“OMG, GMO!” (Genetically Modified Hysteria)


During the March Against Monsanto, a deranged man in a Guy Fawkes mask composed of synthetic chemicals railed against the use of synthetic chemicals. GMO proponents were called Nazis, ISIS members, criminals, and Monsanto employees, which may have been the worst slur of them all considering what the speakers think of them.

Not all were that looney, however. Some preferred to calmly say that we don’t know enough about GMOs yet, or that more research needs to be done before it goes to the market, or at least that they should be labeled. However, there are 1,783 studies that collectively represent data that shows GMOs present no harm.

This is different, however, from proving that they will always be 100 percent safe under every conceivable situation. Proving the safety of a banana, be it GMO, traditional, or organic, is beyond the scope of science. No study, article, or research could ever prove this. They can only add to data strongly suggesting it.

The tested product is being measured against other items, not against the yardstick of being entirely safe under every condition for eternity. The relative risk or lack thereof is scientifically determined by using sound research methods and peer review, followed by examination of the metadata.

Claiming we need more information is not a testable idea and is not proof of danger, but instead a means of instilling worry and animosity. The anti-GMO crowd tries to take advantage of the impossibility of proving a negative. That’s why a null hypothesis is a faulty approach. A researcher could never prove that playing poker does not cause ALS. If he or she found no connection, this would merely contribute to a body of evidence that points toward this conclusion.

Until someone comes up with a study showing that poker causes ALS, the null hypothesis is what we return to: Poker does not seem to cause ALS. Bertrand Russell and Carl Sagan stated in one form or another that the onus is on the person making a claim. Those who want GMOs banned or labeled need to provide evidence they are dangerous, not just speculate that they might be. That is only slightly better than falsely asserting they have been proven dangerous, such as is being done by the Corn Nut in the top photo. I used it because I believe in getting out of the way when an opponent is making himself look ridiculous.

Do we know that getting a green belt in karate doesn’t cause anxiety? Do we know that a surge in B’s in English class doesn’t increase pollution? No and no. Yet no one expresses fear of the hypothetical breakdowns of mental stability or air quality, even though there are no studies showing otherwise. By contrast, nearly 1,800 studies make a collection of data that strongly suggests GMOs are safe. And we know that its products include golden rice, which could provide Third World children with regular doses of Vitamin A if fear-based beaureacracy could be overcome. GMOs also saved the Hawaiian papaya and can make crops more drought- and pest-resistant.

Still, the anti-GMO side remains standing, albeit on shaky ground. One company gloats that its strawberries are non-GMO, a redundancy since there are no GMO strawberries. They paste a non-GMO label on the packaging that also mentions their fruit is natural. In truth, however, the strawberries are a hybrid that has been substantially modified. It was unnatural human acts that rendered them delicious and nutritious.

The four unnatural methods of potentially improving seeds are selective breeding, interspecies breeding, mutagenesis, and genetic modification. GMOs involve one to three genes and are tested for safety before they are allowed to be sold. The other three methods affect 10,000 to 300,000 genes, are not tested, and are unchallenged by the self-appointed food safety czars.

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