Why the hysteria over genetically engineered crops?

Last summer I attended the annual fourth of July parade in our local town with my family.  We enjoy watching the floats, pageantry (I am embellishing a bit here), and the copious quantities of candy thrown at us.  Nearly every local business has a float — well a truck with the company name on it serves as a float in many instances.  The local politicians, constabulary, high-school marching bands, queens of various vegetable festivals, local junior baseball teams, etc. join the queue.  The obligatory paper advertisements are handed out by the business participants lauding their merchandise.

During the parade, I had a paper shoved in my face about the problems with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  I had just heard a wonderful Ted talk about how safe GMOs were by genetic scientist Pamela Ronald so the proclamation caught my attention.  I realized that the polemic was being passed out by a local health-food store.  There was an obvious conflict of interest – by creating suspicions that GMOs were unhealthy or even harmful the store benefited by encouraging people to buy the non GMOs they sold.  Disinformation to make a buck?  The World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, National Academy of Sciences (US), American Medical Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Food and Drug Administration, American Cancer Society, and more than 270 other prestigious groups including many Academy of Sciences in other countries have gone on record through numerous reports that GMOs are safe.

I spent a bit of time in my last essay on global warming bemoaning how the subject has become a political hot potato because of disinformation by Exxon (and I mentioned other examples such as Big Tobacco, the National Football League with concussions, and creationists).  Was the radical left on a disinformation campaign also?  It certainly appears so.  As a scientist I know how difficult it is to achieve a consensus on a hypothesis.  Scientists have no time for unsupported opinions – they demand empirically supported results.  I don’t deny that politics plays a role, but I like to think, at the end of the day, that the accepted theories that make it through the labyrinth of scientific scrutiny are extremely sound.  Let’s not forget that scientists have egos and you get intellectual brownie points for debunking someone’s work.  It’s a jungle out there as I have discovered first hand as a research professor.  When I see the community of scientists fundamentally agreeing on a topic, I find it fairly convincing (scientists agreeing is an amazing thing in itself).  I don’t mean to imply that science cannot make mistakes – there are some notorious examples.  But I cannot think of a better way to make educated decisions – based on the research from the experts in the scientific community.  Unsupported opinions just don’t cut it even if the people are well meaning.

The case of Golden Rice demonstrates the horrendous impact anti-GMO groups can have in a rush to prevent GMOs from reaching the marketplace1.  According to Scientific American Golden Rice had passed the health and safety issues for commercial use by 2002.  Syngenta had genetically engineered Vitamin A from corn (beta-carotine) into rice.  Syngenta altruistically turned over all the monetary interests for the use of the rice to a non-profit organization to avoid any interference from anti-GMO groups that fight biotech companies for profiting on GMOs.  The only hurdle left was regulatory approval.  In 2015, Golden Rice was among seven products that won the Patents for Humanity award, but the rice is still not in use anywhere (The Golden Rice Now advocacy group tells me that the Philippines and Bangladesh are expected to have Golden Rice available in 12 months – some time in the middle of 2017).  Amazingly, the life-saving rice is strenuously opposed by environmental and anti-globalization activists who object to GMOs.

!1280px-Golden_RiceInternational Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

In 2014, Justus Wesseler of the Technische Universität München and David Zilberman of the University of California quantified the economic impact caused by the resistance2.  They estimate that at least $199 million dollars were lost per year over the previous decade just in India.  They likened the loss to a metric called life years which they calculated to be 1.4 million in India alone which reflects deaths, blindness and related health disabilities from not having access to Vitamin A.  Unfortunately children are the hardest hit.

I want to emphasize that the Golden Rice case is more than a battle over perceived danger by the anti-GMO movement in the face of contrary scientific evidence.  There are people dying while Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and other misguided organizations wage war over unclear principles and leftists ideals.  And of course there is always the Non-GMO Project which was created by health-food retailers to sow seeds of doubt (I don’t know if the pun was intended or not) “who oppose a technology that just happens to threaten their profits” according to Scientific American.  I should make it clear that my criticism of Greenpeace and the Sierra Club is not done lightly.  They serve a real purpose in helping to preserve our environment.  But when the science argues against them and lives are at stake, we need to bring them to task.  Let me dive into the science that argues against radical and mindless battles over GMOs.

The National Academy of Sciences has just released a consensus 407-page report entitled Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects which reviewed decades of research on genetically engineered (GE) crops.  Their conclusions find that GE crops are economically beneficial, safe for humans and livestock, and have adequate regulation.  The data is overwhelming impressive and I will take the time to summarize some of the major points.

Humans have been modifying crops for 10,000 years.  A good example is the domestication of maize in Meso-America.  Teosinite, shown in the left of the diagram below, is a grass that went through a series of human selections of rare mutations to develop modern-day maize grown throughout the world (shown in the right part of the diagram).  The point is that humans have been modifying crops through selection of beneficial traits for millennia.


In 1985, the United States was the first country to approve a GE crop, and by 1994 a GE tomato, which delayed ripening, was produced for sale.  Through 2015 about 12 percent of the land available for crop production contains GE crops (the number goes to 50% in the US).  The figure below shows which GE crops are currently being produced and where.  Europe, Russia, and most of Africa have been particularly resistant to GE crops as you can see from the map.


There are three major types of GE crops: 1) Herbicide resistant traits which allow the crop to survive herbicide application to kill weeds or insects.  2) Insect resistant traits which typically incorporate a gene code from Bacillum thuringiensis (Bt) to the crop, killing insects when they feed on the plant.  3) Virus resistant traits which keep the plants from being susceptible to specific plant viruses.  It is important to note that most of the crops are modified to resist one insect, virus, or herbicide.  Drought tolerance, nonbrowning (e.g., with potatoes and apples), various colors in flowers, stability of oil to suppress trans-fats, enhancement of omega-3 fatty acids are other examples of GE traits in commercial production.

The NAS report reviews studies conducted comparing the production of  GE crops to non-GE crops in mind-numbing detail.  But some clear important conclusions have been summarized below (I quote to avoid any misrepresentation of the information).  Please note that I have not included all the findings because many are quite esoteric.  I refer the reader to the NAS report for more details.

