Recently, I have seen a spate of articles equating those of us who are skeptical and concerned about the increasing use of genetically engineered crops and business model that supports them with the “anti-vaccine” movement and global warming denier. Let’s take a look at one recent such article by Skeptical Raptor posted over at Daily Kos.
First, having a marketing background, I have to admire the article’s structure and rhetorical methods. Raptor starts off talking about anthropogenic climate change. This is an excellent rhetorical device. He knows that the vast majority of DKos readers accept the scientific consensus on human caused global warming. He broadens the discussion and spends about half to 2/3rds of the article talking about scientific consensus, what it means and what it doesn’t mean.
Awesome – so far I am in complete agreement. I understand the meaning of scientific consensus, and accept the scientific consensus on climate change. As any good marketer knows, once you have the audience agreeing with you, they can be convinced of other claims more easily.
Now he switches to GMO and immediately labels all resistance to GMOs and “ignorance based”, and states that there is “overwhelming scientific consensus that GMOs are safe” Let’s look at his 4 central claims
1. GMO foods are safe for human consumption.
I accept this. There is no credible evidence that eating Genetically Engineered foods will cause acute or even chronic human health problems. There is no plausible method that the DNA of GE foods can survive digestion
2. GMO crops are safe for other animals.
Same argument – same answer
3. GMO crops increase crop yields and reduce pesticide use.
Here the argument is somewhat more nuanced. While there has been a decline in the amount of pesticide used, a good portion of that may be due to the use of more biologically active pesticides that have come on to the market in the past several decades. In addition, even if overall the use GE crops has reduced pesticide use, it has dramatically increased the use of some pesticides such as glyphosate. The problem here is that the overuse of this one method of pest management is that it is causing the emergence of glyphosate resistant weeds. Just as antibiotics are a great thing (and I and my kids have used them many times) – the OVERUSE of antibiotics has resulted in antibiotic resistant bacteria- the OVERUSE of glyphosate has negative consequences. Mother nature bats last, and she is a bitch
4.And GMO crops are safe for the environment.
Here again the argument is more nuanced. – Using the formulation set out by the Union of Concerned Scientists – It isn’t so much the GMOs themselves as the business models that support their overuse, as well as the adoption of monocrop agriculture that is a danger to the environment.
There is one other thing in Raptor’s post that really stuck in my craw.
He states that “GMOs have been around for 10,000 years” – while it is true that we have selectively bred crops and animals for that long, that is extremely different from the bio-engineering at a molecular level that started 30 years ago at most. One is like taking two dogs that both show the ability to herd and mating them together, the other is like inserting the genes from a salmon into a dog so that it would grow gills.
Frankly, Raptor – the fact that you would make this claim makes me “skeptical” of what you have to say