You may have run across this article “10 Reasons We Don’t Need GM Foods” on the FoodConsumer website. It’s been making its rounds on social media (Facebook and Twitter). I would like to address some of the inaccuracies in this article – point by point:
1. GM foods won’t solve the food crisis
Well, surprisingly enough, I agree with this one. Or at least with the statement: GM foods ALONE won’t solve the food crisis. GM foods and genetically engineered (GE) crops aren’t a silver bullet in resolving problems with food security. I refer to Mark Lynas (former Greenpeace activist and author) who said in a recent talk he gave at Cornell University:
“[GE/GM] cannot build better roads or chase away corrupt officials. But surely seeds which deliver higher levels of nutrition, which protect the resulting plant against pests without the need for expensive chemical inputs, and which have greater yield resilience in drought years are least worth a try?” Mark Lynas (April 2013)
Hey, I’d say so. It is important to note that the introduction of GE crops (in particular) has enabled wider adoption of “no-till” farming (see a farmer’s perspective on this). No-till is a system which conserves soil moisture, prevents erosion, dramatically reduces nutrient and pesticide movement to streams and rivers, and reduces fuel use. All good, in my opinion.
Did you know that if we still farmed using the inputs and techniques that we did in the 1950s, we would need millions (maybe even billions) more hectares available to produce what we produce today? Advances in plant breeding techniques, introduction of no-till practices, integrated pest management and adoption of genetically engineered crop varieties account for this rise in production. This translates into higher productivity on less land. We all win.
2. GM crops do not increase yield potential
Seriously?! Hmmm. Well, research suggests differently. The results of meta-analysis (that means a study that analyzed the results from MANY MANY other studies) published in a peer reviewed science journal in 2012 found that organic yields of individual crops were on average 25% percent lower than that of conventional yields. Productivity in GM crops are purported to be anywhere from 7 – 20% higher than conventional varieties. And, of course, context matters. Different soil conditions in different parts of the world may be more or less conducive to a variety of production methods. Again, GE technology and GM crops are not a silver bullet by any means. But genetically engineered crops are an important technology in the food production toolbox. So, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, OK?
3. GM crops increase pesticide use
If that’s the case, then how do you explain this interesting fact? Cotton farmers in India spray heavily to control for pests that damage production. Did you know that the application of pesticides to cotton in India is done by hand? With farmers walking through their small cotton fields using backpack sprayers? The adoption of GM cotton in India has reduced the number of pesticide applications per season by 50%. It is estimated that more than 2 million fewer cases of pesticide poisoning are occurring on an annual basis which saves the Indian government US$14 million (Smyth 2013, Herring 2009).
Want a first world perspective on the whole GM and pesticide use issue? Check out Applied Mythology‘s “The Muddled Debate on Pesticides and GM Crops.” Pesticide use is lower. Combine that with other economic and environmental benefits (refer to #1 and #2)… it’s a good thing.
4. There are better ways to feed the world
Let’s re-phrase this so that it’s a bit more accurate: “There are “many” ways to feed the world”
Absolutely. A million of them. Food security is a complex problem that requires a multi-faceted approach in resolving the political and economic issues that come with feeding a growing world population. Again, GE and GM crops are very important technologies in the food production toolbox…
I mentioned the “baby” and the “bathwater” already, didn’t I?
5. Other farm technologies are more successful
Farming is complex. I don’t know ANY farmer who is not up against making a hundred decisions in a given day. Just ask a producer (grain, livestock, organic, conventional): Ryan Goodman, Brian Scott, Emily Zweber, Carrie Mess… Again, this is not an all or nothing scenario. Many factors go into the strategic management at the farm level. And its never as simple as saying that GMO is ‘bad’ and organic is ‘good’ or vice versa. It’s more than just picking a production method.
6. GM foods have not been shown to be safe to eat
I hear this a lot and I have to remind everyone that nothing is 100% safe. Nothing. NO food. You can test organic, conventional and GM for the next 500 years and there will never ever be “absolute proof” that a food produced a certain way is 100% safe. That’s not how things roll here in the ‘real world’. The food value chain is long and involves lots of actors. Lots can happen. Take for example the Maple Leaf Foods listeria crisis in 2008 (23 confirmed deaths). Then there was the XL Foods e.coli incident in 2012 where 18+ people were taken ill when they ingested tainted meat. And the anti-GM folks get a bit hot under the collar when I mention this one: almost 4000 people were affected and 53 died from a rare strain of e.coli in sprouts that were produced on an organic farm in Germany in 2011.