  1. “Although results are variable, Bt traits available in commercial crops from introduction in 1996 to 2015 have in many locations contributed to a statistically significant reduction in the gap between actual yield and potential yield when targeted insect pests caused substantial damage to non-GE varieties and synthetic chemicals did not provide practical control.”  Potential yield is the theoretical yield a crop could achieve if water and other nutrients are in adequate supply and there are no losses to pests and disease.
  2. “In areas of the United States where adoption of Bt maize or Bt cotton is high, there is statistical evidence that insect-pest populations are reduced regionally, and the reductions benefit both adopters and nonadopters of Bt crops.”
  3. “In all cases examined, use of Bt crop varieties reduced application of synthetic insecticides in those fields. In some cases, the use of Bt crop varieties has also been associated with reduced use of insecticides in fields with non-Bt varieties of the crop and other crops.”
  4. “The widespread deployment of crops with Bt toxins has decreased some insect-pest populations to the point where it is economically realistic to increase plantings of crop varieties without a Bt toxin that targets these pests. Planting varieties without Bt under those circumstances would delay evolution of resistance further.”
  5. “Planting of Bt varieties of crops tends to result in higher insect biodiversity than planting of similar varieties without the Bt trait that are treated with synthetic insecticides.”
  6. “Although gene flow has occurred, no examples have demonstrated an adverse environmental effect of gene flow from a GE crop to a wild, related plant species.”
  7. “Crop plants naturally produce an array of chemicals that protect against herbivores and pathogens. Some of these chemicals can be toxic to humans when consumed in large amounts.” I emphasized naturally here because the statement pertains to the production of chemicals by non-GE crops.
  8. “Conventional breeding and genetic engineering can cause unintended changes in the presence and concentrations of secondary metabolites.”  This is not only important but emphasizes the need for oversight in the approval of GE crops.  However, NAS also concluded: “U.S. regulatory assessment of GE herbicide-resistant crops is conducted by USDA, and by
    FDA when the crop can be consumed, while the herbicides are assessed by EPA when there are new potential exposures.”
  9. Regarding safety, NAS concluded: “In addition to experimental data, long-term data on the health and feed-conversion efficiency of livestock that span a period before and after introduction of GE crops show no adverse effects on these measures associated with introduction of GE feed. Such data test for correlations that are relevant to assessment of human health effects, but they do not examine cause and effect.”  In others words, GE crops appear to be safe for the animals that consume them and for humans that consume either these animals or the GE crops directly.
  10. “The incidence of a variety of cancer types in the United States has changed over time, but the changes do not appear to be associated with the switch to consumption of GE foods. Furthermore, patterns of change in cancer incidence in the United States are generally similar to those in the United Kingdom and Europe, where diets contain much lower amounts of food derived from GE crops. The data do not support the assertion that cancer rates have increased because of consumption of products of GE crops.”
  11. “The committee found no published evidence to support the hypothesis that the consumption of GE goods has caused higher U.S. rates of obesity or type II diabetes.”
  12. “The committee could find no published evidence supporting the hypothesis that GE foods generate unique gene or protein fragments that would affect the body.”
  13. “The committee did not find a relationship between consumption of GE foods and the increase in prevalence of food allergies.”
  14. “The similarity in patterns of increase in autism spectrum disorder in children in the United States, where GE foods are commonly eaten, and the United Kingdom, where GE foods are rarely eaten, does not support the hypothesis of a link between eating GE foods and prevalence of autism spectrum disorder.”
  15. “On the basis of its understanding of the process required for horizontal gene transfer from plants to animals and data on GE organisms, the committee concludes that horizontal gene transfer from GE crops or conventional crops to humans does not pose a substantial health risk.”
  16. “The available evidence indicates that GE soybean, cotton, and maize have generally had favorable outcomes in economic returns to producers who have adopted these crops, but there is high heterogeneity in outcomes.”
  17. “Exploitation of inherent biological processes—DNA binding-zinc finger proteins (ZFNs), pathogen-directed transcription of host genes (TALEs), and targeted degradation of DNA sequences (CRISPR/Cas)—now permit precise and versatile manipulation of DNA in plants.”
  18. “New molecular tools are further blurring the distinction between genetic modifications made with conventional breeding and those made with genetic engineering.”
  19. “Treating genetic engineering and conventional breeding as competing approaches is a false dichotomy; more progress in crop improvement could be brought about by using both conventional breeding and genetic engineering than by using either alone.”
  20. “In some cases, genetic engineering is the only avenue for creating a particular trait. That should not undervalue the importance of conventional breeding in cases in which sufficient genetic variation is present in existing germplasm collections, especially when a trait is controlled by many genes.”
  21. “Although genome editing is a new technique and its regulatory status was unclear at the time the committee was writing this report, the committee expects that its potential use in crop improvement in the coming decades will be substantial.”  I think this is an extremely important conclusion.  If we want to continue to feed the world we are probably going to become more dependent on GE crops particularly if population continues to increase at present rates.
  22. “Genetic engineering can be used to develop crop resistance to plant pathogens with potential to reduce losses for farmers in both developed and developing countries.”
  23. “Genetic engineering can enhance the ability to increase the nutritional quality and decrease antinutrients of crop plants.”
  1. There are similar accounts of environmental groups shutting down a genetically modified eggplant in India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.  Another involved a genetically modified potato which was resistant to specific herbicides.  A large food chain under pressure from environmental groups refused to purchase genetically modified potatoes and the project was shut down.  Farmers then introduced a new herbicide for the non-genetically modified potatoes grown instead
  2. Wesseler, J. and Zilberman, D. (2014) The economic power of the Golden Rice opposition: Environmental and Development Economics: 19, 724-742
33 replies
  1. johnbrown
    johnbrown says:

    This topic is one about which I have been interested for a while. One point I often bring up to people, which I was glad to see validated in this article, was the fact that humans have been modifying organisms through selective breeding for millennia. One thing I had not realized, however, was the fact that most anti-GMO statements come from those who benefit from public fear of GMOs. I also believe it stems from a mindset I seem to have noticed among people that science is something to be feared, fueled by television, writing, and games all telling tales of bio-engineered monsters and horrifying mutants. This mindset makes the public predisposed to think that genetically modified crops are going to poison them or mutate them, as opposed to the reality where GMOs can feed many people in the developing world and guarantee that those with limited resources can get the nutrients they need.

  2. BeccaFaircloth
    BeccaFaircloth says:

    In this essay, a personal anecdote of a family outing leads into a discussion of genetically modified products. The specific experience that triggered the discussion was the collection of a flyer handed out by a local health-food store, stating information that was contrary to the scientific findings of a plethora of “prestigious groups”. The author then highlights the world of politics and how it plays into the societal beliefs behind GMO’s. A position on the topic was made when the efficacy of agreed-upon findings in the scientific world was stated as a rarity, meaning that the safe GMO discussion is backed by science and therefore trustworthy. The Golden Rice case was also referenced as an example of the debate, as a genetically modified strain of rice was taken off the market in efforts to avoid non-GMO protests. Later in the essay, the responsibility of certain organizations to make changes is challenged, and a variety of statistics and facts are used to further relay the position of the author.

  3. edgard1
    edgard1 says:

    This article was interesting to me because for one of my classes I had a semester-long project on GMOs so going into the article I had some prior knowledge. When I did my research on GMOs many anti-GMO groups tried to link GMOs to various forms of cancer and some gastrointestinal illnesses. I find it interesting that the golden rice passed the health and safety certifications yet these companies were still trying to say it was bad to not allow the sales of their own products diminish. Another key point made was that humans have been breeding plants for over 10,000 years to get certain traits in their crops. When I learned about the herbicidal/insecticidal/virus resistant modifications I was not aware that these GM crops were only being modified to fight one type of herbicide/insect/virus. I found very interesting how you noted that crops naturally produce chemicals that fight against herbicides and insects, and that these chemicals can be harmful to humans if large quantities are consumed.

  4. @smuffoletto
    @smuffoletto says:

    This article, which discusses the opposing sides on the discussion of GMOs, was super interesting since the talk about these genetically modified organisms seems to be popular. As I have forced myself to become more healthy, the talk of GMOs has only increased in my life. I see “GMO free” on so many labels, on the door of restaurants, and I have even heard someone ask a waiter about them before. While I have always thought that GMO’s have been an unhealthy aspect of my daily intake, this article provides insight as to how they are actually beneficial. The common idea is that GMOs are linked to cause cancer, food allergies, diabetes, etc., yet there has never been a direct correlation between GMOs and someone developing a sickness. In fact, the NAS has shown us that we have been genetically modifying crops for as far back as we can date. Another major point that you mentioned caught my attention: activist are impacting the lives of people in third world countries who could benefit immensely from GMOs. Something as the Golden Rice could help in those areas where the nutrients are lacking. After reading this article, I have shifted my viewpoint to considering that GMOs are safe, and that they both economically and nutritionally beneficial.

