Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked

By Brooke Borel

Later this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may approve the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, the first genetically modified apples to hit the market. Although it will probably be another two years before the non-browning fruits appears in stores, at least one producer is already scrambling to label its apples GMO-free.

The looming apple campaign is just the latest salvo in the ongoing war over genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—one that’s grown increasingly contentious. Over the past decade, the controversy surrounding GMOs has sparked worldwide riots and the vandalism of crops in Oregon, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Philippines. In May, the governor of Vermont signed a law that will likely make it the first U.S. state to require labels for genetically engineered ingredients; more than 50 nations already mandate them. Vermont State Senator David Zuckerman told Democracy Now!, “As consumers, we are guinea pigs, because we really don’t understand the ramifications.”

But the truth is, GMOs have been studied intensively, and they look a lot more prosaic than the hype contends. To make Arctic apples, biologists took genes from Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, modified them to suppress the enzyme that causes browning, and reinserted them in the leaf tissue. It’s a lot more accurate than traditional methods, which involve breeders hand-pollinating blossoms in hopes of producing fruit with the desired trait. Biologists also introduce genes to make plants pest- and herbicide-resistant; those traits dominate the more than 430 million acres of GMO crops that have already been planted globally. Scientists are working on varieties that survive disease, drought, and flood.

So what, exactly, do consumers have to fear? To find out, Popular Science chose 10 of the most common claims about GMOs and interviewed nearly a dozen scientists. Their collective answer: not much at all.

1) Claim: Genetic engineering is a radical technology.

Humans have been manipulating the genes of crops for millennia by selectively breeding plants with desirable traits. (A perfect example: the thousands of apple varieties.) Virtually all of our food crops have been genetically modified in some way. In that sense, GMOs are not radical at all. But the technique does differ dramatically from traditional plant breeding.

Here’s how it works: Scientists extract a bit of DNA from an organism, modify or make copies of it, and incorporate it into the genome of the same species or a second one. They do this by either using bacteria to deliver the new genetic material, or by shooting tiny DNA-coated metal pellets into plant cells with a gene gun. While scientists can’t control exactly where the foreign DNA will land, they can repeat the experiment until they get a genome with the right information in the right place.

That process allows for greater precision. “With GMOs, we know the genetic information we are using, we know where it goes in the genome, and we can see if it is near an allergen or a toxin or if it is going to turn [another gene] off,” says Peggy G. Lemaux, a plant biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “That is not true when you cross widely different varieties in traditional breeding.”

2) Claim: GMOs are too new for us to know if they are dangerous.

It depends on how you define new. Genetically engineered plants first appeared in the lab about 30 years ago and became a commercial product in 1994. Since then, more than 1,700 peer-reviewed safety studies have been published, including five lengthy reports from the National Research Council, that focus on human health and the environment. The scientific consensus is that existing GMOs are no more or less risky than conventional crops.

3) Claim: Farmers can’t replant genetically modified seeds.

So-called terminator genes, which can make seeds sterile, never made it out of the patent office in the 1990s. Seed companies do require farmers to sign agreements that prohibit replanting in order to ensure annual sales, but Kent Bradford, a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis, says large-scale commercial growers typically don’t save seeds anyway. Corn is a hybrid of two lines from the same species, so its seeds won’t pass on the right traits to the next generation. Cotton and soy seeds could be saved, but most farmers don’t bother. “The quality deteriorates—they get weeds and so on—and it’s not a profitable practice,” Bradford says.

4) Claim: We don’t need GMOs—there are other ways to feed the world.

GMOs alone probably won’t solve the planet’s food problems. But with climate change and population growth threatening food supplies, genetically modified crops could significantly boost crop output. “GMOs are just one tool to make sure the world is food-secure when we add two billion more people by 2050,” says Pedro Sanchez, director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. “It’s not the only answer, and it is not essential, but it is certainly one good thing in our arsenal.”

5) Claim: GMOs cause allergies, cancer, and other health problems.

Many people worry that genetic engineering introduces hazardous proteins, particularly allergens and toxins, into the food chain. It’s a reasonable concern: Theoretically, it’s possible for a new gene to express a protein that provokes an immune response. That’s why biotech companies consult with the Food and Drug Administration about potential GMO foods and perform extensive allergy and toxicity testing. Those tests are voluntary but commonplace; if they’re not done, the FDA can block the products.

One frequently cited study, published in 2012 by researchers from the University of Caen in France, claimed that one of Monsanto’s corn GMOs caused tumors in lab rats. But the study was widely discredited because of faulty test methods, and the journal retracted it in 2013. More recently, researchers from the University of Perugia in Italy published a review of 1,783 GMO safety tests; 770 examined the health impact on humans or animals. They found no evidence that the foods are dangerous.

6) Claim: All research on GMOs has been funded by Big Ag.

This simply isn’t true. Over the past decade, hundreds of independent researchers have published peer-reviewed safety studies. At least a dozen medical and scientific groups worldwide, including the World Health Organization and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have stated that the GMOs currently approved for market are safe.

81 COMMENTS

    • LOL. So many mistakes.

      The title says 10 claims, but the page shows only 6. Anyone noticed that?

      Maybe the first GMO crop appeared in 1994, but how many were released afterwards? Typical testing only takes several months before getting approval. Can you believe it? Medical cures take 10 years for testing, even those that are administered to a very small target population. On the other hand, GMO is consumed by the ENTIRE population, but tests only take a few months. That’s what FDA calls “safe” and “peer-reviewed”? There’s no time for peer-review nor independent tests, the product is already on the shelves.

      Independent research does exist, but they still need approval from the manufacturer to conduct the research. Which makes it biased. It’s the “tobacco science” of 21st century.

      GMO producers hate organic farming and any other non-GMO farming. They would do anything in their power to destroy the competition. Consider this case:
      GMO seed is taken by the wind to a nearby organic farm, where it starts growing. What happens after that?
      a) Organic farmer sues Monsanto for contaminating his organic field,
      or
      b) Monsanto sues organic farmer for “stealing” their seed.

      The logical answer is “A”. Yeah, right. Maybe in Sweden. In the United States the answer is “B”: Monsanto sues the organic farmer and wins. And if the farmer is broke they take his farm and make it a GMO field. As insane as it may sound, that’s how “humanitarian” GMO producers “save the world”.

      RoundUp is responsible for killing many types of pollinating insects, including the bees. Media isn’t talking enough about this holocaust of bees. Pollinating insects are necessary in some types of organic production. Knowing how much Monsanto hates organic producers, should we believe it’s an accident that their pesticide kills several types of pollinating insects?

      Killing pollinating insects is a crime of enormous proportions. Can’t believe that Richard Dawkins and friends support mass killing of bees and GMO contamination without consent. Can’t believe they are defending the multinational criminal organization known as Monsanto.

      • Good eye Optimus. 10 promised and 6-ish delivered because the other four are, even more so than those listed here, subjectively rationalized-away rather than debunked. From : http://www.popsci.com/article/science/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked

        This news article is terrible, and the cherry picking of examples, such as the relatively benign future gmo apples, for the “debunking” of entire concerns raised against GMOs is apologistic. The assertion that ‘A GMO could never be dangerous or unhealthful’ is absolutely false; As is the assertion that ‘Every GMO commercially produced is Proven safe by the FDA before it is commercialized’.

