GMOs, Loony Tunes, and Reason

Highly recommend this. Highly. Take seven minutes and read. Because sanity, facts, and reason need all the support they can get in this sad world of ours.

Brief background: While researching the meat book, I no surprise encountered the whole “GMOs are evil and satanic” thing. I knew nothing about GMOs or why they mattered or what they can/can’t do or be.

So of course I dug into the subject (for my own information; I don’t discuss GMOs in the book). Took me, oh, about four minutes to realize that finding any substantial information was gonna take awhile. A month or so later, I’d learned enough to know that most of what passes for fact about GMOs is bullshit, pure and simple.

So. Please read Entine’s essay. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “GMOs, Loony Tunes, and Reason

  1. Hi Maureen!
    A thought and a question:
    Thought: People who read Elle expecting to find serious reporting are like people who watch The View expecting a serious, data-based discussion of substantive issues. Disappointment is inevitable.
    Question: Why not just require the labelling of foods containing GMOs, so folks can make their own choices, whether based on intelligent research, total ignorance, or something they read in Elle?
    Greg

    • But I think in this case, people reading the magazine were fed a line of total bullshit, framed as a substantive report. And Elle has a huge audience. So that huge audience would come away from the article thinking there was really some dreaded thing called “GMO corn allergy.”

      In my view, that’s simply irresponsible, particularly because the author of the piece deliberately misrepresented what her experts told her.

      And it’s not clear to me who labeling will provide any information about the issues surrounding GMOs. Labels or no labels, the fact is that many people are demanding labels simply because they’ve been misled, badly, by crap like the Elle article.

      • Maureen,

        Granted it was a crap article. Granted that my perception that Elle is just a fashion picture book probably reflects not reality, but the fact that I am an old white guy living in rural NC.

        Granted that lots of folks want labeling because they have been fed a load of crap.

        But, that dodges my question: “Why not just require the labeling of food containing GMOs, so that folks can make their own decisions (even if they are dumb urbanites misled by fashion magazines)?”

        Here’s the problem, as I see it. Entine responds to the crap article by piling up the findings of various impressive sounding collections of scientists. I love science; I’m a big fan of the scientific method. The public, however, is very skeptical of authoritative pronouncements from scientists — particularly big collections of scientists. You can see this not only in the skepticism surrounding GMOs, but also in the ridiculous skepticism about vaccines and autism (not to mention, over on the right side of the political spectrum, the ridiculous skepticism about climate change).

        Why the skepticism? In short, scientific arrogance. After all, it was a “scientist” who provided the spark that lit the fire of the vaccine debate. It was a bunch of scientists who told us (for years) that there was no link between smoking and lung cancer. It was a bunch of scientists who helped us understand that there was no problem blanketing neighborhoods with DDT to control mosquito populations.

        Real scientists understand that no scientific question is ever completely settled. But they often don’t talk that way when speaking to the rest of us. Instead, they speak like the font of all wisdom addressing benighted fools. That arrogance just tends to inspire skepticism. And that’s just among the real scientists, not including the “scientists” that are just shills for some corporation or advocacy group.

        But, back to the question at hand: “Why not require labeling of GMOs?”

        That way the benighted fools can avoid them and the arrogant scientists can load up on them, and everyone will be better informed about what they are putting into their mouths.

        I can’t really see a good argument against this. But maybe you have one?

        Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

        Greg

  2. Do I have a good argument? I dunno. But let’s separate the two issues: I have zero interest in the labeling issue. I don’t care one way or the other if we have laws requiring labels for GMO-based products. To me, that’s no different than the (dumb) labeling regulations for alcohol re. pregnancy, for example.

    So let’s set that aside.

    What I object to is the ocean of misinformation being peddled by various “public interest” groups in the name of public advocacy — and it is misinformation. One example: The whole butterfly thing has been soundly, roundly debunked. Ditto the “Indian farmers are committing suicide” tale.

    And yet — groups like Greenpeace, to name one example, keep peddling those stories as fact. Why? Because hysteria is good for fund-raising, pure and simple.

    Also, it’s worth noting that the anti-GMO groups rely heavily on “science” as the foundation of their arguments against GMOs. Never mind that the science they’re peddling isn’t science at all. They’re PRESENTING it as science. To me, that’s immoral.

    So, yes, both sides are relying on “science” to bolster their claims (whether for climate change, GMOs, or whatever). And that, in my mind, is the serious issue. I don’t think the public is “skeptical” about science. I think the public is confused.

    I know I was when I started looking into GMOs. One minute I was convinced they were evil. The next I was, well, not so sure about that. It took me a long time to arrive at an educated stance — and most people are probably not willing to take as much time as I did to learn anything. (Fact is, most people probably don’t have that kind of time.)

    So I’m aware that GMOs rest in a swamp of information and mis-information. Which is why it troubles me that a magazine with millions of readers would run a screed presented as “fact.”

    But back to the main issue, which has been much on my mind. If “science” has lost its authority and become nothing more than a punching bag for various special interests, high-minded (Greenpeace) or money-grubbing (the “natural” foods industry), then I wonder: How can we make public policy about certain issues when science can’t provide anything like a grounding point?

    Science has lost its authority — so collectively, as a society, how do we decide which “facts” to use to make decisions? How can we act toward, say, climate change if even “science” can’t agree on it? How can we make decisions about package labeling if there’s no “science” to guide the way?

    Well, heh, one response is that we end up with bullshit labels about the dangers of alcohol and pregnancy and misinformation becomes public policy.

    I’m just not sure that’s such a good thing.

    • Maureen,

      Brilliant!

      That is exactly my concern: science has lost its authority, whether because of public confusion, public skepticism, or bad behavior by “scientists” lining up on either side of the issues (be they GMOs, climate change, etc.) You are exactly right that this leaves us adrift from a policy perspective, so our policy-making becomes simply a matter of who has the most raw political power, and the “science” is brought in to justify the policy after the fact.

      Sadly, I’m not sure at all how we fix it. I doubt it’s possible.

      Thanks!

      Greg

      • I don’t know how we fix it either. But I’ve been thinking about it. And it’s a question I asked the 20 people who’ve agreed to participate in a Q&A series here at the website. I just (like two minutes ago) posted the first in that series.

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