  5. alexiajai
    alexiajai says:

    This article provided a lot of insight onto the topic of GMO crops and whether it is proper to have environmental groups advocate against them. To advocate against the production and consumption of GMO crops is to advocate against a solution to a global obstacle that have affects too many human lives. People in poorer nations, who lack access to nutritional food, such as parts of India, are able to benefit tremendously from GMO products. “Golden rice” for instance, is an enhance form of rice which provided engineered Vitamin A from corn. A lack of Vitamin A can lead to several health defects, including blindness. Having access to food like this could be life changing for so many people.
    Often people link the term “GMO” with a negative meaning. That GMO foods are actually unhealthy for you. In actuality there is so scientific backing to such beliefs. Genetically modifying your food does not mean to create food that is economically beneficial to the producers whilst depleting the health of its consumers. What it actually means is that scientists have engineered the crops to better tackle pests so that there is a lesser need to use pesticides. It allows more more fruiting from a single plants. It allows plants to live out healthy lives, making it easier to resist pant viruses. Just like the vaccines we receive that us resistant to common and catastrophic disease.
    There have been countless scientific reports that show that there is nothing to be apprehensive about when it comes to the consumption of GMO products, whether your are eating animals who were fed them , or if you are directly eating them yourself. Genetically modified organisms exist to enhance nutritional value and are economically beneficial.

  6. morganholley
    morganholley says:

    Genetically engineered crops is something I have heard a lot about just from friends and family. The things I hear are typically negative about it, all of the things that you mentioned above: its unhealthy, it can be cancer causing, etc. To be honest I have never done any research on my own, I kind of just believed what others around be were saying. On the contrary, I didn’t ever really put much thought into the whole subject to begin with, so it’s not like I’m a hard core believer that its dangerous like some others are. After reading your article here and doing a little research, I can kind of see both sides. Your scientific evidence above explains the reasoning why is isn’t harmful. Like you mentioned, plants have been genetically engineered for over 1000 years. As you mentioned what genetic engineering typically does is as follows: it makes the plants herbicide resistant, virus resistant, and insect resistant. I can see that there is not evidence necessarily saying that these things are healthy for us, however the research doesn’t say they are harmful either. I can see how engineering plants to be resistant to these things would be good and help farms produce more crops they can sell. Although, I do agree that there isn’t much of anything proving it is actually bad for you, I am a little leery still. In my thought process, i’m just thinking what exactly is being done to cause these plants to tolerate so much. I think about the sources that have said “fake” butter is one component away from plastic, for example. This is still sold, and supposedly “safe” however that doesn’t mean its healthy. This is along the lines of my thoughts regarding genetically engineered plants.

    • morganholley
      morganholley says:

      As you mentioned above about a local health food store advertising GMO’s aren’t safe, places like these are where I have heard most negativity about GMO’s as well. You are absolutely right that this is a conflict of interest, although I had never thought about it that way. These health food stores selling “organic” “healthy” items would obviously loose business if GMO’s, at a much cheaper cost and more readily available, were proven to be just as safe as the “health” products. Just like with golden rice, people are actually being hurt and even dying because of the backlash and time it is taking to get the product approved due to all of the organizations out there fighting that GMO’s aren’t safe. This golden rice was approved for commercial use in 2002 and yet it still isn’t being seen in the countries that need it most. The company that engineered the rice to contain the oh so important vitamin A needed by developing counties has even donated all of the profit to charity to not face uproar by those that say GMO’s are only being used for profit. All of these civil rights groups and earth conscious groups, such as Green Peace and the Sierra Club, are fighting so hard over these GMO’s that they seem to not be taking into account all of the people that could be saved by this vitamin rich rice.The National Academy of Science has even published a 400 page report to prove that the GE crops are much more economical, safe for human and livestock consumption, and there are so many regulations for foods in this world that they would not be allowed to produce and sell a food that is going to be harmful. These crops are typically modified in one of three ways: 1) Herbicide resistant traits which allow the crop to survive herbicide application to kill weeds or insects. 2) Insect resistant traits which typically incorporate a gene code from Bacillum thuringiensis (Bt) to the crop, killing insects when they feed on the plant. 3) Virus resistant traits which keep the plants from being susceptible to specific plant viruses, as you explained above. However, these things are what make me still be suspicious and maybe even critical of the GE crops. If they are doing something to the crops for example that would kill insects when it eats it, is that really safe for humans? Think about the products you use in your home to kill insects, would you ingest even the tiniest bit of these chemicals? I am certain anyone would answer “no” to that question. These are my critiques. How do we know scientists are testing for the right things, for long enough, or with correct subjects, etc. Just like other things: cigarettes, vaping, some medicines. It takes a while to realize what the harmful effects to humans are. Right now we may think its fine, but years later we may discover otherwise.

  7. Savannah Taracatac
    Savannah Taracatac says:

    This article discusses the multitude of benefits that come from GE crops. The NAS has scientifically shown us that GMOs are safe. Out of all the health risks people associate with GMOs (cancer, diabetes, food allergies, gene mutations, and autism) none have a proven connection. Countries where GMOs are less common do not have a significant amount less of health issues than in the US. Genetically modified food and crops is not a new as concept as we have been shown with the corn in Meso-America. As we can see in the diagram, the corn has been modified to be significantly larger and there are obvious benefits to having more/bigger food. With each corn being larger each crop will yield more edible products. Making GE-crops drought tolerant is beneficial since humans not do have direct control over the weather and crops will not be lost due of lack of water. I recently heard on the radio the story of a mother of 13 in African that had always grown her own food and provided for her family. Because of recent unpredictable weather in Africa she has lost her crops and now has to work outside of the home to be able to feed her family with products purchased at a market. GMOs can prevent food shortages.
    One point that stood out the most to me is that GE crops also benefit non-modified crops. Yes GEs are taking away profit from non-GEs (from my understanding that is where majority of the uproar is coming from), but even with the threats posed to non-GE crops there is no denying that they are also reaping the benefits produced by GE crops. The GE crops are causing a reduction of pests in the area, which leads to a reduction of the need for insecticides. These pests, which would normally feed on non-GE crops, are being driven out of the region due to GE crops. Luckily we live in a society where we can choose which type of food we want to consume. Of course non-GMO businesses do not like being financially threatened by GMOs, but they can coexist because while GMOs are prevalent there is still a market for unmodified foods.
    The golden rice is a clear case why GMOs are beneficial. We are all citizens of the world and I believe it is the duty of countries with available technology and resources to look out for those less fortunate. The children affected by preventable diseases and disabilities did not ask to be born into poverty and underdeveloped countries. It is our responsibility to offer help. I don’t see how anyone with a heart could want to deny these citizens basic needs. In this case Vitamin A is the basic need they are lacking. This is more than a GMO/anti-GMO issue it is a humanitarian issue. Unfortunately maybe corporations are blinded by money. I am curious as to what anti-GMOs would see as an alternative and solution that offered the same benefits health wise and economically.

  8. lorawilliams
    lorawilliams says:

    I, myself, have gone back and forth for years about how I feel about GMOs. From the influences of my health-nut mother, to popular media, and from countless other sources, it’s hard to get a clear picture of the truth behind genetically modified organisms. For the most part, I’ve been on the “GMOs are okay” team, but without much knowledge really to back it up. After doing some research, I was more confused than when I started. It’s frustrating to find so much conflicting information on something that should be straight forward. As you said in your essay, 100s of scientific-based organizations consider GMOs to be safe. And they don’t have any ulterior motives (unlike health food organizations), right? I would like to know the true motives of all of these non-gmo protestors. Is it truly because they believe GMOs are harming the world, or is it for a more selfish reason, like money or politics? Why ignore what hundreds of reputable scientists have to say? The whole thing doesn’t make much sense to me.

    I was not aware of the existence of golden rice until reading your essay. It’s both sad and madening that millions of people could not be suffering if it weren’t for these so called “activists”. It seems like an amazing opportunity to show the world that GMOs can be, and are, beneficial to society. This goes hand in hand with what you said about modern day corn, and how humans have helped many plants evolve into what they are today. Humans were genetically modifying way before they even knew genes existed; we’re just doing it in a more controlled and precise manner now. Where do activists draw the line between okay and not okay when it comes to modifying plants? Who knows where society would be right now if all modifying had never taken place in the first place. I think they need to take a step back, look at the whole picture, and decide what’s really best for the world. Because, in my opinion, thier campaigns are fruitless and destructive. If anything, they should be fighting for keeping GMOs as safe as they are now, and making sure that modified food is well monitored.