        Each and every GMO food created and commercialized is a new experiment. People, both consumers and farmers, should be guaranteed the right to opt out.

        • This is the first article I’ve read on this site and this is my first post and already my faith in this ‘Dawkins’ flavour of so-called ‘science’ is severely dented. This article is SO selective with what it reports that most of the facts concerning the situation are not even hinted at.
          Nature is intricate beyond any scientific comprehension and yet, as you and others point out the entire principle of tinkering with something you do not understand – which has already been shown to be dangerous – is not even mentioned.
          The claims are carefully worded too. For example (6) that ALL research is funded by Big Ag. Of course it is not ALL funded by them – every bit as true as saying not ALL light that reaches the Earth comes from the Sun!
          But what is to be expected of a freelance writer that can’t even count her own list?!?!?
          Surely the next article I try will be not as bad…

          • John Jul 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm

            Hi John! Welcome to the site.

            This is the first article I’ve read on this site and this is my first post and already my faith in this ‘Dawkins’ flavour of so-called ‘science’ is severely dented.

            I think you have misunderstood the nature of this site. We don’t only discuss the leading science articles.

            As you will see from some of the comments, we also discuss and analyse false claims and badly written articles to exercise critical thinking skills and evaluate what is being presented as “evidence”.

            You have correctly identified, that this is a biased and poorly written article and also picked out some of the misleading statements.

  1. Seed companies do require farmers to sign agreements that prohibit replanting in order to ensure annual sales, but Kent Bradford, a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis, says large-scale commercial growers typically don’t save seeds anyway.

    So, then, farmers can’t replant seeds. Exactly what the myth was supposed to debunk.

    • Corn is a hybrid of two lines from the same species, so its seeds won’t pass on the right traits to the next generation. Cotton and soy seeds could be saved, but most farmers don’t bother. “The quality deteriorates—they get weeds and so on—and it’s not a profitable practice,” Bradford says

      Is this the part of the point that you missed? It’s just after the bit you did read.

        • Because apples can’t be grown from seeds conventionally either. Well, you CAN grow apples from seeds, but they won’t be the same apples. You might plant a Pippen, but get some totally unknown apple from the seeds. So apples are always grafted, never planted from seeds. You do find strange apple species growing wild in verges, and you might get lucky and find a good apple from one of those trees.

          • Are you serious? So, if I get an apple, and take out the seed, I can’t plan it and grow a new apple tree?

            Of course an apple seed isn’t the same as the apple that it came from. Evolution happens. However, it is still a bloody apple. It is still the same cultivar. Variations can occur. It seems that you think that the only way to get the exact same properties is to get the seed from the seed company. So, where does the seed company get the seed from?

          • Kathy Jul 15, 2014 at 3:45 pm

            Because apples can’t be grown from seeds conventionally either. Well, you CAN grow apples from seeds, but they won’t be the same apples. You might plant a Pippen, but get some totally unknown apple from the seeds. So apples are always grafted, never planted from seeds. You do find strange apple species growing wild in verges, and you might get lucky and find a good apple from one of those trees.

            That is correct! Commercial orchards are always grafted trees, usually using the correct numbered Malling rootstock to determine a standard size and shape of the tree.

            **System Marked Down Jul 16, 2014 at 9:29 am**

            Are you serious? So, if I get an apple, and take out the seed, I can’t plant it and grow a new apple tree?

            You can plant it, but all commercial apples are hybrids which do not come true from seed.

            Of course an apple seed isn’t the same as the apple that it came from. Evolution happens. However, it is still a bloody apple. It is still the same cultivar.

            No it isn’t. They don’t come true from seed, and have to be vegetatively propagated from grafted cuttings – usually on to the numbered “M” Malling series rootstocks I mention here – http://richarddawkins.net/2014/07/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked/#li-comment-147830

            Variations can occur. It seems that you think that the only way to get the exact same properties is to get the seed from the seed company.

            Nope! Apple varieties have to be a graft taken from an existing tree. The breeders do experimentally grow new trees from seeds, but most of them are junked as rubbish.

          • The GMO genes spread on to the farms which were saving seed and developing genetics. Then the infested crop belongs to the GMO company. Often the farmer cannot pay, so the farm could be taken or there could be a secret contract to grow GMO crops which then infest the next farm and so on. That explains the rapid spread of an often hated industry. 8 out of 9 USA states which had at least 50% GMO soy acreage by 2000 have had enough farmers able to escape GMOs since 2011 so that the percent acreage of GMOs has dropped.

        • There was a film talking about Monsanto taking farmers to court because some of the GMO seed ended up in their fields. They said that farmers had used ‘seed cleaners’ in order to provide seed for the next years crop. These seed-cleaners were used much less because GMO seed needed to be purchased each year and could not be cleaned to provide the new seed.

  2. The article is notable for what it skirts over and does not explain.

    @OP – To make Arctic apples, biologists took genes from Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, modified them to suppress the enzyme that causes browning, and reinserted them in the leaf tissue. It’s a lot more accurate than traditional methods, which involve breeders hand-pollinating blossoms in hopes of producing fruit with the desired trait.

    If the genes do not cause production of any medically risky chemicals this is probably safe as a food and unlikely to cause any weed problems. Apple trees are not invasive weeds.

    Biologists also introduce genes to make plants pest- and herbicide-resistant; those traits dominate the more than 430 million acres of GMO crops that have already been planted globally.

    It then, without explanation, makes a quantum jump to the massively more complex and dangerous issue of herbicide resistant cereals which are known to leak genes into none GM crops and weed grasses, and which are likely to encourage farmers to make increased use of toxic herbicides which are likely to leave residues in the crop and in the soil!

    Scientists are working on varieties that survive disease, drought, and flood.

    Sounds like useful work!

    So what, exactly, do consumers have to fear? To find out, Popular Science chose 10 of the most common claims about GMOs and interviewed nearly a dozen scientists. Their collective answer: not much at all.

    That glibly ignores most of the real issues, which are the environmental risks, rather than the food risks, and then presents this side-tracking strawman selection of largely non-issues! – Including the flawed study on rats!

    • ” then, without explanation, makes a quantum jump to the massively more complex and dangerous issue of herbicide resistant cereals which are known to leak genes into none GM crops and weed grasses, and which are likely to encourage farmers to make increased use of toxic herbicides which are likely to leave residues in the crop and in the soil!”

      Do you have a link to a journal that supports this statement? If it is true it would undermine this article. But I’ve not seen any peer reviewed studies that support this view of environmental risk you state and I would like to see your sources.

      • mr_DNA Jul 15, 2014 at 5:45 am

        Do you have a link to a journal that supports this statement? If it is true it would undermine this article.

        This article simply presents weak arguments against GM and ignores and evades the serious environmental issues. To run together GM apples (trees which have a reproduction cycle of decades) with cereals and grasses which have sort reproductive cycles and wind pollination is an utterly false equivalence.

        But I’ve not seen any peer reviewed studies that support this view of environmental risk you state and I would like to see your sources.

        The environmental risks from pesticides and herbicides are well known, as are the potential infestations of imported or man-made invasive species. Their apples are probably not going to worth much if the pesticides keep killing off bees and other pollinators.

        The real issues are the commercial monopoly of patented seed crops, and the potential for some GM crops to spread genes into the environment damaging ecosystems, and creating pest and weed problems. There are already long-term issues of dependence on extensive monocultures.

