, actually look at what the content of the study/paper is saying. In the case of Ayyadurai, a review of the paper shows that it’s not only in silico research (a computer model), but also Ayyadurai fails to fully reveal the methods that brought him to the conclusion being offered. The paper is more an advertisement for his software program than it is anything useful or scientific. The paper is completely useless and irrelevant.
Now, I know some skeptics don’t like the idea of laypeople reading scientific papers on their own. Science doesn’t occur in a vacuum- there are many factors in play when considering the legitimacy of any piece of research, such as where the paper fits in context to other similar research. But the fact is antis are reading them, interpreting them, and misreporting the findings.
What anti GMO groups do is prey on people’s scientific ignorance. They will take headlines papers like Ayyadurai’s and toss them into a scary-looking meme. Antis in general love to post bad study after bad study because it suits their narrative.
This practice is not only intellectually dishonest, but as addressed in point number 1 of this post, can be literally deadly.
Summary: Science becomes significantly less intimidating once you make an effort to understand it.
This was originally published on aScienceEnthusiast.com and was republished with permission.