    With all of this being said, I can say that I whole heartedly believe that genetically modified organisms are safe – for now.

  9. JalalHarfouche
    JalalHarfouche says:

    Prior to reading this article, most of my bare knowledge on GMOs came from lessons in middle school, the media, and “organic, non-GMO” company advertising. This propaganda has been especially targeted to those who consider themselves as fit and healthy. Being one of those people who closely watch their diet, I personally try to avoid GMO products, for the simple reason that I like what I ingest to be organic and non-modified. As I read “There was an obvious conflict of interest – by creating suspicions that GMOs were unhealthy or even harmful the store benefited by encouraging people to buy the non GMOs they sold” I came to my first realization. All of my knowledge, and negative views on GMOs were coming from companies that were profiting off of me having that mindset. Also, I’ve never seen the anti-GMO claims to be backed by sound scientifically data, just their baseline standpoint of if it is not natural then it is not good for you. Another aspect many people fail to view, GMOs’ largest benefactors are third world country citizens who in most cases are starving, or lacking in nutrients and vitamins. The worst part is that the negative GMO viewpoints of people who shop at Whole Foods are impacting the lives of kids who could be bettered by the access to genetically modified Golden Rice. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and choice of what they put into their body. That being said, the opinion of a group of people, whether it be any of ours or the Non-GMO Project, should not delay solutions to world hunger, or nutritional benefit to those underprivileged who’s lives are depending on scientific breakthroughs and access to genetically modified nutrition.

    This article was very well written professor, I was highly impressed and found it exciting to read even though I am not a science guy.

  10. johntejeda
    johntejeda says:

    This article was an article about genetically engineered crops and its impact on the world today. In summary, the article points out how some people who may not fully understand GMOs get a bad connotation about it from anti-GMO groups like Greenpeace in the face of contrary evidence. The article dives into about the Golden Rice research which were able to add vitamin A, a vitamin that rice normally lacks, into rice. The Golden Rice organization created the genetically modified rice in attempt to solve issues in poor developing countries that suffer from malnutrition such as vitamin A which affects the lives of thousands of children every year. Anti-GMO organizations such a Greenpeace had been fighting against the Golden Rice which prevented them from being sold currently in the Philippines and Bangladesh today putting the lives of thousands of people in need of the rice at risk in the face of scientific evidence that the Golden Rice is safe to eat. After reading the article and watching genetic scientist Pamela Ronald talk about GMOs and where it stands right now, I would say I could agree. Just like the article stated, humans have been modifying crops for thousands of years and is essential for genes to be adaptable for sustainability against the environment. In my opinion, if a plant could be modified artificially with no unforeseen harm to the best knowledge and resources of all the many health and food safety organizations we have today, it would be okay use.

  11. veronica cartagena
    veronica cartagena says:

    This article was very informative as it addresses the real impact of genetically engineered crops. It goes into detail and discusses how golden rice is a prominent example in the global controversy over GM foods. Golden rice research has been going on for many years and there is no supposed risks associated with it. However, there are still organizations like Greenpeace that want the cultivation of golden rice to be stopped across the world, even though negative side effects resulting from golden rice has only been speculative. For instance, vitamin A is not a nutrient that normal rice offers and it has been seen in many studies that golden rice can prevent the deficiency of vitamin A. As more and more people are being diagnosed with a vitamin A deficiency, the production of golden rice would be beneficial in areas where this vitamin is scarce. In fact, in the article is worth noting that there have been no documented human health effects from any GM food. Scientific research and clinical data have nothing to show that genetically engineered food can have any dangerous effect on anyone who consumes it.

  12. marcus_maley
    marcus_maley says:

    This was a very interesting blog post because I feel like a lot of restaurants and grocery stores are trying to either get rid of GMOs all together or give more people the option to have non-GMOs. I totally do agree with what you are stating in your blog post too. Given you example of the Golden Rice, they have perfectly explained how useful and important these GMOs can be to today’s society. GMOs can supply people with their necessary vitamins and nutrients that they need to survive. Personally, I feel like people are careless about researching the difference between GMOs and non-GMO’s. I feel like on many social media platforms (such as Facebook and Twitter) GMOs are attacked with broad articles that have derogatory title on GMOs to lure the reader into the article. I do not entirely blame social media and I do not claim that they are the ones responsible for getting people to believe GMOs are bad, but I think that it is the readers who are responsible for jumping to conclusions when reading an article about the “dangers of GMOs”. People are to lazy to go into extra research on why they believe GMOs are bad and they will bias their believes primarily on one article. Going back to what I said earlier, I believe that major chain restaurants that are switching to non-GMOs are also responsible for persuading people to believe GMOs are bad. For example, a very famous restaurant many people visit who uses only non-GMOs in their food is Chipotle. Hundreds of thousands of people eat at this establishment and they are constantly reminded how “amazing” Chipotle is for not using GMOs through their advertisements throughout the restaurant. Whether it be on purpose or not, big chain restaurants can change the ideals of many consumers.

    • marcus_maley
      marcus_maley says:

      Furthermore, as you said in your article, these GMOs can help millions of people that cannot afford non-GMO products. In the study by Justus Wesseler and David Zilberman, it was recorded that millions of people died because of the lack of vitamin A that the people of India are not receiving. Its sad to see that Golden Rice, a GMO company, could provide aid to these millions of people by supplying them with their rice that is full of vitamin A. Most of these products are very affordable and are easy ti product. I believe that many people are also afraid of GMOs because of the pesticides that are used when growing the product, however you say in your article that pesticides are only used to kill insects and weeds and it does not harm humans. You, and the NAS report review study, also even emphasized that plants naturally create chemicals that can be harmful to humans when eaten in large amounts. The NAS also concluded that these GMO products are not harmful to humans, they do not cause food allergies, and they do not cause type II diabetes or obesity. I personally believe that these products could make the world very different, in a positive way. These products can provide many nutrients to humans that some people cannot find in their country.

  13. renaevannatta
    renaevannatta says:

    The debate of GMOs has interested me in the past year, especially since becoming vegetarian and paying more attention to what I eat. When going to places like Whole Foods, they usually have non-GMO stickers on foods so that people think they are healthier and buy them. This caught my attention since I have always heard people talk about how unnatural GMOs are, but never give any real reasons besides that. So, I started researching genetic modification and found that there have been no studies done that have linked GMOs to any of the fears people have about them. I didn’t know about the golden rice and found that to be interesting that all of these groups are against such an inherently great thing. My hopes for GMOs are that they can create better and healthier crops for people like me, who doesn’t eat many animal products. I still do not understand why health groups are still against this technology. I agree with all of your points that there has been so much research done on GMOs, but people still cling on to the idea that it is unnatural and unhealthy. I hope more people put in research and begin to support these companies.

  14. veronica cartagena
    veronica cartagena says:

    Throughout the years I have found that many people find themselves in a debate over genetically modified crops. I believe that people feel so strongly about this issue, because it includes factors such as science, economics, and religion. Despite all of the potential advantages, GE crops have aroused significant opposition, given the importance people place on their health and the food they eat. I thought this was a very interesting article that not only educates us, but also highlights the importance of GE crops. For instance, the raising of agricultural productivity and reducing the need for pesticides. Furthermore, it gives us credible, science-based information and research that supplies us with some answers to important questions that have been being raised about GE crops. Even though there are some valid concerns out there regarding these kinds of crops, I believe that after reading this article it will lessen your current uncertainty. The technology used to create these economically important crop varieties is too valuable to ignore and should be taken into consideration by countries all over the world.