        While many introduced crop species have been very productive, history indicates that there is a significant risk of introduced non-native species becoming invasive pests or weeds. (US Tumbleweed , – Prickly Pear Opuntia Australia, Japanese Knotweed) Any gene transfer of herbicide resistance into weed grasses, could evolve some very nasty problems for farmers.

        There are some health concern for human consumers, feeding toxins to insects in a ecosystem may produce short term increases in crop yields, but the long term consequences to the ecology need to be looked at.

        There is an article here which gives some concise explanations.

        http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/glyphosate/NancySwanson.pdf
        How are plants engineered to be insect resistant (IR)?
        Sections of the DNA from the bacteria known as
        Bacillus thuringiensis
        (Bt)are isolated and inserted
        into the plant cells by a process known as genetic transformation. The entire plant is then regenerated
        from the transgenic plant cells. There are thousands of different Bt strains that produce protein crystals
        toxic to insect pests. Particular strains are chosen to target specific plant pests. The resulting plant
        contains the Bt toxin in its cells. When the plant is eaten by the target insect the toxin binds to
        receptors in the insect’s gut, causing the gut wall to break down and allowing toxin spores and normal
        gut bacteria to enter the body. As spores and bacteria proliferate in the body, the insect dies.

        How are plants engineered to be herbicide tolerant (HT)?
        Micro-organisms are identified that are tolerant of the active chemical in the herbicide. In the case of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate-resistant enzymes are isolated from a strain of Agrobacterium.
        These are inserted into the genes of the plant via a multi-step process resulting in a plant that can withstand direct application of the herbicide.
        The stance taken by Monsanto, Dow and the other peddlers of both chemicals and genetically engineered seeds is that GMO food is “identical to non-GMO products.” They claim that genetic engineering is no different than plant hybridization, which has been practiced for centuries. It is the reason they gave, and the EPA accepted, for not having to submit GMO food to rigorous testing to obtain EPA approval. It’s up to the companies that manufacture GMOs to research and determine the safety of their products.
        Not only are the bacteria genes themselves potentially toxic, but the plants can be sprayed directly with herbicides, the herbicide-resistant plants absorb the poisons and we eat them. It’s difficult to understand how this can be considered “essentially” the same as plant hybridization.

        Europe has take a more sceptical view of safety checks being left to the companies promoting their products. – Especially as the track record of those companies is dubious to say the least!

        The problem is that commercial pressures are pressing on regardless before there has been time for long term independent studies to take place. Numerous pesticides have been rushed into production and widely distributed, only to be banned later when the consequences of their use have become apparent.

        We are still seeing escalating damage from invasive species introduced a 100 years ago – because bio-hazards are self-replicating!

        http://genok.no/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Chapter-13.pdf
        PAGE 4 of 14.
        Table 13.1. Characteristics of recombinant DNA that may alter the likelihood of horizontal transfer, expression and stabilization in unintended hosts.

        The large-scale and continual cultivation, processing and consumption of GMOs
        may result in a very low frequency horizontal gene transfer event becoming
        statistically likely. Empirically derived HGT frequencies obtained in laboratory-
        scale models are therefore of little use to understand the occurrence and impact of
        HGT in field scales.

      • mr_DNA Jul 15, 2014 at 5:45 am

        ” then, without explanation, makes a quantum jump to the massively more complex and dangerous issue, of herbicide resistant cereals which are known to leak genes into none GM crops and weed grasses, and which are likely to encourage farmers to make increased use of toxic herbicides which are likely to leave residues in the crop and in the soil!”

        Do you have a link to a journal that supports this statement? If it is true it would undermine this article.

        You could start with the OP link where they recognise this:-

        http://www.popsci.com/article/science/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked
        10) Claim: Modified genes spread to other crops and wild plants, upending the ecosystem.
        As for a GMO infiltrating wild plants, the offspring’s survival partly depends on whether the trait provides an adaptive edge. Genes that help wild plants survive might spread,

        It should be self-evident that Round-Up-Ready (ie. Round-Up resistant) crops, are anticipating increased use of Round-Up herbicide, and any weed grasses with this leaked gene expressed, will resist the sprays giving them a survival advantage.

    • Monsanto is making “Round-Up Ready” corn. I am a biochemist. I understand about inserting genes into a plant and I do not have a great concern about these genes being a problem.
      BUT, I am very concerned that farmers will use large amounts of RoundUp to kill the weeds in the field and so the corn I eat has far too much Round Up on it. The amount of pesticide used worldwide is increasing and the amount of cultivated land in decreasing – too much pesticide is being added to our food – That is what I am concerned about.

      • I agree on this point, which is why I am not in favor of GMO labeling. It simply misses the point of what we really need to be concerned about and could do more harm than good. I want crops that are disease, pest, and drought resistant, and not crops soaked in herbicide or pesticide, but a GMO label would not make that distinction and would either lead people to throw out the good with the bad, or be completely ineffective while adding cost of more packaging redesigns. Plus, the average citizen doesn’t understand the difference between public policy for expedience of getting re-elected versus policy based on science, so would perceive labeling as more endorsement their fears are justified. The original intent of the “organic” label (a term that still chafes because pesticides are organic molecules too) was to help make that distinction, but has gone off the deep end by both prohibiting synthesized fertilizers that can be applied to meet specific crop needs and reduce run-off of excess nutrients, and simultaneously to allow application of non-specific pesticides because they come from a naturally-occurring source. I would much prefer labeling of what people really should worry about — how much post-emergence herbicide and how much pesticide residue is on or in that product as it goes to market. I don’t care if the pesticide comes from crysanthemums or was manufactured by chemists; if it’s in or on my food, I still want to know about it, and that has nothing directly to do with whether a crop genetics are modified using modern technology or traditional breeding.

        • Calluna Jul 18, 2014 at 11:14 am

          I agree on this point, which is why I am not in favor of GMO labeling. It simply misses the point of what we really need to be concerned about and could do more harm than good. I want crops that are disease, pest, and drought resistant, and not crops soaked in herbicide or pesticide, but a GMO label would not make that distinction and would either lead people to throw out the good with the bad,

          I agree that the bland labelling “GM” bunches too many different products together, so it should be more specific – after all we label apples Cox, Golden delicious, Granny Smith, Russets, etc , so named GM products should be specific.

          One of the advantages of labelling retail products, is that wholesale suppliers, need to check the quality and reliability of their sources and be able to track it back to reputable producers, who are producing the genuine product, and not horse-meat “beef-burgers”, or Roundup-Ready “organic bread”!

          Many of them will not bother, and food-fraudsters will circumvent health and animal welfare requirements, with continued misuse of antibiotics in animal feed and misuse of pesticides and herbicides if products are not labelled and tracked.
          In the computer age, this can be done effectively by recording business transactions, and should not be much of an inconvenience to those who are not involved in tax fiddles or dubious trading.

          Corporations regularly squeal, when regulation requires them to do a quality job and penalises cowboy operators who put profit before people, (as the motor industry did for decades over safety regulations.) but they were eventually made to clean up their act, on safety, and to a certain extent, pollution, despite their predictions of the “end of the economy” and political stooges, organising determined foot-dragging!

