The left has a tendency to pound their chests and blithely declare that conservatives are anti-science, a textbook case of projection since many on the left reject science that goes against their narrative, as The Daily Wire has explained here and here. But the most egregious example of the anti-science left is their hatred for genetically modified foods (GMOs):
REMINDER: Opponents to GMO labeling spent nearly $400 MILLION to ensure people don’t know what’s in their food. pic.twitter.com/jlVxVG3YuI
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 7, 2016
Here are seven facts about GMO foods that you need to know.
1. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines GMOs “as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.” In other words, GMO foods are products such as “tomatoes, potatoes, squash, corn, and soybean,” according to Medline Plus, that have had DNA strands injected into them.
2. There are massive benefits to GMO foods. The University of Utah lists out the following scenarios that GMO foods can help solve:
- You are a tomato farmer whose crops are threatened by a persistent species of beetle. Each year, you spend large sums of money for pesticides to protect your crops. A biotechnology company introduces a new strain of tomato plant that produces a natural pesticide, making it resistant to the beetle. By switching to this new strain, you could avoid both the beetle and the chemical pesticides traditionally needed to fight it.
- As a family physician, you often treat children who suffer from infectious diseases that could easily be prevented through vaccination. But the parents of many of your patients cannot afford the cost of vaccinations. You hear of a new approach that would reduce the cost to a fraction of its current price: genetically modified fruits and vegetables that contain various vaccines. By simply eating a banana, a child could be protected against disease without getting a shot!
- You are the leader of a developing nation. Hunger is a problem among your citizens: the salty coastal wetlands of your country can’t support the growth of needed crops, and your slow economy can’t support importing enough food for everyone. A biotechnology company has genetically modified a rice plant that can thrive in salt water, providing your nation with the opportunity to feed its citizens while bolstering its economy.
Medline Plus has also listed the following benefits to GMO foods:
- More nutritious food
- Tastier food
- Disease- and drought-resistant plants that require fewer environmental resources (such as water and fertilizer)
- Decreased use of pesticides
- Increased supply of food with reduced cost and longer shelf life
- Faster growing plants and animals
- Food with more desirable traits, such as potatoes that absorb less fat when fried
- Medicinal foods that could be used as vaccines or other medicines
Slate‘s William Saletan documents how the papaya crops in Hawaii were threatened by the ringspot virus, but were saved by the genetically-engineered papaya that was resistant to the virus. Additionally, scientists have found that a product called Golden Rice – which is filled with beta carotene – could provide 60 percent of the Vitamin A poor preschool children, particularly Southeast Asia, need per day. There are 250 million worldwide who suffer from a lack of Vitamin A. Consequently, 250,000–500,000 of these kids go blind.
3. The science is clear: GMO foods are safe. According to Saletan, the following organizations have concluded that there is no evidence there are any dangers in GMO foods:
- American Medical Association
- National Academy of Sciences
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
Further scientific confirmation can be found in the Journal for Animal Science, which studied 29 years of data before and after most animal feed became genetically engineered, and the researchers concluded “that GM feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. There was no indication of any unusual trends in the health of animals since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested.”
“Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be said that the debate over the impact of GE feed on animal health is closed: there is zero extraordinary impact,” writes Forbes’s Jon Entine.
4. The anti-GMO hysteria perpetuated by leftist organizations like Greenpeace are based on pseudo-science and conspiracy theories. Popular Science‘s Brooke Borel writes:
One frequently cited study, published in 2012 by researchers from the University of Caen in France, claimed that one of Monsanto’s corn GMOs caused tumors in lab rats. But the study was widely discredited because of faulty test methods, and the journal retracted it in 2013. More recently, researchers from the University of Perugia in Italy published a review of 1,783 GMO safety tests; 770 examined the health impact on humans or animals. They found no evidence that the foods are dangerous.
Then there’s Jeffrey Smith, one of the most famous anti-GMO hysterics, who has claimed that animals which have had genetically engineered feed have died from cancer and that the genetically-engineered papaya was listed in a paper as “sorely inadequate to protect against environmental problems and human health problems,” even though the paper never actually mentioned the papaya, according to Saletan. Saletan also points out that Smith has “no formal scientific training.”
Additionally, Saletan documents some of the conspiracy theories that anti-GMO activists use:
To explain why scientific organizations and regulatory agencies had declared GE foods safe, the anti-GMO witnesses offered conspiracy theories. They said the Food and Drug Administration had been captured by Monsanto. So had the American Association for the Advancement of Science. When the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter Amy Harmon detailed the safety evidence behind the GE papaya, incredulous council members dismissed her article as a “skewed” account by “the political powers that be.”
As for Japan’s approval of the papaya, [Hector] Valenzuela advised the council to look at U.S. government cables released by WikiLeaks. He said the cables showed “the lengths that the State Department goes to twist arms behind the scenes.” This was a clear insinuation that U.S. officials had coerced Japan’s decision. Smith mentioned the cables, too. But the cables showed no conspiracy. Nearly 6,000 of the leaked cables had been sent from U.S. embassies and consulates in Japan. They covered the years 2005 to 2010, during which Japanese regulators had debated and approved the GE papaya. Food & Water Watch, an environmental group, had searched the cables for references to pressure or lobbying by U.S. officials on behalf of GMOs. The group’s report, issued in May 2013, cited no cables that indicated any such activity in Japan.
No allegation was too far-fetched for the anti-GMO witnesses, including several who called themselves experts. They said GMOs were especially dangerous to dark-skinned people. They suggested that vaccines were harmful, too. They said GE flowers should be banned because children might eat them.
But the worst example of the zealotry of anti-GMO activists can be seen in…
5. Anti-GMO activists have prevented Golden Rice from being commercially sold. In fact, according to Saletan, they have “destroyed a field trial of the rice” and “filed a petition to block all field tests and feeding studies.” Consequently, those poor children are still unable to receive the vitamin A they need, and, as a result, “a million more kids are dead.”
6. Anti-GMO activists are also massive hypocrites. RealClearScience’s Ross Pomeroy lists the following four as examples of their hypocrisy:
- They advocate for “transparency” yet they “ignore science” and bully scientists who go against their narrative.
- They bemoan any research showing that GMOs is safe as being the result of funding from corporations like Monsanto, yet they’re funded by the “organic and natural foods industry.”
- They want to mandate labeling of GMO foods but not the pesticides used.
- They’re are against GMOs but don’t have a problem with organic crops that can undergo a process called “mutagenesis,” where they’re “mutated by radiation or chemicals in order to create variants with desirable traits.”
7. Mandating labeling of GMO foods would be counterproductive. As The Atlantic‘s James Hamblin writes, “Prominent, blanket labeling of all products that contain any trace of in-vitro recombinant DNA technology only further polarizes discussion, penalizing all use of the technology and limiting the odds of implementing it as judiciously and safely as possible.”
And as Saletan has pointed out, Bt insecticides can be used on organic products but that will not show up on a label.
“That’s the fundamental flaw in the anti-GMO movement,” writes Saletan. “It only pretends to inform you. When you push past its dogmas and examine the evidence, you realize that the movement’s fixation on genetic engineering has been an enormous mistake. The principles it claims to stand for—environmental protection, public health, community agriculture—are better served by considering the facts of each case than by treating GMOs, categorically, as a proxy for all that’s wrong with the world. That’s the truth, in all its messy complexity. Too bad it won’t fit on a label.”