  15. courtney piccirilo
    courtney piccirilo says:

    I found this topic very interesting and I learned quite a bit. my first opinion on GMO’s is that it is going to cost extra money to buy compared to most foods you find in the grocery store, however learning there are three different types to help keep insects away from plants I found to be interesting as well as beneficial to humans. I think finding ways to keep germs and insects away from the crops is very helpful to keeping humans healthy seeing as fruits and vegetables we get from the store humans can end up getting H-pylori which is a bacteria you can get from not washing your produce from the store and could potentially lead to other health problems for one’s digestive system.

  16. Jayda Stephens
    Jayda Stephens says:

    People rarely do their own research when it comes down to GMO’s and GE’s, they take what they hear in the media and go with it. I understand GMO’s are helpful to people because it’s a lot of people to feed, I agree completely with the reasoning behind it. Such as the case you talked about in India with the Golden Rice. They had a good purpose for wanting to modify the food to meet the needs of the people and give them the Vitamin A that they lacked. Another reason for GMO’s is to make your food last longer and provide a bigger quantity then you can without genetically modifying the food.
    People hear negative things about GMO’s mainly that it is bad for your health. I agree it is not healthy, because it is not natural. I won’t say it cause health problems but it can contribute towards it. I have a friend that changed her way of eating to all organic foods because she had health problems and now she is in good shape. You are putting unknown chemicals into your body. They can contribute to long term illness.

      • Jayda Stephens
        Jayda Stephens says:

        Since GMO’s have been introduced, more health problems has risen. GMO’s aren’t tested for long term problems either, they were introduced in 1994. The only benefit that they do have is providing longer lasting food for the less fortunate areas. Other than that, there is no benefit to GMO foods, they advertise food not containing GMO’s for a reason. They are inserting hormones in your food, which causes some defects, and sometimes cause resistant to certain medicines. Your body may have a hard time trying to process everything that was on that piece of food. Farmers have to spray more weed killer on it because the GMO’s are resistant to the herbicide use which can leave behind some of their substance inside in us and it can turn toxic. There has been multiple cases where pesticides from GMO’s were found in the blood of a mother and her unborn fetus. Overall, GMO’s aren’t the healthiest way to eat, I would rather organic free foods, but that is just my opinion.

        • Marc Defant
          Marc Defant says:

          well I accept that you can have your own opinion but I would expect to see better researched and supported information in a tabloid. You should really document what you think. These just seem like an amalgamation of unsupported opinions. The purpose of the exercise was to get you to see that science can give us understanding about issues. Do you have an scientific research to back this up?

  17. Cheryl Shephard
    Cheryl Shephard says:

    I appreciated your posting on GE/GMO agriculture. As a sceptic of genetically engineered and modified foods myself, it was enlightening to read and undergo further online research regarding the current scientific evidence that generally draw conclusions that these GE foods are safe for consumption by animals and humans as well as for the environment. However, my personal opinion and my right to have one, is that I still have reservations and concerns about the possible long-term health risks that may not be presently apparent through scientific research as well as the efficacy of the scientific research that has been conducted. In an abstract dated May 2011 published by PubMed.gov (US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health), “A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants,” states that most of the scientific studies that have been conducted and published in peer review journals have been by the “biotechnology companies responsible of commercializing these GM plants.”


    In a report published on Earth Open Source “GMO Myths and Truths: an evidence-based examination of GMO claims – 2.2 Myth: Independent studies confirm that GM foods and crops are safe,” a review of scientific studies on genetically modified crops and foods found that these study outcomes are muddled with financial and professional conflicts of interest. This brings into question the motives and agendas of the biotechnology funded scientific studies with a lack of comparative independent scientific studies to measure in. It certainly is to the benefit for the biotechnology industry that the scientific outcomes are favorable as it bolsters them financially and their stockholders. To quote, the report states:

    Conclusions of safety were also found to be associated with studies in which source of funding was not declared. Furthermore, there was a strong connection between undeclared funding and author affiliation to industry.

    Genuinely independent studies on GM foods and crops are rare, for two reasons: because independent research on GM crop risks is not supported financially; and because industry uses its patent-based control of GM crops to restrict independent research.


    As a healthcare practitioner and healthcare college student, my concerns stem from the importance of consuming nutritionally healthy natural whole foods for the purpose of maintaining good health. Comparatively, the consumption of heavily processed foods with unhealthy additives is now being scientifically linked to serious health concerns. For instance, as reported by SugarScience, the over consumption of the additive high fructose corn syrup and sugar has recently been scientifically linked to the development of diabetes, liver disease and heart disease. SugarScience is an authoritative source for evidence-based, scientific information about sugar and its impact on health and is compiled by a team of health scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Their website offers an exhaustive review of more than 8,000 scientific papers that have been published relating to the link between sugar consumption and health issues. It is important to note that the scientifically based evidence connection between sugar consumption and liver and heart disease is fairly new, only within the last 20 years or so. High fructose corn syrup was developed in the 1950’s and was then dumped into our food supply without any scientific research being conducted and with the full support of the FDA. And now, 50 years later, medical scientific studies are revealing the health risks associated with the overconsumption of sugar.


    Until more credible, legitimate and peer reviewed INDEPENDENT scientific studies are performed and published on GE foods, my personal position is to err on the side of caution. Just as the FDA had approved and claimed that artificially processed trans fats forming partially hydrogenated oils was once healthy, in 2015 they did a reversal on this position. Based on recent scientific evidence, the over consumption of partially hydrogenated oils poses a major health risk factor in developing coronary heart disease in the U.S. My position is to reserve judgment on GE foods until more independent scientific evidence is presented as the advent of GE foods by the biotechnology industry, such as Monsanto (which in my opinion has demonstrated unethical business practices) is fairly recent within the last 50 to 70 years.


    In addition, there is disagreement in the scientific community that there exists a consensus regarding the safety of GE foods. According to the article dated December 2015, “No scientific consensus on GMO safety,” published on Springer Link, independent scientific researchers object to the biotechnology industry claims that the all-inclusive scientific community holds a consensus on GE foods safety actually exists. As quoted in the article:

    A broad community of independent scientific researchers and scholars challenges recent claims of a consensus over the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In the following joint statement, the claimed consensus is shown to be an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated through diverse fora.


    Furthermore, I want to point out that I am certainly not a full-blown anti-GMO activist, however, my position is that I have the right to know what I am purchasing and putting into my body. The article written by William Saletan, “Unhealthy Fixation: The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer,” completely misses the point of why some consumers such as myself want GE foods properly labeled. It’s a matter of having a right to know what I’m purchasing and consuming. Since the FDA requires labeling for ingredients of processed foods, then this same federal regulation should apply to GE foods.


    In conclusion, since the current to date science is in support and does bear out that there has been no real substantial evidence to indicate any health or environment risks associated with the use and consumption of GE foods, then why is there an issue and opposition by the biotechnology industry to acquiesce in labeling such foods? There are economic and political agendas involved on this issue that has not only been a detriment to consumers, but also to the GE industry itself. The actions of backroom political lobbying by the biotechnology industry in congress to ensure continued food product labeling bans of GE foods only incites suspicion and objection by anti-GMO organizations and general consumers such as myself. Since GE foods are safe according to empirical scientific studies (most notably by the biotechnology industry minus the lack of all-inclusive scientific community consensus), then just label it and be done with it. This will allow the consumer to make informed decisions about whether they want to purchase and consume the products for themselves and their families, which is their right to do so. It is also important to note that it is one of the primary oversight responsibilities of the FDA in regulating the food industry on behalf of U.S. citizens and taxpayers to ensure that we are kept informed regarding the ingredients and composition of food products.