There have been some food-related tragedies. But there is no documented evidence of harm to human health or deaths from consumption of GM foods since they were introduced to the market two decades ago. None. Here are TWO studies (US and EU – and there are more) that attest to the safety of GM foods (NRC 2004, EC 2010, more here (scroll down)). GE crops or GMOs have been the most heavily tested food products in the history of our regulatory system.
7. People don’t want GM foods – so they’re hidden in animal feed
I wonder who thought this little gem up. GM foods aren’t “hidden.” And they are certainly not “hidden” in animal feed. Livestock producers use corn and soybean as a base for animal feed, all over the world (including the the European Union where GE soybeans are exported from the US and Brazil for animal consumption). As of 2012, there has been a 100-fold increase in the planting of biotech crops since 1996. In the US alone, between 67% and 94% of all acreage attributed to corn, soybean, cotton and canola are genetically engineered. Nothing is “hidden” here… genetically engineered crops are ‘front and centre’ in world agriculture production. Biotechnology is the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture (James 2012).
8. GM crops are a long-term economic disaster for farmers
Wow. That sounds scary. Yes, GM seed prices are higher than that of conventional seeds. But farmers that utilize the technology do so because they get higher yields and extract higher margins. Just ask Brian Scott: “I can get a premium price for the soybeans we grow to be used as seed by other farmers next year.” If you ask Brian, he is neither “dependent” on the technology nor is he a “slave to ‘big ag'”. Rather he (and other producers like him) are making economic decisions at the farm level based on input costs and projected market outcomes. And don’t kid yourself. These folks don’t make these decisions at the expense of the land. They *care* about the environment (environmental benefits: see #1). They are not about to willfully destroy land that has been farmed by them and their ancestors – and potentially their children and children’s children – for generations.
9. GM and non-GM cannot co-exist
There’s that word again – – – “contamination”. It’s an ugly word with ugly connotations. Did you know that we already operate in a segregated agriculture and food system? If you want, you can choose to eat organic. It’s all labeled in your grocery store. Organics standards were adopted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2009 in Canada. These standards are enforced by organic inspectors through accredited certification bodies all over the country. Contamination? Organic farm and crop certification is based on the production methods used, NOT on the purity of the end product. So, nothing would happen to an organic grower or his produce if (in the highly unlikely event that) trace amounts of some other variety were found (BTW – there is no testing in organic crops). Organic growers will never lose their organic certification (unless, of course, they are shown to be intentionally growing ‘non-organic’ produce or crops and sending them to market as ‘organic’).
10. We can’t trust GM companies
Don’t believe everything you read. Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, Monsanto and other ‘big ag’ companies are just that – companies. They are profit-motivated and generate revenues to cover the costs of doing business and to provide a return for their shareholders. These companies, and others like Apple or MicroSoft, make no secret of that. And isn’t that the tenet of any business – big or small? Companies step into the space where the public sector can’t and won’t – they bring the products downstream to the market. Did you know that the time that it takes to put a product through the regulatory system has almost tripled in the last 20 years (13 years and $140 million US)? And just to clarify, the regulatory system is no more robust than it ever was. But the political pressures that have been placed on governments by interest groups have forced a ‘slow down’ in the regulatory process. This means more costs. And, right now the only companies that have the resources to navigate the costly and complex regulatory processes are big ag.
The whole “David and Goliath” thing (small defenseless farmer vs big ag company) gets wayyyy overblown in the anti-GM rhetoric. Like I said before, don’t believe everything you read. Like ’em or not, ‘big ag’ companies are the only ones that can take these technologies to the marketplace where society can extract value from them. Who else? Universities and public research institutes? I don’t think so. At least, that’s not where I want *my* tax dollar going. These multinational ag businesses invest the dollars in the research and product development and they have a right to protect that investment for a limited period of time. It’s how our patent system works – for EVERYONE.
Want to know more about patents and plants? Check here.
