Jennie Schmidt: The Costs of GMO Labeling


Jennie Schmidt is the proprietor of TheFoodieFarmer “Blogging about how your food gets from field to fork”. Jennie is very different from your typical Whole Foods customer, who has never set foot on a farm – she knows farming in depth. In particular she understands the supply chain – which is why she is especially qualified to write the captioned essay on what “right to know” really costs. This is the real deal, carefully researched, first-hand explanations of what is involved in establishing traceability of every ingredient that goes into food on your supermarket shelf. Read Jennie for the particulars. She closes with this summary:

Those who say GMO labeling won’t add to the consumer’s grocery bill need to go back to Economics 101 and some basic high school math.

True traceability in our food supply system will be hugely expensive.

Its likely that as a nation, we’d never capitalize all that infrastructure to achieve true traceability.

Which goes to the crux of the matter – this isn’t about labeling, as I cited in my last GMO blog, labeling is a means to an end. As noted by many activist groups, the ulterior motive behind labeling is not about a consumer’s right to know, it is about banning the technology.

Say NO to mandatory GMO labeling. Stand for science.

I liked Jennie’s essay so much that I posted the following comment:

Jennie – thanks heaps for taking the time to document some of the true costs that the “right to know” lobby wants to impose on consumers. I’m happy to see you already have a well-deserved pat on the back from Prof. Kevin Folta.

When we see such a “movement” promoting regulations that don’t make sense – that’s a good time to ask “who benefits?” If we follow the incentives we find there are a number of special-interests who are funding this campaign. David Tribe framed the smelly bedfellows as Big Quacka and Big Organic.

A concept from Public Choice economics that helps us understand how these hidden interests operate is called “Bootleggers and Baptists”. In your GMO labeling case the Bootleggers include Whole Foods and trial lawyers. Back in the CA Prop 37 fight I wrote a few posts on this concept, such as How California’s GMO Labeling Law Could Limit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor and Scott Andes: Why California’s GMO Labeling Proposition Should be Defeated.

The key idea is that the Bootleggers have learned that the best media reception is obtained by fronting the Baptists, preferably worried-looking moms holding their beautiful babies.

The Bottom Line: if you want to know about food and farming – talk to farmers, not to Greenpeace.

Are GMOs Safe? Global Independent Science Organizations Weigh In


Jon Entine at  the Genetic Literacy Project has released a very useful infographic on crop biotechnology safety. This is a summary of the unambiguous safety approvals of every national scientific academy on the planet.

This is the second inforgraphic from GLP. The first is also very useful, 10 reasons we need crop biotechnology

LSE Enters the GMO Discussion

Very interesting! Cami Ryan linked to this Agri-Pulse bulletin on the new report entitled “Feeding the Planet in a Warming World.” I just downloaded the report:

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

The prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and have entered the GMO discussion with a new report entitled “Feeding the Planet in a Warming World.” With the 39th G-8 summit to be held in Northern Ireland June 17-18, the LSE report is quite timely and significant. The agenda for the upcoming meeting established by Prime Minister David Cameron will continue the discussion of global food security started by President Obama last year at Camp David.

The LSE report offers insight and possible solutions to mitigating the rapidly growing challenge of global food security. Therefore, allow me to quote from the Executive Summary at some length:

“Even in the most ideal circumstances, diffusing existing agricultural technologies and practices is not enough to address the challenges we will face in the coming decades. In light of this, we propose several solutions. In particular, we argue that the critical, game changing solutions for building global agricultural resilience will come only from expanding the innovation and adoption of next-generation crops and agricultural practices. We need new and improved crop varieties that use less water, deliver increased yields and improved nutrition, and have built-in means for repelling insect pests, resisting disease, and withstanding extreme heat, cold, rain and drought. Agriculture will need every existing tool in the box, as well as the development of new ones, including the use of demonstrably safe crops improved through modern biotechnology, commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or transgenics…

Governments worldwide should reform GMO regulations. There is no agricultural policy change that could be adopted with more positive impacts and fewer downsides than drastically reducing regulations applied to crops improved through biotechnology. Foods derived from crops or animals improved through biotechnology have been subjected to more extensive scrutiny than any other agricultural product in human history. Humans and livestock have consumed billions upon billions of meals derived wholly or in part from these improved agricultural varieties for nearly two decades, which have sustained a strong record of safety for humans and the environment. Yet these innovative products, which are developed and brought to market with precise, predictable and safe techniques, are subjected to regulatory obstacles that dwarf those faced by older products and obsolete technologies, some with genuinely problematic legacies.”