    More about health risks associated with sugar consumption from the UCSF:

    • Marc Defant
      Marc Defant says:

      First of all I really enjoy being challenged. Too many students feel they cannot challenge their instructors. Kudos for stating your opinion. However, it is not clear to me that you read the article. I would have preferred that you addressed specific items in the essay that you thought were wrong. It appears that you simply disagree with GMOs and do not have a specific response to the points I made.
      You have mixed up a lot of information so let me make clear from the beginning that I am in complete agreement with you that the food industry needs to be controlled. In fact, I am writing an essay on how the food industry is allowing the world to become overweight/obese so they can sell their poisons (including a discussion of sugar, fat, and salt). But that is a completely separate issue from the topic – are GMOs safe. I also suspect, like any industry I have looked into in these essays, that money supersedes safety and we should make the food industry responsible for our safety.
      Now let’s shift gears and talk about what I call the Infinite Library – it is a theoretical library filled with every book that has been written and will be written – or that could be written. Somewhere in that library is a thesis that accurately and correctly defines the safety or lack of safety of GMOs in consumption. The problem is that finding that book would take an infinite amount of time. Intermixed in our library are an infinite number of books that are wrong or partially wrong about GMOs. It is a dilemma all of us face in searching for the correct information. On top of everything else there are a host of people that do not want us to know the truth and put up road blocks to keep us from finding the truth (you mention the despicable things that the food industry has and will do to get us to buy their products even though obesity is increasing dramatically worldwide).
      So how should we proceed? The only way we can know in the physical world is through science and logic. I realize this is a red flag to some, but the multiple ways of knowing nonsense that permeates academia is simply just that – nonsense. The way to truth in a physical world is though unbiased research particularly from those that have no horse in the race (i.e., are unbiased). It is not a perfect way to approach the problem because political agendas are like water – they always seep in. But it is all we have. That is why I always look to the National Academy of Sciences – a group of the world’s best scientists not affiliated with any government. They form subcommittees of experts when requested to study a particular subject. They go to great lengths to choose scientists whose research is not affiliated with any conflict of interest. I have primarily drawn on their report which was published this year although I have used several other sources.
      Of course as you point out, there is no full agreement in the field. The job of scientists is to be skeptical and that is all part of the process. So you should not assume that because there is not 100% agreement in the field that there is something amiss. I know you have cited one source that says there is no consensus, but that is simply not true. It is a typical argument that I see thrown around a lot when people disagree with the results of science. It is a very old saw in the global warming debate – the anti global warming crowd constantly claims there is no consensus when more than 97% of the scientists in the field agree. There will always be some disagreement among scientists. What you should be looking at is the neutral report that NAS did and the detail they went into.
      The anti GMO people sound eerily similar to the anti global warming group or the anti vaccination group. No offense intended but we know by now that GMOs are very safe. You have to look at the people that are closest to the science being done – the scientists and only those scientists that are not funded by those promoting GMOs. Please read the NSA report if you want to be certain of the safety of GMOs. Let’s not forget that there are people dying in India and the Philippines because golden rice has been held up. Greenpeace and other anti GMO people are responsible for those deaths and other serious health issues such as blindness because of these delays. When 110 Nobel laureates write Greenpeace and tell them to knock off their campaign against GMOs you know there is something amiss with the movement. These are the best minds in the world. http://nypost.com/2016/07/14/greenpeaces-deadly-war-on-science/
      We have had hundreds of years of genetically modifying crops. All we are doing now is synthetically adding genes to crops. It is a tried and true method that has been used for 3 decades or more now. This is not brain surgery — it is a rather straight forward process.
      When I first discovered years ago that there was actually a movement that did not believe in global warming, I wondered how they could honestly believe that global warming is not occurring. The evidence is so overwhelming. I have concluded that most people don’t have the time or inclination to look into the subject in detail. They follow the tribe they belong to. In the case of global warming, they see their tribe, the right wing, promoting global warming as a fallacy. And once these people have decided their tribe is right, there is hardly anything anyone can say to convince them otherwise. There is a mentality of “My tribe would not lie to me, so you must be wrong.” I have had copious amounts of discussions with these people and it is more of a religion than a movement. Data, logic, pedigree of the scientists doing the work – nothing matters.
      I believe that the anti GMO group is behaving the same way. So I ask you, could it be possible that you are a member of a tribe and are not looking hard enough at the data? Do you really believe that all those NSA scientists and 110 Nobel laureates got it wrong? Is your position a belief, a faith that your tribe is correct? Have you taken a neutral position and let the data sway you or were you persuaded by a group? These are hard questions to answer and I am certainly not trying to accuse you of anything. But this is an important issue and we don’t have the luxury of waiting until every skeptic is satisfied as you have suggested we should do. GMOs are on their way to feeding the world and if we don’t use them, many people in the near future will starve to death.

      • Cheryl Shephard
        Cheryl Shephard says:

        In my previous response to your blog post, I had addressed my concerns about the disparity of the “GMO industry funded versus independent” empirical scientific research studies performed regarding the safety of GMOs. This was in response to your original blog comments regarding the scientific community consensus that GMOs are safe and is supported by “The World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, National Academy of Sciences (US), American Medical Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Food and Drug Administration, American Cancer Society, and more than 270 other prestigious groups including many Academy of Science.” My previous comments specifically addressed this subject matter in that I personally prefer to see more independent and objective scientific research studies performed on the safety of GMOs and continue to be performed in the future.

        There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research studies present that supports the safety of GMOs. This lends to a high probability that the majority of these studies are fairly accurate, legitimate, credible and quantifiable, with only a minor percentage of these studies that may be subjectively skewed. Skepticism is a prerequisite for scientific enquiry and if I was not a skeptic, then I would be subject to misinformation not supported by scientific evidence (i.e., from “tribes”) in addition to possibly being vulnerable to the personal agendas and ulterior motives of those that deceive, manipulate and exploit for personal gain.

        Regarding the case of the GMO Golden Rice food mentioned in your original post as well as other GMO charitable food distributions being restricted and banned due to the actions of anti-GMO proponents from helping to save lives in India and other economically challenged countries in order to prevent Vitamin A deficiency illnesses is truly a sad and deplorable event. However, it is important to point out that the healthcare problems, poverty and socioeconomic crises that exists causing malnutrition and food shortages in developing countries is not to be blamed solely on anti-GMO proponents. This is a demonstration of propaganda rhetoric spin on the part of GMO pundits implying that anti-GMO proponents are solely responsible for perpetuating malnutrition-induced healthcare crises and deaths in developing countries. In actuality, this is first and foremost the responsibility of developing countries’ governments caused by their unwillingness or inability to provide for their citizens’ economic and healthcare needs. With the scientifically supported safety data present for GMO Golden Rice and other GMO foods, I support the charitable distributions of GMO foods to developing countries as one viable and accessible solution to assist in providing healthy sustenance to the malnutrition and starving populations of these developing countries.

        Although you did not address the ongoing public debate regarding the labeling of GMOs on food products in your original blog post, my purpose of bringing this subject matter into the blog discussion is twofold.

        First, since GMOs have been scientifically proven to be safe to the environment and for human and animal consumption (as noted in your post), then willingly and openly supporting the labeling of GMO foods would be a positive demonstration of transparency on the part of the GMO industry and would more likely instill confidence in most consumers. Initially, there may be a dip in sales due to the anti-GMO propaganda; however, in a relatively short amount of time, it is highly probable that most consumers would probably go back to purchasing and consuming their favorite foods with GMOs. Also, the presence of GMOs would eventually become standard and accepted by most consumers. By refusing to support labeling of GMOs in food products, the GMO industry appears to be deliberately utilizing deceptive and manipulative business practices (similar to the local health food store flyer ad that you mentioned in your post) which arouses some consumers’ suspicions (just as the local health food store did for you with their flyer ad) and only fuels the fire of opposition for anti-GMO proponents.