    • That’s true, this is an extremely lame article and only talks about hybridization, in a speedier fashion. That is a lot different from injection virus genes into plants. That involves cross-species genetic modification. Then it states there have been 1,700 studies. But, we don’t know exactly what aspect these studies researched, or how many participants or if they were human. We don’t know the published results or if the results were positive. The 5 lengthy reports? Who funds the National Research Council? If the US government funds it, and the government has shown to be supportive of the GMO business, can we really trust their reporting?

  3. If the GM food produces seeds that can be reused but the government/companies don’t allow you to, the argument is really arguing against laws that allow companies to prevent farmers from replanting their seeds. It’s a bit like disagreeing with the copyright laws and therefore campaigning that reading should be forbidden.

    If the GM prevents the crops from making seeds, the farmer can choose not to buy them just like traditionally bred seedless crops. What is the problem here?

    Similarly with the allergies, cancer etc argument. Of course it would be possible to make a genetically modified foodplant that causes cancer or allergies. Just the same with traditional breeding. As the article suggests this should be checked in each case…which is not easy for stuff like Cancer!

    • Your analogy about copywright laws is a bit flip. I think a more accurate analogy is the nuclear industry, because of the nature of the disconnect between the pure science involved and the public ramifications of unobstructed use of the technology. I am not a nuclear alarmist, but it is hard to argue that since the science is old and well researched than we should just let nuclear industry corporations have unrestricted access to do whatever they think is profitable, whether it be weapons or power related. Yes, there are gov’t agencies that are watching and testing, but there is still a need for public involvement and monitoring, since corporations tend to have a propensity to value profit over the public interest. Arguing that corporations should have carte blanche for GMO’s just because the FDA is out there is equally naieve. Gov’t agencies are generally short staffed and over worked when it comes to research and enforcement, meanwhile fines or corporate lobbying funds to public figures are easily written off as a cost to do business profitably.

      Take the non-browning apples from this article as an example. This GMO item was initially created by a company that sells bagged cut up fruits and veggies in British Columbia, Canada that wanted to be able to package their cut-up apples without them turning brown. While it is easy to see the benefits to this for the corporation, it is hard to see the benefit to creating an apple that consumers can no longer tell is bruised or has spoiled. Cut-up fruit would just be the first step, of course. How long after supermarkets find out they no longer have to deal with consumers rejecting bruised apples, or at least a substantial reduction in the rejection rate, until all apples in supermarkets are GMO non-browning? The Canadian Gov’t banned the sale of these apples because of the dubious benefits when balanced against the potential to make consumers sick, but the American gov’t seems to be letting them go. “Don’t care about spots on my apples, leave me the birds and the bees please” is just as relevant today with unnecessary GMO products and increased pesticide usage, as it was 40 years ago when DDT was being liberally applied worldwide. I guess you think all the farmers had to do was not spray DDT if they didn’t like it. Sorry but that does not work in a global environment, where one country’s decisions can impact so many others.

      What’s the problem here you ask? The science behind GMO is just one part of the picture, and to blithely assume that corporations that have unobstructed GMO use will not place corporate profit over the public interest is dangerously myopic.

  4. I think the only way in which the public are being used as guinea pigs is in the pricing of “organic” produce.

    I’ve yet to come across an inorganic carrot!

    As far as I can make out, all organisms are genetically modified, naturally, or due to human intervention; I think, unless I’m very much mistaken, that the process goes by the name of evolution.

    Norman Borlaug’s work is too readily overlooked or ignored.

    • Stafford Gordon Jul 15, 2014 at 4:40 am

      I think the only way in which the public are being used as guinea pigs is in the pricing of “organic” produce.

      There are conflicting reports on the benefits of organic crops.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28270803

      A new scientific review claims organic foods are higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides compared with conventionally grown varieties.

      Its authors carried out an analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies looking at the composition of crops and foods.

      They concluded organic crops had higher levels of certain antioxidants, such as polyphenols, which have been linked to health benefits.

      But critics of the review said its claims had been overstated.

  5. The main hysteria over GMOs is that it supposedly is unhealthy “Frankenfood.” This claim is just ridiculous and this article clearly confirms this. The hysteria against GMOs is on a par with anti-vaccine hysteria. It is just unscientific. I am amazed that even here at RD, the bastion of reason and science, there are people who display this hysteria. I suppose a part of it is a kneejerk reaction against big corporations. The environmental argument isn’t convincing either. Mono-cropping, pesticide and herbicide use, all are issues with conventional farming methods and are not specific to GMOs.

    • prietenul Jul 15, 2014 at 5:31 am

      The main hysteria over GMOs is that it supposedly is unhealthy “Frankenfood.” This claim is just ridiculous and this article clearly confirms this.

      There is hysteria about GM crops, and this article has carefully cherry-picked the hysteria and flawed studies, while excluding the genuine scientific concerns.

      The hysteria against GMOs is on a par with anti-vaccine hysteria. It is just unscientific. I am amazed that even here at RD, the bastion of reason and science, there are people who display this hysteria.

      It can be, and it provides a ready media strawman smoke screen, behind which the commercial interests hide the real issues.

      I suppose a part of it is a kneejerk reaction against big corporations.

      Hardly surprising – given the decades of their track record of launching dangerous products as “safe”, and using delaying tactics to put off the eventual bans in civilised countries, while still exposing people to damage in the unregulated third-world.

      The environmental argument isn’t convincing either. Mono-cropping, pesticide and herbicide use,

      You are unaware of the history of environmental problems, caused by pesticides, herbicides, and monocultures?
      http://thailand.ipm-info.org/pesticides/problems.htm

      Environmental impact of misusing pesticides – http://wg-pqw.icidonline.org/pp_magdy_cairo.pdf

      Ignoring one problem is no excuse for ignoring another!

      all are issues with conventional farming methods and are not specific to GMOs.

      They are relevant to conventional farming, but not necessarily to the same extent a “Round-up-Ready” cereal crops. People can stop using a dangerous banned pesticide, and it will in decades gradually diminish in the environment.
      A toxic organism will just continue on expanding the damage.

      http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive-species/feral-animals-australia/cane-toads
      Cane toads were released in North Queensland in 1935 to help control beetles that were damaging sugar cane crops. But they quickly became pests, and later migrated rapidly poisoning native species.

      • “You are unaware of the history of environmental problems, caused by pesticides, herbicides, and monocultures?”

        Where in my comment did I say there were no issues with monocultures, pesticides and herbicides? Oh, I see, you cut my sentence in half and appended the first half to the previous sentence, trying to make it sound like I said the environmental threat from monocultures, pesticides and herbicides is not convincing. Then you highlighted the second half of the sentence and conceded what I said was correct: monocultures, pesticides and herbicides are all issues with conventional farming too. Pretty childish debate tactics but on a par with other anti-GMO hysterics. “Roundup” is used extensively in conventional farming too. What is a “toxic organism?” You mean something like anthrax? I guess anthrax “just continues on expanding the damage” whatever that means.

        • prietenul Jul 15, 2014 at 5:38 pm

          “You are unaware of the history of environmental problems, caused by pesticides, herbicides, and monocultures?”

          Where in my comment did I say there were no issues with monocultures, pesticides and herbicides? Oh, I see, you cut my sentence in half and appended the first half to the previous sentence, trying to make it sound like I said the environmental threat from monocultures, pesticides and herbicides is not convincing.