Survey of Pest resistance to Bt crops

Jonas Kathage has posted a very approachable survey of Bt resistance issues and strategies at Biology Fortified, Inc. Jonas closes with the following discussion of both economics and resistance management strategies:

Meanwhile, entomologists are working on improving their incomplete understanding the complex mechanisms involved in resistance evolution. Recently published research suggests that pyramiding might not work as well in delaying resistance as previously thought. In the laboratory, scientists selected cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa zea) for resistance against Cry1Ac. They exposed the resistant insects and a susceptible control group to Bt cotton expressing Cry1Ac/Cry2Ab and found that the group resistant to Cry1Ac exhibited a much higher survival rate than the control group, violating the assumption of redundant killing that is crucial to this strategy. So far, despite multiple reported instances of resistant insects, large-scale failure of Bt crops due to evolved resistance has not occurred, but it may come sooner than expected.

Should refuge requirements be expanded?

This research finding is bad news because the potential of pyramided Bt crops might be lower than believed. (Actually, some scientists have been positively surprised at the long delays observed in resistance development.) Let’s assume the results also apply to other Bt pyramids and insect species (there is evidence to the contrary). What should be made of such a scenario? Should larger refuge areas be required?

Before answering that question, it must be recognized that the sustainable application of a particular technology is not a primary goal of farming. A much more important goal is efficiency. Efficiency means getting the most output (e.g. food) from a set of scarce inputs (natural resources, labor, capital). The technologies transforming inputs into outputs, be they biological, chemical, or mechanical, are valuable only insofar as they contribute towards efficiency.

When deciding whether to expand refuge requirements, policymakers must take into account that there is a tradeoff between the size of the refuge area and productivity. If refuge area increases, more plants will get damaged by pests and hence reduce effective yield. The crucial question is whether the benefits of delaying resistance outweigh the costs of these yield losses and other potential drawbacks of refuges such as the need for additional land, sprays, separation costs, and sowing and harvest times. Costs of monitoring compliance with refuge requirements must also be considered, while pyramiding will incur more R&D expenditures. (In some developing countries with larger monitoring costs, refuge requirements may be less efficient also because of natural refuge in small-scale cropping systems.) The point here is not to question whether the optimal refuge requirement is 0%, 20% or 40%, but to realize that there are costs that have to be weighed against benefits. It is possible that an arms race based on adding more Bt genes is more efficient than slowing resistance development by expanding mandated refuges.

Besides Bt crops, there is a host of other pest management options including chemical control, biological control and cultural control such as ploughing and crop rotation. Like Bt, they all have their particular drawbacks, be it risk of resistance development, low effectiveness, or environmental and economic cost. The most efficient pest management strategy depends on local context, but will involve multiple instruments. For breeders, genes producing insect toxins, whether introduced using conventional or GM techniques, are not the only route towards pest protection. There are exciting possibilities on the horizon, including transgenic plants that emit volatile organic compounds to repel herbivores or attract their natural enemies. The use of nano-silica that kill pests by purely physical means are just one example of potential applications of nanotechnology in pest management. New approaches will have benefits and costs to be assessed against existing alternatives. As of today, there are no magic bullets protecting crops from pests. But there are excellent reasons that we should keep looking for them. Bt will not be the end of the road.

Continue reading from the top…


Cassava: Africa’s key to developing a modern agribusiness industry?

Could the drought-resistant crop cassava, grown primarily in the developing world and virtually unknown to U.S. consumers, be Africa’s key to developing a modern agribusiness industry while also reducing poverty?

Some believe the answer is yes, and that cassava, which can be made into everything from flour to tapioca, could create a positive domino effect in Africa with economic empowerment leading to a reduced need for foreign food aid in impoverished areas.

“We hope to see cassava as a means of generating income, as opposed to just a staple crop, and feeding more people. It is a crop that a lot of people prefer and has a lot of advantages to other crops. It provides a lot of food security because the roots can stay in the ground for years,” said Richard Sayre, a professor of plant cellular and molecular biology at Ohio State University.