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We live in a privileged world; one where food is plentiful and varied and one that affords us this seemingly ‘aesthetic’ relationship with what and how we consume. We have turned our backs on the functionality of food and entered into this realm of ‘food snobbery’ where the ‘food police or elites‘ (as Jayson Lusk refers to them) seem to rule the world.
On a final note: For every 10 reasons cited suggesting that we don’t need GMOs, I can list 100 or more of why we *do* need genetically engineered crops and GM food.
45 thoughts on ““10 ‘reasoned’ responses” to “10 reasons we don’t need #GMOs””
Excellent, excellent post.
Thank you for posting this. My dad is a farmer and this hits very close to home for me!
Reblogged this on Socio-Economics, Biosafety & Decision Making and commented:
Excellent commentary by Cami Ryan. I agree with her assessment, may have some slightly different takes on some of the details. I am always in favor of more options that prove themselves to be worthy. Through my work and the work of other colleagues around the world, we know that GM crops can provide benefits to society. Obviously, there costs and risks involved. Nothing to be surprised about, this is just one more technology that we should not be afraid of especially when it has undergone regulatory assessment.
One of my major objections to GM is not so much the process, not so much the product, but rather the laws and patenting. I know companies argue that for the research investment, they should be able to patent gene sequences, and there is a basis for that. HOWEVER, most of the gene sequences patented are not novel: they come from already existing living things. Incidents like having traditionally grown crops patented is an extreme example, but it’s just inappropriate and disrespectful. I feel similarly about human medicine and the trend toward patenting human genes, and, to some extent, to the agreements around production of certain apple varieties like Honeycrisp. Genes aren’t widgets!
General trends toward greater and greater monoculture have also squiashed out varieties for home growers, which is sad, but a slightly different topic.
I also dislike the corporate opposition to labeling. It’s like the battle over partially-hydrogenated fats, or labeling whether starch comes from wheat or corn (this actually matters for some of us). Removing my knowledge is equivalent to removing my decision making power. And, no, I wouldn’t eliminate them from my diet. But maybe I’d like to be able to decide to do so without necessarily buying 100% organic.
Stephanie, as someone who works in science, the patenting of intellectual property is part of the reward of hard work. You are setting up a strawman argument, that somehow because these genes are “natural” then they shouldn’t be produced for economic gain. Well, this isn’t going to work. Research & development would stop in not only agriculture but also in the biomedical sciences. A new drug may be based on “natural” chemicals, but it’s the scientists who do all the studies to determine it’s toxicity, dose response, clinical trials, etc. That needs to be protected, so that it can be paid back.
As for labeling, I cannot speak for Big Agra, cause I don’t know what they’re thinking. But here’s what will happen. Anti-science types will grab ahold of these labels, forcing up costs of food. And who gets hurt? The poor. Those on fixed incomes. Those who cannot afford to buy food that is more expensive but has absolutely no benefit to them. Labeling foods for GMO’s is just an elitist ploy to prove to everyone that “I eat better than everyone else.” For absolutely no medical/biological/physiological benefit.
Yes, some labeling is important. Gluten-free is important for a very few number of people (the over-stating of gluten problems in Americans is more laughable pseudoscientific garbage, since only about 200,000 to maybe 1 million Americans really have gluten sensitivity). As a Type 1 diabetic, I need to know how many grams of carbohydrates are in my foods. But GMO? All that’s going to do is cause scary claims, lawsuits, and vastly increased costs, as farmers go to non-GMO production, prove that they have, increase the amount of organic pesticides, and lower the amount of production. It’s just not smart.
By the way, there are absolutely no health benefits to eating organic. But waste money thinking that you do gain a benefit. More elitist anti-science malarky.
No, I don’t eat organic for health claims and never have. I eat organic because there has been enough research to convince me that the environmental & farmworker benefits are worth those extra cents. And, you may not think so, but I consider 1% of the population (celiac) to be worth the labeling. It’s considerably more common than PKU, for example, which is commonly labeled for. The idea of a customizable label is quite interesting, but again, that also depends on technology which those with lower incomes may not have access to.
I, by the way, have worked in biomedical science and am quite familiar with the field. I’m not financially invested in it, however, which gives me a little more distance to consider whether our model is really as functional as it could be.