        Second, for me personally, the GMO debate is not about whether the scientific data supporting their safety is legit or not (although this is vitally important), rather it’s about personal choice and the rights of individuals to have the ability of making informed decisions, which is essential for the foundation of fair and just societies. For those individuals who choose not to purchase and consume GMOs, they have the right to make informed decisions for themselves and their families, for whatever personal reasons they may have, regardless of the overwhelming scientific data and consensus that exists supporting their safety. Just because GMOs have been scientifically proven to be safe does not give anyone or any establishment the right to “force feed” the ignorant while deliberately deceiving them in order to make a buck (pun most definitely intended).

        The scientific data supporting the safety of GMOs has been present for years, which was enough for me to evaluate the data and formulate an opinion that GMO foods are most likely safe to consume. At this juncture, it is important to point out that GMO safety is only the current prevailing scientific theory, and as science is subject to change due to the possibility of new scientific “theoretical” evidence introduced at a later date that is supported by a scientific consensus, the current prevailing theory on GMO safety may change in the future. It is imperative that both GMO industry supported and independent scientific studies continue to be performed on the safety of GMO foods in order to insure the safety of the public is addressed, which also applies to all consumer foods and goods as a general principle.

        Our agendas are similar in that we want the public to be informed of the scientific facts. The existence of GMO ingredients in some processed foods and how GMO whole foods are produced are “facts.” So I present to and challenge the GMO industry, the GMO proponents and the scientific community consensus on the safety of GMOs: be transparent, fair and just, respectful of basic human rights to be treated with honesty and integrity, and label the “GMO facts” on food products. Thereby, this would accomplish the goal of disseminating the “scientific facts.”

  18. bsanderson
    bsanderson says:

    I believe too often the stereotypical human being fears what it does not know. When it comes to the topic of GMO or GE crops, the average person undoubtedly will know far less on the matter than a scientist for example. With the majority of spare time being spent on social media by your typical American citizen, they are too often led to believe that what they read on their respective social media sites is without bias and 100% correct. Without doing their own in-depth research, and search for education on the matter, they may be unaware that some information they obtain from social media could potentially be the product of propaganda and/or politically driven “data”.

    You site the lack of accessibility to Vitamin-A in a country like India. From a political perspective (at least in the United States), this gets filed into the category of “out of sight, out of mind”. We, as Americans, are ultimately spoiled in the sense that, if we want or need something nutrition wise, it’s something that we have access to. Instead of thinking about instances such as this, the majority of the population thinks about an individual wearing a hazmat suit and applying deadly chemicals to our crops that will ultimately kill us.

    If we’re able to replace fear and the propaganda from not only social media, but the main news stream as well, with education and unbiased information, we may be able to help countries that are less fortunate than others.

  19. Tmcgeough
    Tmcgeough says:

    I think GM crops and altering has a good philosophical background and purpose. I personally do not think GM crops are a good thing once they are put into play, just like communism for example. Communism looks great on paper, but once in practice it does not work as planned. GM crops are supposed to add certain properties to food for a GOOD benefit. They can increase yields, which allows for more people to be fed. They can add certain nutrients to crops that a certain region of the world is deficient in. These are all positive benefits. Then comes money and greed into the equation. The big company of Monsanto wants to control the world’s population of seeds. That alone should scare everyone. Farmers also should not be required to purchase expensive and controlled seeds from a huge corporation in order to plant. A farmer should have the ability to choose between organic seeds and GM seeds without price increases. GM crops are supposedly allowing for plants to be herbicide resistant when sprayed, well then why do the plants still need to be sprayed if the point is to eliminate spraying? I understand that it can only be resistant to one spray, but then what’s the point if you are still spraying? There has been no research on the effects of the BT toxin in the human body. Once that bacteria enters your body, which may I remind you it KILLS all insects or animals that eat it and we are ingesting it, the bacteria then deposit crystals into your gut. Once these crystals are in your gut they slowly release a dangerous toxin, which it does to the insects and animals that eat the plant. I do not understand how people think the mechanism of the bacteria will act upon humans differently. Yes, we are much larger and can handle a lot more, but when it is in the majority of the food we are eating every single day of our lives let me just say it will affect you at some point or another. If half of the Americans testing the levels of chemicals and pesticides that are in their systems I think they would be very disappointed. I personally do not believe in altering nature either. Nature will come back and bite. If the soil is healthy and you have healthy plants, insects and viruses most of the time stay away. The only time insects eat plants is when they know it is dying. That is why you can have two of the same plants next to each other and one is getting eaten away and the other is perfect, it is all dependent upon the health of the plant. If we went back to organic farming the soil, air, water, plants, and humans’ would all be healthier. Why try to change plants and genes when the answer is right in front of us. It is cheaper and in the long run and more beneficial. In India, they are currently having a suicide epidemic because all of the GM cotton that the big companies promised the farmers would grow, all failed. “Monsanto attributes the suicides to crop destruction by pesticide-resistant bollworms (Stone, 2002).” This shows how even if they promise it is not 100% guaranteed. There has not been a lot of research on the long term effects of GM crops on the human body. Most of the studies are paid by special interest groups to push the GM products. When France first accepted GM crops they were skeptical. After a while French scientist came to the conclusion they should be banned because there is not enough research on it. I completely agree. I am currently 22 years old and I have been sick for 3 years with stomach issues and auto immune disease. I cannot eat gluten when I am in the US or anything that is processed really. When I go to Europe (Northern Ireland and Netherlands) the countries I go to do not allow GM crops. In Europe I can eat everything and never get sick. It is like a miracle and I am not alone on this. I know so many people and there are so many forums on- line that talk about this. This shows that over there I can have gluten because the wheat is still the original wheat and it has not been altered and there are no BT toxins present. I think that should speak volumes. Also when GM crops are planted they travel. This is extremely dangerous and unacceptable. They can turn an organic crop into GM crops just by the wind carrying the seeds and chemicals. That should be considered a hazard in my opinion. This could turn into a real problem for people who still want their food to be real and fresh. If GM crops are so beneficial then why will they not label them? We should not have to wonder what is in our food. Access to clean food and water is a basic human right, and we seem to be having those taken away from us. If they want to continue GM crops then there should be a designated area for them and they SHOULD be labeled so consumers have a choice.
    Thank you!

    • Marc Defant
      Marc Defant says:

      Nice job Tmcgeough. Just a few remarks.

      1) the purpose of GMCs is not to stop spraying pesticides per se. They are meant to spray less which is what they do. Less is good.
      2) All farmers have the right to grow what they wish but the financial and production benefits go toward GMCs so farmers generally choose them.
      3) BT is not a toxin. I think you have completely misunderstood. Bacillum thuringiensis is a bacterium. They take one small part of the nucleic acid (one gene) out of this and put it into crops. The resulting DNA/RNA has been shown to be harmless. They could get this gene from different places but they choose the bacterium because it is easy to obtain. You seem to think that it is the bacteria that is killing the insects. It is the genetic modification in the plant that kills the insects. The bacteria has nothing to do with it.
      4) There has been a great deal of research on the effects of the gene on humans and it has been found to be harmless. The National Academy of Sciences released a 400 page report this year on the safety. You should read it. The science is the only way we can judge the efficacy. The NAS consists of the best scientists in the world and they are known for their neutral positions.
      5) I recognize that there is a mantra that says don’t mess with nature because it will come back to bite us but certainly you see from the article that we have been genetically modifying crops without incident since humans first began agriculture 10,000 years ago. This is a non scientific hysterical approach which condemns technology that is keeping the world from having mass starvation.
      6) This statement is patently false: “The only time insects eat plants is when they know it is dying”.
      7) I agree that organic farming is a fantastic way to live – if you can afford it. Unfortunately most of the world needs to be fed through Big Ag. So although it might be good for Americans to eat healthy organic food, it is not possible to feed the world this way. It certainly is not cheaper in the long run. That is a completely misnomer.
      8) Pesticide resistant bullworms have nothing to do with GMCs. Be careful what you read. It is always best to read peer-reviewed scientific articles. Those against GMC have an agenda and they don’t mind attempting to skew or even falsify information.
      9) Once again this is incorrect: “There has not been a lot of research on the long term effects of GM crops on the human body.”. Please see the NAS report and the references in it. I don’t know where you are getting these ideas but you really have to be careful. The lives of many people rest on understanding this correctly.
      10) Your personal illnesses may not have anything to do with GMCs I am sorry you have been sick but the connection is not supported. This is what is known as the “one sample problem”. You have made a correlation based on only one subject – yourself. By promoting your position, you are undermining an entire fully tested field of research.