          I does look like that if you re-read your comment.

          prietenul Jul 15, 2014 at 5:31am

          The environmental argument isn’t convincing either. Mono-cropping, pesticide and herbicide use, all are issues with conventional farming methods and are not specific to GMOs.

          It looks like you are simply dismissing those serious issues in that comment! Could you clarify what you are saying, and give some indication that you actually know what the environmental and ecological issues are!

          Pretty childish debate tactics but on a par with other anti-GMO hysterics. “Roundup” is used extensively in conventional farming too.

          Really? It looks like straightforward reading of your comment! To which only ignorance is added by trying to dismiss the serious hazards of ROUTINE INCREASED pesticide and herbicide use as “hysteria”.

          What is a “toxic organism?” You mean something like anthrax? I guess anthrax “just continues on expanding the damage” whatever that means.

          You really should have read the link on cane toads which was immediately after the sentence you quote. They are a toxic invasive species which poison predators which eat them at any stage in their development.

          There is a serious risk that plants DESIGNED to poison insects, could well poison many other organisms or be passed up the food chain to the predatory insects or birds which actually keep the pest species in check! They could also turn out to be poisonous to humans in the longer term. – a bit like the now banned pesticides and herbicides, which the manufacturers previously assured everyone were safe!

          Anthrax does indeed keep spreading, if the infection is not contained.

          It seems strange, that people who can recognise the stupidity, of evolving anti-biotic resistant pathogens by misusing medication, cannot see the folly of deliberately creating and evolving herbicide resistant plants, in species known to be capable of cross pollination with related weeds!

    • Thank you for seeing the bigger picture here. I like your analogy between people that are anti-GMO and vaccine deniers. It is unfortunate that the public opinion is against this scientific technique and maybe it seems worse than it is because many people don’t fully understand it. As a scientist in this field, I would be happy to answer any questions any one would like to ask me about GMOs.

  6. The nature of this article is given away by its title!

    Core Truths:

    Asserted “truth claims”, are not science! – (as in “conspiracy truthers”, “Truth-in-Science”, Relics of “The True Cross”, and “Biblical Truth”!)

    The fallacious argument of: ” My troooffs are true”, because these strawman falsehoods are false”, is well used by propagandists, along with their vague false assurances!

    @OP – Many people worry that genetic engineering introduces hazardous proteins, particularly allergens and toxins, into the food chain. It’s a reasonable concern: Theoretically, it’s possible for a new gene to express a protein that provokes an immune response. That’s why biotech companies consult with the Food and Drug Administration about potential GMO foods and perform extensive allergy and toxicity testing. Those tests are voluntary but commonplace; if they’re not done, the FDA can block the products.

    Voluntary tests by manufactures, with no reference to this actually happening on a watertight basis, or checked with independent testing??? – accompanied by strong political resistance to GM labelling to deny consumers a choice!

  7. To run together GM apples (trees which have a reproduction cycle of
    decades) with cereals and grasses which have sort reproductive cycles
    and wind pollination is an utterly false equivalence

    Perhaps, but apples are Self incompatible, whilst cereals are almost exclusively selfing with extremely low outcrossing rates (typically less than 1%). I would put money on gene-flow in apple being higher than in grasses. I am certainly happy to multiply my homozygous cereal seed stocks in field plots without worrying excessively about introducing impurities.

    I would be very interested if you have any published examples of transgenes crossing species barriers into weedy relatives. I certainly haven’t seen any.

    Regarding farm saved seed: It was a good point made earlier that this isn’t really a myth; farmers cannot replant GM seed (or not under the licence terms at least).
    Nevertheless, this isn’t entirely dissimilar to the situation with plant variety rights (which require farmers to pay a licence fee to retain seed). I think that this really reflects the difficulty of trying to apply existing IP rights to a relatively new technology. GM varieties cannot be protected with PVRs and patents don’t seem entirely appropriate (for a variety of reasons). However, that is incidental to the technology. Claiming that biotech companies will have a monopoly if GM crops are allowed is absurd.

    • HDV Jul 15, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Perhaps, but apples are Self incompatible, whilst cereals are almost exclusively selfing with extremely low outcrossing rates (typically less than 1%).

      The low out crossing of cereals is largely to do with flower structure and climate. Under the right conditions the wind pollinated cereals scatter pollen far and wide, as has been shown in contamination of nearby non-GM crops of the more exposed pollen of maize etc.

      Examples are coming to light with companies looking like they are in denial!

      The stakes are high for America’s wheat exports, with Japan and South Korea cancelling shipments; for Monsanto, which faces lawsuits from farmers for falling wheat prices and a consumer backlash against GM products; and for the US government, which must shore up confidence in the safety and integrity of the food supply.

      The crisis for wheat farmers began in late April, with a phone call from a crop consultant seeking the advice of researchers at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The consultant had sprayed Roundup, a weed killer also manufactured by Monsanto, on some fallow land. Ordinarily, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, would be expected to clean out the entire 125-acre field. This time, however, some plants survived.

      The consultant, fearing he had come across a “superweed”, got in touch with the university and sent some plants in for testing. A clump of plants, carefully wrapped in plastic to keep them green, arrived by Fed-Ex on 30 April. Scientists separated 24 samples and tested them for the presence of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene, CP4, which was developed to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer.

      “They all came up positive,” she said. So did a second battery of tests by another lab at the university and independent testing on a different set of wheat plants collected by researchers from the Department of Agriculture. The scientists were still slightly disbelieving, however. The only chance for contamination by the GM wheat, it was thought, was from field trials Monsanto conducted in the late 1990s until 2005.

      The wheat was grown in more than 100 test plots in 16 states over several years, but the company wound down the last of the trials in 2005, because it saw little market potential. Unlike the other big crops – corn, soybeans, cotton and canola – American farmers have never raised GM wheat on a commercial basis. The US exports much of its wheat to Asia and Europe, who do not want GM products. The Oregon field trials stopped in 2001.

      “Our customers have zero-tolerance for GM wheat,” said Wally Powell, president of the Oregon Wheat Growers League.
      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jun/22/agriculture-oregon-monsanto-gm-wheat

      Given their growth-rates, you are unlikely to have a field infested with apple trees next year!

      I would put money on gene-flow in apple being higher than in grasses.

      Cereals and their close relatives grasses, on the other hand can be serious weeds in fields of other crops.

      I am certainly happy to multiply my homozygous cereal seed stocks in field plots without worrying excessively about introducing impurities.

      That is the nature of the problem of responsibility for the introduction of invasive weeds. However contamination of harvested grain, can severely affect the market price as well as posing a potential super-weed problem.

      I would be very interested if you have any published examples of transgenes crossing species barriers into weedy relatives. I certainly haven’t seen any.

      It only takes one example of a herbicide and predator resistant new invasive species to go undetected and spread, to have something like this £13.5billion on-going problem, and that’s the cost in the UK alone!

  8. System Marked Down Jul 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Specifically, the quote you gave, says nothing about apples.

    If you want details on apples, and the origins of the world apple industry – this link will help.

    http://www.theenglishappleman.com/journal_130125.asp

    East Malling is famous (and revered) throughout the World for the development of Malling Rootstocks. It has been said many times before, that if the Research Station had been more commercially astute (many years ago) and licensed the Malling series of rootstocks, EMR would have been financially secure for generations to come……….