I don’t think I made a claim that gluten or carbohydrate amounts should be excluded from labeling. There is science-based evidence that gluten can be harmful to a coeliac disease patient. And the amount of carbohydrates is absolutely critical to a a diabetic. My point was that gluten sensitivity for coeliac patients, and maybe a few others, has been vastly overblown into a whole pseudoscience with non-supportable claims. But that has nothing to do with gluten, just on the ability of Americans to jump on pseudoscientific trends at the drop of a hat.
As for organic, I just don’t have the amount of belief in it that you do. I don’t have anything against small farms that provide local produce. I patronize our local farmers markets because they tend to have better tasting foods, but it’s irrespective of whether it’s organic or not.
I’m not sure what your comment about the biomedical sciences is supposed to mean. Whether I’m financially invested or not, and I have made no claims one way or another, all I care about is whether something has scientific support one way or another. And that that science is of extraordinary high quality. I have overwhelming evidence that vaccines work. I have overwhelming evidence that homeopathy, acupuncture, and chiropractic do not. No one pays me to be circumspect and brutally honest about the quality of science behind those statements.
That’s why I find the whole GMO refusal issue to drive me nuts. It has very little high quality science behind it, and a whole lot of emotion. Science is not driven by emotion (though don’t get me into an argument about evolution, I do get emotional, but I also have mountains of evidence). And GMO refusers use the exact same language, ideology, and anti-science (or pseudoscience) that the global warming deniers use. Ironic.
You are certainly not alone in your concerns around patenting of “life forms”. Now, just to be clear, ‘patent’ and the legal system are just not my “wheelhouse” (so I am hoping that some other folks might weigh in on this). But here’s some info that you might find interesting – particularly in terms of the distinctions between Canada and the US and how they approach patenting in this area.
In January 2009, the Canadian Patent Office (CPO) made the distinction between lower and higher life forms – unicellular (lower) or multicellular (higher). The CPO takes the position that animals at any stage of development are NOT statutory matter: fertilised eggs and totipotent stem cells (which have the inherent ability to develop into animals) are considered higher life forms. On the other hand, embryonic, multipotent and pluripotent stem cells, which do not have the inherent ability to develop into an animal, are considered lower life forms. Plants, in Canada, are viewed as higher life forms and NOT patentable (unlike the US). But in Canada we *do* protect developed varieties under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act (this is the method of protection that our researchers use for their developments at my home University). So, whether you are a private sector or public sector actor in this breeding/development ‘game’ you still protect (through intellectual property mechanisms) your investment (see Shapiro and Cohen 2009 below).
Not to downplay your concerns, but the patent system is the only thing that we currently have that provides ‘incentive’ for investment in new technologies. If companies can’t protect their investment, they don’t invest. If they don’t invest, there is no development done. If there is no development, there are no innovations (and I think that – in the bigger picture – we would all lose). The public sector (breeders, research scientists) cannot carry the burden of these types of downstream developments. There’s just no capital there. Plus, I don’t think that the public sector *should* be getting involved in downstream (market-based) development anyway (not *their* wheelhouse). So, the patent system – despite whatever faults it may have – provides important incentives for ALL industries to invest and development great new things that we can all benefit from. Yes, even new crop varieties.
Labeling is another controversial issue. It is also a complex one. Where does one begin and end in terms of info provided on a given label? There’s this whole question of what is “meaningful” on a label – – – and labeling that is misleading can be problematic (and a federal offense in both Canada and the US). And labels are costly. And those costs are distributed all along the value chain and will be reflected in the retail price (I’m sure you’ve heard these arguments before). Anyway, we had a great Twitter exchange on this yesterday (1/2 dozen or so of us). Someone came up with the idea of an app; one that *you* can customize according to *your* info needs (starch sources, etc) – so by simply scanning the label you can get info that matters to *you*. I thought that it was a pretty great idea and totally not out of the realm of possibilities for development (i.e. doable). One of the discussants on the Twitter exchange was pretty passionate about “junk food” and processed food… so, someone else thought that a valuable (and visible) label that shows calories to distance you have to walk conversions. Another useful piece of info.
These are complex problems… and in my blog I just like to address some of the misinformation that is out there and highlight some of the other facts that are important when considering these types of issues. I really appreciate your comment here, Stephanie. Thanks for posting.