    • ShaneAlbors
      ShaneAlbors says:

      To me, this topic is hard to take sides on. I understand the purpose of GMO’s and companies, like Mansanto, for altering food crops because it helps provide more food and nutrients to people that need it. For example, the golden rice that you mentioned has helped so many people in India that have a vitamin A deficiency and other genetically modified foods have helped feed needy populations for cheap. We need companies like Mansanto with the population growing so fast because organic farming wouldn’t be able to feed all the humans on the world by itself. On the other hand, I’ve had health disorders my entire life and recently switched to an organic diet and it helped a lot. This personal experience leads me to believe that there may be something harmful about genetically modified foods if my quality of life was increased when I eliminated them from my diet. To say that GMO’s can cause autism, diabetes, cancer, etc. is nonsense. The NAS report concludes this and I personally don’t believe that scientists will ever find a direct link between GMO’s and these disorders because I don’t believe GMO’s can single handedly cause that much harm. I do believe that GMO’s are one of the variables that can lead to these health disorders, but to say GMO’s directly cause these health disorders is absurd. Personally, I don’t eat many GMO foods because I believe they do cause harm to me, but I also think that the GMO movement is over hyped. I do think that GMO’s can be harmful, but not as harmful as these groups claim. Like I mentioned before, we need big agriculture to feed are growing population and without them we would be in big trouble. GMO’s will always have their place in society, but just not in my pantry.

  20. RadicalCentrist
    RadicalCentrist says:

    I think the hysterics are cultural, political, and economic in origin…which may be three words meaning the same thing. Science is a concept beyond the experience of the common man…and contemporary media does little to help. I remember recently reading an article in which people were asked whether they “believed in science”. That term struck a chord in me which resonates to this day. Most folk can only “believe”.

    While science is a discipline wherein ideas are subjected to evidence and analysis to disprove or shape those ideas, non-scientific people, lacking that disciplined experience can only rely on what they’re told…and when they’re told conflicting things, the only thing they have at their disposal is “trust”.

    Unfortunately, our daily experiences with trust is that of repeated, ongoing violations. The politics of the day is most accurately characterized by deception-o-meters. Business interests make wild claims about their products or services while impugning their competitors’ products, services, and values. News is often tainted with agenda. Leaders are all-too-often found to be lining their pockets at their constituents’ expense. The wild wild web has only served to further dissolve trust, by providing an even playing field for all players regardless of their intent. Authority is in certain decline.

    So, who would be surprised when subsistence farmers are presented with the possibility that western (read: not-like-us) folks want to bring in science (read: magic) in cooperation (read: collusion) with the local representatives (read: any off-color invective you like).

    I’m a software engineer, and I’ll bet a share a trait with bioscientists; being very uncreative when testing something I’ve developed. I looked through the list of statements of proof in this article and couldn’t help chuckling a bit, being aware of this trait. Good science has certainly gone bad. Unintended consequences abound. For example, there’s an anti-inflammatory drug administered to cows in India which, who’d have guessed it, led to the fastest decline in recorded history of a bird species (white-rumped vulture). Follow-on problems include contaminated water supplies, population explosions in rats and wild dogs (which transmit diseases to people that vultures just don’t). I’m guessing nobody tested for that.

    Cavendish bananas are the world’s most popular cultivar – to the exclusion of nearly all others. They’ve been bread to a point where they have only vestigial seeds and males can’t produce suitable pollen – so there’s no reproduction except through cuttings…which means that nearly all the plants under cultivation are nearly identical, genetically. Now, a naturally occurring fungus has developed a vector into the cavendish, and is systemically wiping out the global supply. Oops. Industrial agricultural practices run amok. A similar story is running it’s course through the Florida citrus industry.

    So…lack-of-trust, combined with everybody with a dog in this hunt spewing whatever unsubstantiated messages they want and a couple high-profile historical argi-business failures, and you have everything you need to know the source of the hysteria.

    • Marc Defant
      Marc Defant says:

      Well done and excellent writing. You might also have mentioned the Bhopal disaster where more than 2,200 Indians were killed by a methyl isocyanate gas leak from a Union Carbide plant. Unintentional shit happens. So let me make it clear immediately that I did not mean to come across as cavalier toward GMOs. We do need to make sure they are safe, and that means that we need to be ever attentive to potential problems. I suspect that you would agree with me that we would not have any medicines if someone did not pronounce them safe for the public. But that does not mean that all medicines are safe for all people. Nor does it mean that there will be unforeseen consequences. But no one would argue that we should remove all medicines until we can be absolutely sure that they are hundred percent safe. That is effectively what Europe has done with GMOs. Most countries in Europe refuse to use them not because expert scientists in the field claim they are unsafe but because uninformed groups have demanded that they not be released. GMOs are having or will have an impact on our ability to keep an ever increasing world population from starving or dying of dangerous ailments (like vitamin A deficiency). We need GMOs but ignorance seems to be winning in many places.

      I want to go back to your comment about belief. I would agree that most people believe in information they receive from a trusted source. I used to teach a course called Acquisition of Knowledge in our Honors Program. The point of the course, at least the way I taught it, was to make sure that people gather their information from informed sources. Those sources have to be the scientists that spend their lives studying things like GMOs. What does Green Peace know about GMOs or Golden Rice? I have addressed this in earlier essays. Science is being undermined by disinformation not just misinformation. It happened with Big Tobacco, the NFL’s denial of brain damage from concussions, the creationist movement, and maybe Exxon with global warming. I am currently working on an essay on fracking and how organizations have patently lied about the facts. That is why I encourage my students to be ever skeptical. Beliefs have no place in decisions about the physical world. They must rely on empirical information but maintain a healthy skepticism. We need to hold organizations that mislead accountable for their actions. It appears that many of these companies and organization are guilty of disinformation and there should be criminal and civil repercussions so that innocent farmers that act on the advice of organizations like Green Peace do not find themselves on the side hurting their country men and women. So let me bring to your attention and the attention of anyone reading this about a wonderful organization called The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). They are a watch dog for all forms of nonsense. Carl Sagan was a member and Richard Dawkins and James Randi are current members. It is a great place to start in finding out how we should approach comments and statement about anything. Anyone can have an opinion but very few have informed opinions based on empirical facts.

      • RadicalCentrist
        RadicalCentrist says:

        Didn’t mean to make it sound like I’m anti-GMO, because I’m not. For the most part, I’m impressed with the technology. It’s a step along the path towards understanding our world well enough to engineer our way out of the havoc we’ve wreaked on the planet. The points I’m making aren’t anti-GMO at all…they’re about why there’s any hysteria at all…and the reasons are ignorance, misinformation, disinformation, and the occasional high-profile failure, which is more-often-than-not brought about by a rush to implement without a complete understanding of the consequences. I will say, by-the-way, that a “shit happens” argument isn’t a pro-GMO stance…but might, in fact, serve to further the divide between the pro- and anti-GMO camps.

        The folks who aren’t disciplined in the sciences need to be led to the water. That requires a certain amount of compassion; perhaps an appeal to their humanity to convince them that the benefits really do outweigh the risks, and so forth. I can’t see it working by “proving” them wrong. They seem inclined to cling to their superstitions and eradicate us high-talkin’ apostates.

        I got beat up in school once for very cleverly proving that an oaf was, in fact, an oaf. Just sayin’ 😉

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