    Most of the world production has East Malling Research Station to thank for establishing its apple industry, and stupid politicians to thank for ceasing the funding of its work!

  9. About Peggy G. Lemaux in Point 1

    http://www.anh-usa.org/empire-strikes-back-against-california-gmo-initiative/

    “Peggy Lemaux, an extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science at UC Berkeley, was recently quoted in a National Public Radio piece as opposing the initiative. She has credentials, but keep in mind that she’s a member of an agricultural science council that includes all the major biotech companies, and was recently the recipient of a financial award provided by Monsanto.”

    aspb award

    • more pesticide/herbicide also leads to impoverishment of the land, hence reduced crop output, increased rate of suicide among farmers around the world, increased soil erosion, …

      The GMO industry also aims to reduce crop variety and enforce single-crop farming around the world. This also leads to impoverishment of the soils, with in the end the same results as above.

  10. I am not convinced but I have no resources to challenge whatever companies like Monsanto pay to put to me.

    I think this is an area where healthy scepticism says “look out”. In the lab it is possible to make a dangerous gene combination by a mistake that can’t happen in nature. Nature’s requirement of only permitting incremental changes in genetics may be a a built in safety feature that we discard at our peril.

    Apparently the earliest GM foods have been around for 30 years. Hardly long enough to determine the long term environmental safety of even the oldest ones then. I’d suggest testing any GM organism for a couple of human generations in a closed environment before releasing into the wild. Good luck with getting voluteers…

  11. How about scientific studies of the toxicity of glyphosate it’s longterm effects on humans and it’s ever growing use on GM crops …

    How many scientific studies show GMO crops increases yield long-term vs conventional crops …

    How many of those 1,700 studies on GMO’s were over two years and scientifically valid …

  12. I have been a supporter of the foundation for a while now, but as of today I am done. I am tired of being berated for being anti-GMO.

    If you took the time to talk to people who are both anti-GMO and pro-science, you might discover that we have very good reasons to be anti-GMO that have very little to do with those you list above.

    The primary reason I, and many others, are against GMOs is because of the seeds that are designed to withstand massive doses of chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides. For instance, Roundup-Ready seeds by Monsanto can be, and usually are, sprayed with massive amounts of glyphosate.

    And in case you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately, scientists have shown that glyphosate exposure is related to all kinds of problems, including liver and kidney damage. Exposure to toxic chemicals is also linked to autism.

    If you want to see the effect of long term poisoning by glyphosate on a population, look at agricultural workers in Argentina.

    When talking about GMOs in the future, I urge you to consider the bigger picture, and stop short of making fun of those of us who have spent considerable time thinking about these issues, and don’t take them lightly. We don’t dismiss GMOs for the reasons you might expect. And you might also consider the lives of those affected by “scientific advancements” before you dismiss these people; it makes you look like you care more about arguing a point than real people.

    • blueislandgirl Jul 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      I have been a supporter of the foundation for a while now, but as of today I am done. I am tired of being berated for being anti-GMO.

      If you took the time to talk to people who are both anti-GMO and pro-science, you might discover that we have very good reasons to be anti-GMO that have very little to do with those you list above.

      Don’t be put off by the tabloid informed cheerleaders for industrial polluters, who applaud the nonsense out about corporations pretending their profits are the be all and end all of the economy and the human race.

      As old-toy-boy points out below, we have seen the cover-ups and disinformation of vested interests in tobacco, asbestos, thalidomide, Chernobyl, Three-mile island, Bhopal (India), and greenhouse warming deniers. The uninformed gullible just keep swallowing the rubbish the stooge media promotes for their commercial sponsors.

      As I quoted here, their UK political stooges , sold off the leading apple development research station, which had been releasing Malling rootstocks for the use of the human race, (a bit like open source software), without profiting from the the expert work they had done.
      It had to be sold off for private profit, because this was an affront to corporate monopolies seeking to dominate agricultural production!

    • I am tired of being berated for being anti-GMO.

      Is this article aimed directly towards yourself? Where oh where is the berating?

      Exposure to toxic chemicals is also linked to autism.

      Vaccines are also linked to Autism by some poor misguided fools too, we pay no attention to those people.

  13. Why has no one picked up the only real argument about GMO crops?

    I mean, whatever you think about corporations and their desire to use GMO seeds to dominate the agriculture industry and world food supply, there is a glaring issue that I think is far more damaging in the long run. GMO crops are rolled out in such quantity that it’s impossible to gauge their effect on ecosystems and environments before it’s too late to do anything about it. We’ve been modifying plants for years but usually only gradually, never in the monstrous quantities we’re now capable of planting in a single season.

    I’m not saying I’m against GMO research, I believe it could well be the key to a lot of the worlds future problems and as with all scientific endeavors it will inevitably lead to future scientific breakthroughs. But our planet is built on a fragile balance and it would be reckless and foolish to endanger the planets flora in such a massive and irreversible way.

  14. The pros and cons have been argued in many places, usually with the same arguments and accusations of anti-science being thrown at those who doubt the veracity of GM foods. despite that, I will continue to do so.

    In particular I object to the second claim, “GMOs are too new for us to know if they are dangerous” backed by the pointless argument that all test show them to be safe for humans. First of all I consider that a straw-man argument, I don’t give a toss if it is safe or unsafe to one particular species on this planet, I am much more worried about the extreme long term effects on all the other species with which we have a duty to care for.

    1700 peer-reviewed articles? How many of those are concerned about the rest of the biosphere?

    My other main concern is the honesty of private companies claiming that their product is safe. I am old enough to remember the cover-ups of tobacco, asbestos, thalidomide, Chernobyl, Three-mile island, Bhopal (India) and so on. In each case the powerful commercial companies pressured anybody and everybody, including governments to piss all over the rest of the world. Perhaps you think I am being too critical? Look at what the banks have done to the economy during the the last few years, and virtually all the governments/politicians are allowing them to do the same again.

    Destroying the world economy is one thing, destroying the human race is inconvenient for the rest of the world, but risking the biosphere, is a lot more serious.

  15. (…) large-scale commercial growers typically don’t save seeds anyway.

    Yeah, who needs small farmers when you can have global monopoles. What’s that? Your field “accidentally” got polluted by our patented seed? Aw that’s too bad. You’re going down now.

    Kind regards, Monsanto.

  16. as i understand it, the main reason for GMO seeds and plants is not more food production (though it is a by-product of the development), the modifications are to withstand the herbicides that kill weeds. the plant is ‘strengthened’ by the GMO process. that way, the farmers can spray their crops and not worry about killing their crops, while controlling the weeds. funny, though…..the company that makes the weed killer is the same one that produces the GMO seeds – Monsanto. I’ve also read that Monsanto is already developing the next generation of products – stronger weed killer (to kill the weeds that have developed a tolerance to the herbicides now used) and stronger GMO seeds and plants to tolerate the stronger weed killer……kind of like the arms race that eventually developed nuclear bombs.

  17. 4) Claim: We don’t need GMOs—there are other ways to feed the world.

    GMOs don’t feed the world. GMO companies conquer the world and “feed” their CEOs.
    You want to feed the world? Pft, well drop your patents and permit normal use of your seed. Oh no, you won’t do that. You need to “ensure continued profit”. Well, that’s why the world is hungry. Because in our twisted society, a businessman’s “right” to ensure profit is greater than a poor person’s right to eat.