Shapiro and Cohen. (2009) “Patent Protection in Canada.” Available online at: http://www.shapirocohen.com/Life%20Science%20Annual%202009.pdf
So, I’ve often said that I work with some very smart people, many of them graduate students – thoughtful, with great ideas, willing to challenge conventions and norms… all good. Here is a thoughtful response to your comment (and mine), Stephanie, by a graduate student (JL) who has spent the last two years studying “novelty.”
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What Cami said is definitely accurate. I’m not an intellectual property expert, but there is a little bit of contradiction in the way that Canada has done things. Higher life forms (ie. mice and other animals) have been patented in the European courts and in the States, but not in Canada. They denied a patent to Harvard a few years ago because they wanted to patent a mouse which had been altered to have enhanced genes or something relevant to oncology research (totally for research purposes), but the Supreme Court said no because like you said, it was a higher life form and not of the lower distinction.
Then a few years after that, they had Monsanto vs. Schmeiser, where yes, they said that the canola gene was not patentable because it’s a higher life form, but the use of the gene by another operator (Schmeiser) was not okay. So, the plant itself is not patentable, but if anybody wants to use that plant gene, that action is not allowed. So there’s a contradiction – because effectively, by restricting the use of the gene/item, you may as well be patenting the plant itself. It sets an interesting precedent. The HLFs don’t appear to be eligible for product patents, but may be for process patents? It’s a grey area from what I’ve read.
What they’ve done in the actual Patent Act is left the wording pretty vague, so that the courts have to interpret on a sort of case by case basis, because they won’t develop a really specific definition on higher life forms and use. There are people who argue that this is good though, because there needs to be room for flexibility, from a legal and genetic standpoint.
I suppose it’s an ongoing debate. Relevant link from Osgoode Law on it. http://www.iposgoode.ca/2010/02/patenting-higher-life-forms-in-canada-resistance-and-contradictions/
Stephanie, your concerns are valid, and there is a lot of literature out there on gene patenting and things like that, especially with regard to Monsanto-esque orgs and corporate interests. Admittedly even I (not that I’ve read all of it or made a very strong effort to try to develop a stance) don’t really know where I stand on it. My personal feeling is there’s got to be a threshold somewhere on patents and life, but nobody’s really identified it yet. Even the history of biotech patents – in the beginning they were very broad, because there wasn’t really any kind of existing boundary to base from, but now they’re quite narrow in scope just because there’s so many of them. And what they’ve really done with them is made a lot of the ‘novel’ things not-novel anymore, so they’re unpatentable under novelty and prior art etc.
And from a reg perspective – we regulate anything that’s new to the environment, regardless of process etc. Also different from the US and Europe. So the independence in gene patents doesn’t surprise me. Canada seems to always be taking its own way in agricultural biotech – regulatory and patenting.
Interesting– haven’t ever learned much about the Canadian law and regulatory system!
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Great article. I had to reblog it to get this information out as much as possible.
Thanks for beating down these myths.
Thanks for the ‘share’ Michael and for contributing. Greatly appreciated!
Nice post! Hopefully the right people will read it! Ever feel like you’re preaching to the choir?
Reblogged this on SLEUTH 4 HEALTH and commented:
I thought this was a fair even-handed treatment of the “10 Reasons We Don’t Need GMOs”.
Reblogged this on my Sleuth4Health site!
Just a note to #3. On our cotton farms here in Texas, we have eliminated the use of insectide for the past 5 years due to use of GMO cottonseed. The beneficial insects have rebounded and take care of the minor pests, while the Bt technology controls the major worm problem.
My husband got to visit Brazil last year and the cotton farmers down there spray up to 13 times for insects. We spray 0. We are thankful for the technology.
Thanks Suzie! Great info; even better ’cause it comes directly from a grower (or at least someone very close to the ‘action’).
PS, dang I want that jacket you are wearing in the photos!!
You know, I need to blog about it. Its my grandmother’s and its 60 years old. There’s a story there! ;0)
Spot on, again, Cami!