Sayre oversees the BioCassavaPlus Project, which has received $12 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 2005. The project aims to find ways to better the nutritional value of cassava and improve its shelf life to nearly two weeks from the current one to two days.

In Africa, about 70 percent of cassava production is used as food, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization. Cassava is naturally rich in carbohydrates and vitamin C, but low in vitamin A and protein and considered a staple food for roughly 300 million Africans, or nearly 40 percent of the continent.

But there are distinct disadvantages to cassava consumption in its current natural form. Its roots are low in protein and the food is deficient in essential micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin A and iron. After the roots are harvested, particular strains of cassava can produce possibly toxic levels of cyanogens that can create lethal cyanide production.

These toxins can be eradicated from the food once proper processing is completed. Women and young children, the primary processers of cassava, are especially susceptible to such poisoning.

Three years into the project, Sayre’s team has been able to genetically modify cassava to dramatically increase its nutritional value—adding protein, iron, zinc and vitamins A and E—two years ahead of schedule.

With global food prices increasing, Sayre says this is a major development in ensuring complete nutrition to people who wouldn’t likely receive it any other way.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made agribusiness development in the Third World a top priority. Susan Byrnes, deputy director of public affairs for the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, says that all aspects of agribusiness deserve serious focus.

“Our approach within the foundation’s Agricultural Development initiative focuses on the entire agricultural value chain—from seeds and soil to farm management and market access. We believe this is the only way to get long-term, sustainable results,” Byrnes said.

Nigerian cassava farmer Olu Adubifa has high hopes for the development of cassava as a cash crop. He says the further development of cassava uses would introduce farming technologies that could transform local farming into large scale farming that could feed people all over Africa, not just one local village.

Adubifa added that it’s the lack of research and technology in tropical crops like cassava that has contributed to poverty. “If it had been the United States who was blessed with this cassava, they would have done so many different things with it,” he said.

The only major objective that scientists have yet to accomplish is to increase the shelf-life of the crop, but scientists are currently pursuing promising leads that could accomplish this objective over the next six months.

“Nobody has ever fixed that in any crop, so it’s something that is definitely challenging. We have identified a way to reduce the free radicals associated with the decaying process,” Sayre stated.

He estimates that an improved cassava plant could be introduced to farmers in as little as two to three years.

“We are very optimistic that it will be a major crop in the future of African agribusiness,” Sayre said.


The GM Corn Rat Study

Neuroscientist Steven Novella examines the propaganda:

By all accounts this study looks like the perfect storm of ideologically motivated pseudoscience. French researchers Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen, who have a history of opposition to GM food, have published a highly dubious study allegedly linking consuming the GM corn or exposure to the roundup pesticide with increased risk of tumors and death. However:

In an unusual move, the research group did not allow reporters to seek outside comment on their paper before its publication in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology and presentation at a news conference in London.

So – they presented their controversial findings, which they consider “alarming,” but prohibited journalists from doing their job before presenting the results. That’s more than suspicious – I think it’s unethical. Transparency in science is critical, especially when that research has immediate implications for public safety and can have a profound effect on public opinion.

It is much easier to provoke fear than to reassure with careful analysis. It’s almost as if the researchers wanted an undiluted initial shock reaction to their research before the careful analysis could even take place.

But the internet moves fast these days, and that careful analysis is already beginning – leaving those news outlets who swallowed the press release in the dust. The New Scientist has an excellent analysis, based partly on a French blogger who has dissected the study. Problems already identified with the study include the following:

– The population of rats used have a high propensity for tumors.

– There were only 20 rats in the control group, and 80 in the exposure groups, an atypical asymmetry.

– The data reports that “some” of the test groups had a higher tumor incidence, while others did not – sounds suspiciously like cherry picking the data.

– The statistical analysis done by the team was atypical, characterized by nutrition researcher Tom Sanders as ”a statistical fishing trip,” while a more standard analysis was excluded.

– Exposure to GM corn or the herbicide Roundup had the same negative effects. It is inherently implausible (admittedly not impossible) for such distinct mechanisms to have the same effect.

– There was no dose response at all – which is a critical component of demonstrating a toxic effect.