    This applies to all spheres of industry, not only agriculture.
    In order for A to stuff his pockets, B needs to be exploited, and until we start seeing this as fundamentally immoral nothing is going to change in the world. The rich will keep getting richer and the poor will keep getting poorer, regardless how fancy a seed you develop.

  18. The primary problem with GMOs is political.
    The Green Left flavour of politics opposes corporations as a basic political principle. That principle attracts haters. Hate is irrational, so rational scientific debate tends to give way to irrational emotional debate.
    The science is all but settled: GMO safety is closer to scientific fact than global warming. The problem there is that the Green Left are supporters of the theory of man-made global warming and the science that supports it, but opposers of GMO safety and the science that supports that.
    Because corporations are blamed for both global warming and GMO development it’s a conundrum that favours the irrational emotional argument.
    It is expected that those endeavouring to come to terms with this double-bind will ignore the science and seek out pseudo-science that supports their set view, and they will find it.
    The internet is the perfect platform for quacks, much more so than actual scientists. I love the irony that geeks invented something that is the preferred outlet for flat-earthers, vegans, religious fundamentalists, porn and the NRA.
    I observe from many of the posts here that certain individuals have taken an entrenched ideological position and refuse to accept the data and analysis before them. Another 1,700 scientific studies won’t influence them nearly as much as one crackpot claiming one day that a GMO apple gave someone somewhere cancer.

    • Chris Jul 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      The primary problem with GMOs is political.

      Political and corporate, with big money deception campaigns.

      The Green Left flavour of politics opposes corporations as a basic political principle. That principle attracts haters. Hate is irrational, so rational scientific debate tends to give way to irrational emotional debate.

      It is one of the political hazards of working in environmental biology, that those whose “knowledge” is derived from the muppet-media and the likes of Faux News, will have been told to pretend that environmental scientists and hippy-tree-huggers are the same!

      The science is all but settled: GMO safety is closer to scientific fact than global warming.

      Ha! ha! ha! Only if you are a Monsanto or Faux-News cheerleader who has never looked at the science! The actual independent scientists know full well that there are whole loads of unanswered risk assessments to be sorted out in the use of GM and the use of herbicides.
      (“I see no problems because I have no idea about biology, medicine, or ecology”, is not a credible argument!)

      The problem there is that the Green Left are supporters of the theory of man-made global warming and the science that supports it, but opposers of GMO safety and the science that supports that.

      That is a side-tracking non-problem. What a minority of hippies think, is of little consequence, and absolutely of no relevance, to environmental or medical sciences.

      Because corporations are blamed for both global warming and GMO development it’s a conundrum that favours the irrational emotional argument.

      In the absence of understanding of the subjects, I see you buy into that analogous superficiality and argue on that basis!
      Read some of the links in this discussion and learn something about science!

      I observe from many of the posts here that certain individuals have taken an entrenched ideological position and refuse to accept the data and analysis before them.

      Perhaps you have not heard of the psychological projection you are exhibiting?

    • Neodarwinian Jul 15, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Just as I figured!!

      Great back and forth guys. Settle anything?

      I think not!!

      I think those with an understanding of science, have identified a strawman propagandist article seeking to gain unconditional support for GM while avoiding the real issues and the diversity of the subject.

      Dealing with the suitability, dietary, and environmental safety, of individual GM organisms, along with commercial desirability, is a much more wide-reaching complex subject, than simply recognising a stooge-written article which hides, glosses over, and casually dismisses, the key issues.

      Some GM developments are similarly beneficial to earlier hybridisation breeding programmes, with only minor ecological implications. Others are radical, rampant, reckless commercialism, with a very large range of far-reaching and long term, potentially undesirable results.

      Propagandist drivel like this article, does nothing to educate or explain the ecological, health and wider environmental issues.

  19. I got ONLY ONE question for all of you and for those idiots that are trying to put this GMO crap under our nose by any means (probably because they see huge profit here + reducing population and testing GMO on everyone), so question is:

    WHY DO WE NEED GMO? How did human race, or ANY other creature on this planet survived all this time??

    So it is obvious that “someone” wants to make experiments on us while doing profit..suddenly every world government approves GMO?? So its up to us to boycott this piece of crap…

    • Nik Jul 16, 2014 at 5:44 am

      So it is obvious that “someone” wants to make experiments on us while doing profit..

      That would be Monsanto and similar companies.

      suddenly every world government approves GMO?? So its up to us to boycott this piece of crap…

      Actually it is the “in the pocket of corporations” US government, which allows a pretty much free for all – along with the “no-idea but business is money”, third-world governments.

      Although it has weakened a bit lately, European governments take a firmer line, despite the anti-regulation rantings of right-wing politicians!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulation_of_genetically_modified_organisms_in_the_European_Union

      The European Union (EU) may have the most stringent GMO regulations in the world.[1] All GMOs, along with irradiated food, are considered “new food” and are subject to extensive, case-by-case, science-based food evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EFSA reports to the European Commission, which then drafts proposals for granting or refusing authorisation. Each proposal is submitted to the Section on GM Food and Feed of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

  20. I disagree w/ the first point. Gene guns have not been used for millennia. Altering DNA on the molecular level to introduce completely foreign traits (e.g. resistance to cold in tomatoes by introducing a gene from fish). You can see how this issue is mentioned casually and then glossed over: “GMOs are not radical at all. But the technique does differ dramatically from traditional plant breeding.”
    The technique differs dramatically? Then it’s a different technology and needs to be studied before marketed or consumed.

    also, “Theoretically, it’s possible for a new gene to express a protein that provokes an immune response. That’s why biotech companies consult with the Food and Drug Administration about potential GMO foods and perform extensive allergy and toxicity testing. Those tests are voluntary but commonplace; if they’re not done, the FDA can block the products.”
    This is also a HUGE concern. These tests are voluntary?!?! Do we really think the FDA is blocking any of these? Nothing is labeled, there is no way to distinguish a GMO food from a non-GMO food. There has been zero regulation from any part of the gov’t. I would love to see an instance in which the FDA pulled a GMO food off the shelves b/c they found it was unsafe. Part of the problem is that most biotech companies (e.g. Monsanto and Syngenta) have so much money and many of them end up working in or directly for congress, that their interests are what we see first. Until I see extensive testing proving that each minute alteration in the gene sequence is accounted for and proven to be safe through long-term trials, these companies have no right to force us to eat their technology. Medication goes through rigorous testing procedures and numerous clinical trials before it is able to be sold; GMOs must have an equally rigorous standard for testing.

    Lastly, I will point out that most GMO seeds are patented. So if a GMO seed gets into a neighboring farm, the company who owns the patent will sue the farmer. That is just ridiculousness, pure and simple.