An interesting post, Cami; however, you make several inaccurate statements under #9. You write:
“Organic farm and crop certification is based on the production methods used, NOT on the purity of the end product. So, nothing would happen to an organic grower or his produce if (in the highly unlikely event that) trace amounts of some other variety were found (BTW – there is no testing in organic crops). Organic growers will never lose their organic certification (unless, of course, they are shown to be intentionally growing ‘non-organic’ produce or crops and sending them to market as ‘organic’).”
Firstly buyers can and do reject organic crops if they are contaminated with genetically-modified material. An Ontario organic farmer recently recounted losing over $10,000 on a single organic flax shipment to Europe when it was found to have been contaminated with an unapproved GMO variety. Other growers have reported losing organic sales after their crops contaminated by the residual dust in a grain bin. Being forced to sell an organic crop in the conventional market (and possibly pay additional transportation and storage costs) can often mean receiving less than half of the anticipated revenue.
Secondly, as noted above, organic crops are routinely tested by buyers for GMO contamination. Organic certification standards are now also requiring periodic random testing for pesticide residues. And testing is also carried out in response to suspicions of contamination – whether intentional or not.
Thirdly, organic growers can lose certification on fields (or sections of fields) that have been contaminated by prohibited substances. This land would need to go back through a 3-year transition process, costing the farmer any organic premiums that could have been earned on that land for that period of time.
I’m not sure where you’re getting your information on organic standards and practices, but if you’re looking for factual, accurate information, I’m always happy to answer questions and/or point you in the right direction.
Of course, organic produce has no benefits, except higher prices.
You might notice that your readership skyrocketed on this article. I posted it to /reddit/skeptic. Lots of comments, in which you should join Cami. It’s hard for me to answer some of the critiques I’m reading, although the bulk of readers on /reddit/skeptic are skeptical of GMO refusers. As I am.
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The seed, for the farmer, is not merely the source of future plants / food, it is the storage place of culture, of history. Seed is the first link in the food chain. Seed is the ultimate symbol of food security.
Free exchange of seed among farmers has been the basis of maintaining biodiversity as well as food security. This exchange is based on cooperation and reciprocity.
You might be right about biodiversity, but there are much better ways to do it, and more scientific. And it’s highly inefficient for large farms, which are what we need to feed the world. Organic, heirloom varieties are expensive, have lower yields, are not pest-resistant. If we’re going to feed the world, we need hybrid plant varieties that grow fast, are nutritious, and filled with calories.
Your view of seeds is appropriate, but the world probably can’t be fed that way.
When measured in terms of nutrition per acre, and from the perspective biodiversity, the so called “high yields” of industrial agriculture or industrial fisheries do not imply more production of food and nutrition.
Yields usually refers to production per unit area of a single crop. Output refers to the total production of diverse crops and products. Planting only one crop in the entire field as a monoculture will of course increase its individual yield. Planting multiple crops in a mixture will have low yields of individual crops, but will have high total output of food
Truson Organics, I would love to see the study you are refering to. It looks very interesting.
Here are 12 case studies for you to enjoy.
Books aren’t peer-reviewed. And case studies aren’t scientific, they are descriptive.
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Norman Uphoff is a professor in the Department of Government and the former director of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture, and Development. His work has focused on development administration, irrigation management, local participation, and strategies for broad-based rural development. His current development interests have expanded beyond the social sciences to include agro-ecology.
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Some flaws in your article. The link to a meta-analysis of crop yields links to an article about a study involving nutrition (and one that only compared conventional to organic, not looking at GMOs in particular).
As for the claim of cotton yields, it makes reference to a flawed economics study that failed to take in the average farm in India. The study only looked at large farms (over 5 acres) and not the average farm with is less than 3.3 acres in size (therefore not a random sample). Chinese studies involving bt cotton show an increase in certain types of pests which still have to be defeated using more pesticides. Of course there’s the problem of evolution which just makes bt resistant bugs and weeds, so any reduction in pesticide/herbicide use is merely a temporary one and not an overall positive for GMOs.
Doug: Correction. It is not an article. It is an informal blog post in response to what I view as ‘weak’ evidence and flawed logic in the original piece “Ten Reasons We Don’t Need GMOs.”
That being said, I certainly appreciate your contribution and counterpoints here. If you don’t mind, though, I think that we would all benefit from you posting a list of refs to the Chinese studies that you mention. The meta-analysis is still relevant and worthwhile presenting in the context of these arguments. Granted, it may not be ‘complete’ but it is still illustrative in this context of the arguments and counterarguments presented.