– The researchers did not control for total amount of food consumed, or fungal contaminants, both of which increase tumors in this population of rat.

These are only the most obvious problems with the study – the kinds of things that journalists would have been told if they were allowed to show the study to other scientists before reporting on the study.

Frankly, if a journalist if given such a restriction I think they should either refuse to report on the study, or solely report about the odd restriction, or ignore the restriction and show it to other scientists anyway. The integrity of the science reporting process is more important than this one study or this one research group.

This group has a clear conflict of interest in that they have a history of strong opposition to GM foods and have published dubious researchin the past overcalling the risks of GM food. However, I do not believe that an apparent conflict of interest automatically condemns research, if the research is rigorous and transparent.

However, when you combine a conflict of interest (in this case a strong ideological bias) with questionable research methods and then squirrely dealings with the media, you have cause for concern.

Already the French government has ordered a probe into the possible safety concerns of GM corn. That seems like an overreaction to this one questionable study, but as long as they do an honest inquiry into the science the end result should be legitimate. I just hope they publicize the outcome of their investigation, even if negative, as much as the “alarming” research that provoked it.

Proposition 37 – California Food Labeling Initiative: Economic Implications for Farmers and the Food Industry if the Proposed Initiative were Adopted

There is a new paper by UC Davis professors Julian M. Alston and Daniel A. Sumner [PDF]. Particularly useful is Appendix C: Costs of Segregation, Monitoring, and Enforcement. We can only estimate these costs, but it is critically important that California voters learn how real-world agriculture works. If we could conduct a poll designed to test understanding of the process impact of this regulation, I will happily predict nearly zero correct responses.

Another valuable reference provides a quick overview of the farm gate to retail prices for organic premia: Table 3. Price Premia for Organic versus Non-organic Products in U.S. Markets.

The Executive Summary begins with this tidy summary:

A Costly Regulation with No Benefits.
Proposition 37, would impose significant costs on California’s food and agricultural industries, as well as consumers.

  •   Proposition 37 would cause food manufacturers and retailers to change the methods used to produce many of the foods Californians eat, and would make those foods more expensive. Among consumers, the burden would be greater on the poor who spend a larger share of their income on food.

  •   As well as imposing costs on consumers, and others in the food supply chain, Proposition 37 would be costly to farmers, including many California farmers who do not produce any genetically engineered (GE) commodities, because their products are often used as ingredients in foods that also contain ingredients from GE crops.

  •   Proposition 37 would impose about $1.2 billion in additional costs on California food processors to meet segregation, monitoring and certification costs.

  •   Proposition 37 would not provide any meaningful benefits, in the form of improved information, improved product safety, or an expanded range of choices for consumers. In fact Proposition 37 would reduce choices by driving some food products containing GE ingredients from the market.

  •   Imposing “unnatural” restrictions on the use of the word “natural” on food labels would mislead and confuse consumers because producers of farm commodities such as fruits, vegetables and tree nuts that are simply dried, roasted, juiced or otherwise lightly processed, in many instances on the farm, would be precluded from using the term “natural” on the product label. 

Lastly, it’s good to see full disclosure on the title page before the authors’ affiliations.

The work for this project was undertaken with partial funding support from No on 37. The views expressed are those of the authors, based on their analysis, and not attributable to any institution or organization with which they are affiliated or associated.

Norman Borlaug: “World Bank fear of green political pressure in Washington became the single biggest obstacle to feeding Africa”

While John Tierney wrote this piece in 2008, it is just as relevant in 2012. If this surprises you, then I recommend you also read Attention Whole Foods Shoppers by Robert Paarlberg.

I hope you will be persuaded to try to enlighten your “green” neighbors – that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution:

Farmers and consumers in poor countries are now paying the price for decisions made by well-fed Westerners, as reported by my colleagues Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin in their front-page article on cutbacks in financing for agricultural research. They explain how the Green Revolution faltered after Western governments and agencies slashed funds for agricultural research, partly to shift money to other areas, like environmental projects, and partly because of opposition to high-yield agriculture from advocacy groups.

