Michael Specter explains the altered reality of anti-science GMO opponents #science #VandanaShiva


Michael Specter has written an amazingly well researched (trips to rural India) piece for The New Yorker about anti-GMO and anti-science crusader Vandana Shiva. While Specter focuses on Shiva, his article looks broadly at GMO foods and the anti-science movement that opposes them. While I am certainly not a supporter of Monsanto and their legal tactics, this article truly demonstrates the bizarre anti-science and science denial propaganda utilized by opponents of GMOs. It is a bit of a long read, but more than worth the time. Below is one of my favorite passages from the article,

Monsanto is certainly rich, but it is simply not that powerful. Exxon Mobil is worth seven times as much as Monsanto, yet it has never been able to alter the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the principal cause of climate change. Tobacco companies spend more money lobbying in Washington each year than Monsanto does, but it’s hard to find scientists who endorse smoking. The gulf between the truth about G.M.O.s and what people say about them keeps growing wider. The Internet brims with videos that purport to expose the lies about genetically modified products. Mike Adams, who runs a popular Web site called Natural News, recently compared journalists who are critical of anti-G.M.O. activists such as Shiva to Nazi collaborators.

Are GMO scientists Nazi’s? Do anti-GMO terrorists exist? #science #antiscience

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are certainly a controversial topic these days, especially because when most people think of GMO’s they think of seeds and the corporate greed associated with Monsanto. However, there are many different types of GMO’s that have been designed and used for medical research, drug production, and also food production. Scientifically, GMO’s are an extremely useful tool, and hold promise for helping society deal with all sorts of issues (example: Plants that are resistant to the ill effects of increasing levels of carbon dioxide). Misinformation and misconceptions about GMO’s are everywhere, and just last week a congressional panel decided that most Americans are too stupid to correctly interpret GMO labeling on food products. See previous posts about GMO’s from CauseScience for more information.


This brings me to the title of this post. Apparently, some anti-GMO activists (namely Mike Adams of Natural News, see his crazy post here) have claimed that pro-GMO scientists and journalists are Nazi’s, or something along those lines (it’s sometimes hard to interpret crazy babble). The article then goes on to claim that these scientists, publishers, and journalists are committing crimes against humanity, and closes with this memorable quote from Nazi’s:

it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.

C-R-A-Z-Y! While not exactly a threat, it certainly seems to be suggesting violence based on non-existent and false accusations. And is compounded by the fact that an update to the post includes a link to a website that lists names and info of journalists, publishers, and scientists that are labelled as ‘Monsanto Collaborators.’ Scary stuff.


I became aware of all of this from a news article by Keith Kloor on the Genetic Literacy Project website (check them out!). Keith Kloor also wrote an article about the Mike Adams post for Discover Magazine blog Collide-a-Scape, and both do a great job summarizing and interpreting the article. No matter your feelings on GMO’s, Monsanto, and/or ‘crimes against humanity’, I think we can all agree that this type of rhetoric is ridiculous. Worst of all, this type of anti-GMO press is anti-science and will only continue the trend of Americans being too stupid or uninformed to make decisions about GMO products (Natural News is in general very anti-science, anti-vaccine etc.). While we should all question GMO’s and the companies that are selling them, just like with other food and drugs, we should also be open to the huge benefits to be gained by current and future GMO’s.

Journalist vs scientist on genetically modified organisms (GMO food)


A recent ‘lecture/debate‘ at UC Berkley demonstrates that scientists, farmers, and journalists can find common ground on GMO food. While certain GMO foods (basically anything ‘Roundup Ready’- Monsanto) are controversial, there are less well-known GMO foods that have positive impacts (for example the Bt trait, which reduces use of pesticides). Popular opinion often villanizes GMO foods (a bipartisan anti-science position), however, a broader discussion beyond Monsanto and GMOs that only favor industrialized farming may sway public opinion in favor of responsible GMOs. Definitely an interesting topic, with hopefully more meaningful discussions in the future (soon at UC Davis?).

Ronald strongly disagrees with Pollan’s view that G.M.O. crops, broadly, are failing. She cited examples such as Bt cotton that have cut the amount of chemical insecticides applied to crops globally by millions of pounds a year. “The U.S.D.A. just reported a <href=”#.u1lqd-zdxt8″>tenfold reduction in the use of insecticides as a result of the engineered Bt trait,” Ronald said. She also cited an example of papayas that were genetically engineered to resist ring-spot virus and helped to save the Hawaiian papaya industry. “It’s a shame to demonize an entire technology because of Roundup Ready,” she told Pollan and Patel