Yes, the Chinese studies involve looking into bt cotton and is one of the few long term studies I can find. Bt cotton, engineered to reduce various species of bollworm and resulted in other pests filling the vaccum:
Never the less, bt cotton also has the habit of creating resistant species of bollworm:
Similar research in America has show bt resistance in bollworms in the South but not so much in the Southwest (Arizona) fields. Given the resistance developed in 15 years, and seeing that the corn borer has developed bt resistance in about the same time period in the American midwest it’s a good bet that GMO crops offer only a decade or two of of benefit to targeted species, but the need for pesticides is still necessary for non-targeted species and has resulted in an overall increase of pesticide use despite corporate claims that GMO crops would result in fewer uses of pesticides (article references previous study):
Doug, you continue to Cherry Pick data that you use to condemn all GMO crops, and attempt to use it to fulfill a Nirvana Fallacy, that if it isn’t perfect, it’s bad. The PNAS article is of interest since it’s published in a real journal. However, it has not been repeated, and we await further studies.
However, and this important, one of the critical points of real science is that it is self correcting. If we find this one strain of Bt cotton is conferring a resistance, we cannot assume that there isn’t a better one right around the corner. Science is not dogmatic, it changes to new data. But again, this data point does not condemn all GMO’s, far from it.
Lastly, natural selection, one of the major mechanisms of evolution, something about which I have serious academic and teaching credentials, has numerous examples of leapfrogging of natural plant resistance and pests. Cotton was domesticated 7000 years ago in the Indus Valley. Wild cotton probably was in a steady-state relationship with its pests, but in the first step of creating a new type of cotton, we selected for the seeds from the best cotton crops. Maybe they weren’t as resistant to the pests as well.
So, by providing, though genetic engineering, additional resistance, it continues the battle that has happened over 7000 years. I see nothing wrong with this.
Finally, your conclusion that more pesticide use is anecdotal based on a non-peer-reviewed article. Yes, Nature News is not peer reviewed.
By the way, most scientists deprecate the value of primary studies. Not because they might be bad, or should be ignored, but because their scientific value can only be shown through repetition and meta-analysis. Those of who cherry pick research always cherry pick meta reviews if its possible.
Accusing me of cherry picking doesn’t refute the data presented, nor does wishful thinking about future technologies allow one to ignore the current data provided. I suggest you present something other than a strawman to refute the data.
If you bothered to understand the post the reply was in response to the claim that GMO reduce the need for pesticides, which clearly isn’t the case due to the data presented and something you failed to respond to. The claim that we need GMOs in order to reduce pesticide use is false, and two reasons were given, two examples you responded to with wishful thinking.
Despite your claim on your blog that evolution is nonsense, it’s a proven fact and other species evolved to resist bt crops thereby making the reducing in pesticide use argument moot:
Now if you have something substantial to present other than insults or logical fallacies I’d love to hear it. But if you’re just going to troll the boards then don’t waste anyone’s time.
This blog post originated in response to what I viewed as a very one-sided position about genetic engineering and GMOs – “10 Reasons We Don’t Need GM Foods” on the FoodConsumer website. What I tried to do here was put forward some counterarguments to those 10 points. Yes, my statements may be viewed as “incomplete” or “flawed” by some. But let’s face it, it is a “blog post” – it is not a scientific, peer reviewed article. The ‘spirit’ of the piece was to provide “some” information that balances out what I viewed as really shortsighted, misinformed and, in the case of some points, quite extreme perspectives on GMOs.
Please note: I leave my blog open for comment by anyone and I post everything (unless there is profanity and/or name calling). The goal is for dialogue; to provide the opportunity for everyone to put forward additional insights and opinions on a given topic – to facilitate a reasoned debate on what are often controversial topics. I thank you all for your contributions to this post. We may not all agree but I like to think we all walk away a bit more informed. I know I did.
For now, I am shutting down the comments section here. There are many points worthy of further exploration here. Unfortunately, time doesn’t permit me to dig any deeper.
I look forward to hearing from you all again on the next post (that either inspires you or gets under your skin). :O)
all the best,
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