If you find it hard to imagine how anyone could be opposed to growing more food for poor people, read Gregg Easterbrook’s 1997 Atlantic Monthly article on Norman Borlaug, the agronomist whose achievements through the Green Revolution may have saved a billion lives. Mr. Easterbrook wrote:

The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and the World Bank, once sponsors of his work, have recently given Borlaug the cold shoulder. Funding institutions have also cut support for the International Maize and Wheat Center — located in Mexico and known by its Spanish acronym, CIMMYT — where Borlaug helped to develop the high-yield, low-pesticide dwarf wheat upon which a substantial portion of the world’s population now depends for sustenance. And though Borlaug’s achievements are arguably the greatest that Ford or Rockefeller has ever funded, both foundations have retreated from the last effort of Borlaug’s long life: the attempt to bring high-yield agriculture to Africa.

Pressure from environmentalists was the chief reason for these cutbacks, Mr. Easterbrook reported:

[By]the 1980s finding fault with high-yield agriculture had become fashionable. Environmentalists began to tell the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and Western governments that high-yield techniques would despoil the developing world. As Borlaug turned his attention to high-yield projects for Africa, where mass starvation still seemed a plausible threat, some green organizations became determined to stop him there. “The environmental community in the 1980s went crazy pressuring the donor countries and the big foundations not to support ideas like inorganic fertilizers for Africa,” says David Seckler, the director of the International Irrigation Management Institute.

Environmental lobbyists persuaded the Ford Foundation and the World Bank to back off from most African agriculture projects. The Rockefeller Foundation largely backed away too — though it might have in any case, because it was shifting toward an emphasis on biotechnological agricultural research. “World Bank fear of green political pressure in Washington became the single biggest obstacle to feeding Africa,” Borlaug says. The green parties of Western Europe persuaded most of their governments to stop supplying fertilizer to Africa; an exception was Norway, which has a large crown corporation that makes fertilizer and avidly promotes its use. Borlaug, once an honored presence at the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, became, he says, “a tar baby to them politically, because all the ideas the greenies couldn’t stand were sticking to me.”

Dr. Borlaug didn’t disguise his anger in summarizing his feelings about greens to Mr. Easterbrook:

“Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”


My colleague Andy Revkin notes parallels in financing for energy as well as agricultural research: short-sightedness seems to reign.

 Continue reading John Tierney.

Doubling Global Food Supply by Engineering Food for All

Regarding food supply and demand: in the next forty years the global demand for food will double. We are already utilizing 35% of the planet’s ice-free land area for agriculture, an area 60 times that of all cities and suburbs. The supply to balance that demand doubling needs to be achieved at affordable prices, on a per calorie basis, using less land, less water, less nitrogen runoff, less pesticide and a smaller carbon footprint.

In a new op-ed at the New York Times, Pennsylvania State University biology professor Nina V. Fedoroff explains how we can do this:

FOOD prices are at record highs and the ranks of the hungry are swelling once again. A warming climate is beginning to nibble at crop yields worldwide. The United Nations predicts that there will be one to three billion more people to feed by midcentury.

Yet even as the Obama administration says it wants to stimulate innovation by eliminating unnecessary regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to require even more data on genetically modified crops, which have been improved using technology with great promise and a track record of safety. The process for approving these crops has become so costly and burdensome that it is choking off innovation.

Civilization depends on our expanding ability to produce food efficiently, which has markedly accelerated thanks to science and technology. The use of chemicals for fertilization and for pest and disease control, the induction of beneficial mutations in plants with chemicals or radiation to improve yields, and the mechanization of agriculture have all increased the amount of food that can be grown on each acre of land by as much as 10 times in the last 100 years.

These extraordinary increases must be doubled by 2050 if we are to continue to feed an expanding population. As people around the world become more affluent, they are demanding diets richer in animal protein, which will require ever more robust feed crop yields to sustain.

New molecular methods that add or modify genes can protect plants from diseases and pests and improve crops in ways that are both more environmentally benign and beyond the capability of older methods. This is because the gene modifications are crafted based on knowledge of what genes do, in contrast to the shotgun approach of traditional breeding or using chemicals or radiation to induce mutations. The results have been spectacular.

For example, genetically modified crops containing an extra gene that confers resistance to certain insects require much less pesticide. This is good for the environment because toxic pesticides decrease the supply of food for birds and run off the land to poison rivers, lakes and oceans.

The rapid adoption of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant soybeans has made it easier for farmers to park their plows and forgo tilling for weed control. No-till farming is more sustainable and environmentally benign because it decreases soil erosion and shrinks agriculture’s carbon footprint.

In 2010, crops modified by molecular methods were grown in 29 countries on more than 360 million acres. Of the 15.4 million farmers growing these crops, 90 percent are poor, with small operations. The reason farmers turn to genetically modified crops is simple: yields increase and costs decrease.

Myths about the dire effects of genetically modified foods on health and the environment abound, but they have not held up to scientific scrutiny. And, although many concerns have been expressed about the potential for unexpected consequences, the unexpected effects that have been observed so far have been benign. Contamination by carcinogenic fungal toxins, for example, is as much as 90 percent lower in insect-resistant genetically modified corn than in nonmodified corn. This is because the fungi that make the toxins follow insects boring into the plants. No insect holes, no fungi, no toxins.

Yet today we have only a handful of genetically modified crops, primarily soybeans, corn, canola and cotton. All are commodity crops mainly used for feed or fiber and all were developed by big biotech companies. Only big companies can muster the money necessary to navigate the regulatory thicket woven by the government’s three oversight agencies: the E.P.A., the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

Decades ago, when molecular approaches to plant improvement were relatively new, there was some rationale for a cautious approach.

But now the evidence is in. These crop modification methods are not dangerous. The European Union has spent more than $425 million studying the safety of genetically modified crops over the past 25 years. Its recent, lengthy report on the matter can be summarized in one sentence: Crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous than crop modification by other methods. Serious scientific bodies that have analyzed the issue, including the National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society, have come to the same conclusion.

It is time to relieve the regulatory burden slowing down the development of genetically modified crops. The three United States regulatory agencies need to develop a single set of requirements and focus solely on the hazards — if any — posed by new traits.

And above all, the government needs to stop regulating genetic modifications for which there is no scientifically credible evidence of harm.

Professor Fedoroff was president of the AAAS when she wrote this.

The evidence from developing countries already shows us that doubling of demand will include increased demand for meat (which requires more land and water than grain calories). So please tell me how we are going to achieve this revolution in agricultural productivity without utilizing all the available science and innovation? Must we continue hobbled like children in a sack-race?

SkeptEco: Trust our public scientists?

Graham Strouts, the proprietor of SkeptEcojust published one of the very best critiques of the anti-science, anti-GMO campaigners (e.g., Greenpeace, FOE). Graham has incorporated dozens of useful supporting references. I highly recommend that you skip right over there to read and archive. He begins with this:

Earlier this year a group of protesters from the group “Take the Flour back” marched on Rothamsted Research Institute with the intent on destroying public science, in this case a field of genetically engineered wheat. In doing so, they were not only anti-science, but anti-democracy.

Take the Flour Back march on GE wheat

Debates about controversial technology like Genetic engineering or nuclear power often come down to one simple question: who to trust? It is “normal” – for people who have not really thought about it- to be distrustful of science done or funded by or in anyway connected with Big Evil Faceless corporations, especially if they are Monsanto; and indeed it is of course standard procedure for science papers to declare any potential conflict of interest- if they do not do so, then there are double the reasons to be wary of their conclusions.

However, just because a study is funded by a company with a profit motive does not mean that the science is wrong or bad; it could just as easily be good science. The idea that corporations, in league with public scientists, would happily risk serious public health outcomes for profit seems an almost pathological level of paranoia on a par with the worst of conspiracy theories. It would clearly not be in their interests: to date, no adverse health effects from GE crops have been found; if there ever was any, it would set back the GE cause by decades. To show bad science is being practiced, you would need to read the studies, scrutinize its methods and conclusions and challenge it on its own terms to refute it- in other words, you would need to engage with the normal workings of science yourself.

This takes some study and work; much easier to just go to a dedicated anti-GE site and pull out some “report” or paper or anything really that tells us: GE is dangerous, the companies are trying to take over the world’s food supply and we should just not trust them.

But why should we trust the activist sites? This is the question I would like to ask protesters, because in my frequent debates and conversations with them, they seem quite unaware that there maybe bias and vested interests on both sides of the issue. All too often it seems to come down to a conviction that Capitalism is Bad- and therefore Wrong-and anything that attacks Capitalism is Good- and therefore Right.


Please continue reading We must trust our public scientists.