  21. Interesting and easy to understand article. There are 2 questions I have:
    1) I see only “6″ myths, but the title says “10″? I came here through the Richard Dawkins site, and it only displays the first 6.
    2) Why is none of this cited, as much as I am in agreement of what this article says (I’ve done my own back-referencing on other articles in the past), there needs to be links to journals and such that are quoted here. Fact is, people are lazy and want things at their fingertips (or they dismiss the content), they will never “search” for journals and whatnot to verify that all of this isn’t just smoke blowing out of someone’s rear. Normally, when I read an article such as “why immunization is bad for humanity”, the first thing I do is look for proper links to proper journals and studies. When there are none, I get to say “you’re full of crap unless you can prove these statements come from reputable sources”. I would love to share this link, except for the lack of back referencing. Maybe I just missed all the references somehow? In that case, make them more obvious? Simply stating that the source is from Popular Science still does not allow one to do an easy click and reference.

    Fantastic article, none the less.

    • Melonie Jul 16, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      Interesting and easy to understand article.

      I fine work of simplistic propaganda aimed at those who cannot spot all the missing issues and recognise the unjustified plausible assurances.

      Maybe I just missed all the references somehow?

      Or more likely the author did not want you to see the ones which expose the article as misleading contrived PR sales advertising for GM products, and skirting over the lack of supervision in the US I pointed out earlier!

      In that case, make them more obvious?

      That would expose the complexity of the problems and the cherry picking.

      Fantastic article, none the less.

      Yep! For an author who apparently cannot differentiate between tweaking the odd gene, and creating herbicide resistant plants, or crops incorporating toxic insecticides, to pose as an authority on the subject giving a balanced scientific view, in indeed “fantastic” in its blatant dishonesty!
      Still that’s the world of corporate advertising and sponsorship!

  22. @OP link – In May, the governor of Vermont signed a law that will likely make it the first U.S. state to require labels for genetically engineered ingredients; more than 50 nations already mandate them.

    And quite rightly too. People are entitled to know the ingredients of their food.

    10) Claim: Modified genes spread to other crops and wild plants, upending the ecosystem.

    And this is allegedly debunked???

    The first part could certainly be true: Plants swap genetic material all the time by way of pollen, which carries plant DNA—including any genetically engineered snippets.

    Yep! that’s a serious risk!

    According to Wayne Parrott, a crop geneticist at the University of Georgia, the risk for neighboring farms is relatively low.

    Really?? I wonder why contamination keeps happening and organic farmers lose their premiums.

    For starters, it’s possible to reduce the chance of cross-pollination by staggering planting schedules, so that fields pollinate during different windows of time. (Farmers with adjacent GMO and organic fields already do this.)

    Of course finding the optimum time to harvest a crop is the key to viable agriculture, so why should organic farmers have to use sub-optimum timing because of inconsiderate GM. neighbours?

    And if some GMO pollen does blow into an organic field, it won’t necessarily nullify organic status.

    But it usually does, when GM is detected in the organic sample crop.

    Even foods that bear the Non-GMO Project label can be 0.5 percent GMO by dry weight.

    That’s legislation not science!

    @OP link – As for a GMO infiltrating wild plants, the offspring’s survival partly depends on whether the trait provides an adaptive edge. Genes that help wild plants survive might spread, whereas those that, say, boost vitamin A content might remain at low levels or fizzle out entirely.

    Mmmmmm. Like Round-Up resistance, in a regularly sprayed monoculture evolving super-weeds!

  23. To the people who are arguing about the effects some genes can have on the rest of the plant: Breeders have used for many years wild relatives of commercial crops as genetic source for several traits. Some of these wild species are not edible, some naturally produce by-products that might be dangerous for human health, or simply reduce the quality of the product to be traded. How have they screened for the “good plant”? By testing, and for sure that includes the FDA. Did you know that banana is a sterile hybrid, propagated by cuttings, whose “natural” progenitors are not edible?

  24. Felipe Jul 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    To the people who are arguing about the effects some genes can have on the rest of the plant: Breeders have used for many years wild relatives of commercial crops as genetic source for several traits. Some of these wild species are not edible, some naturally produce by-products that might be dangerous for human health, or simply reduce the quality of the product to be traded.

    This is true, but rather simplistic. GM goes a long way further than adding genes from related plants, when inserting genes from species which are not even plants!

    How have they screened for the “good plant”? By testing, and for sure that includes the FDA.

    I don’t have a problem with this type of breeding and testing.

    Making a plant naturally contain insecticide, or resist heavy use of herbicides, is a totally different level of complexity and risk to both food safety and to accidentally poisoning wildlife, insect pollinators etc. damaging the ecology, or creating super weeds.

    Did you know that banana is a sterile hybrid, propagated by cuttings, whose “natural” progenitors are not edible?

    Yep! The supermarket banana is most likely the common variety Cavendish, an autotriploid of Musa acuminata. http://polyploidy.org/index.php/Parade_of_Polyploids#Banana

  25. One frequently cited study, published in 2012 by researchers from the
    University of Caen in France, claimed that one of Monsanto’s corn GMOs
    caused tumors in lab rats. But the study was widely discredited
    because of faulty test methods, and the journal retracted it in 2013.

    This study was peer reviewed and republished, I believe.

    And NO MENTION of PESTICIDE USE. The use of pesticides is what many people have a problem with!!! Are we to believe from reading this article that GMO crops are just SOOO amazing that they resist insects, drought bugs, and all other evils so that no pesticides are needed. Now if that was true, people probably wouldn’t be as annoyed with GMOs. But, that is not the case, is it? They are in fact trying to approve upping the amounts and the potency of the pesticides being sprayed on crops, namely cotton crops in Texas at this time, as well as many other types of crops I am sure. Not to mention Roundup Ready Soybeans and Bt corn that actually produces its own pesticide (at perfectly safe levels I’m sure!!). Sounds tasty. GMOs may have had a noble beginnings trying to feed the world, but, now they are ruining the soil, creating superweeds, and providing people with lots of tasty pesticides in their diets. Other countries are banning them. Why would this be if they are so wonderful and safe? Monsanto executives are selling large portions of their stock, why would this be? I’ll try to eat as much Organic as I can until further research is conducted. And hey….if they are soooooo great and safe, label them! Label them as GMOs and list the pesticide content in each piece of fruit and veggie and all the processed foods made with RoundUp Ready Soybeans! I’m sure consumers would buy that right up, because they are so safe and wonderful and sound appetizing!

  26. It’s quite simple : I don’t want to eat GMO foods, as I don’t think we have enough evidence to know that they are safe. I reserve the right to be skeptical about the food I eat.

    I also know that what is considered healthy yesterday can suddenly be found to be unhealthy tomorrow. I could go on a tangent but I won’t bore you with my frustrations in trying to find out what is healthy.

    So I just want the option to choose, just like I can choose biological products or fair trade products.
    So simply label it, and I’ll make sure to avoid them. Then, when I’m comfortable that it’s safe, I’ll probably change my mind about it.

    But if you don’t have the honesty to label what’s in your products accurately, then I’m not going to be comfortable buying your products. And that has nothing to do with GMO, but everything to do with trust and respect for your consumers.

  27. As a molecular plant scientist I feel like I should chime in here. It is important to separate the corporations from the science. Let me be clear, I do not support the decisions and practices of companies like Monsanto but I will defend the science of GMOs. It is important to realize that it is not just corporations but some of the USA’s best universities that are researching and creating GMOs. I am a member of one such university.

    GMOs are extensively tested before commercial release. There are no surprised in there; the whole genome of the plant is screened. And it usually takes much more time than ‘a few months.’ These plants are carefully designed and reviewed by scientists.

    GMOs have many benefits and without them we would not be able to grow food on such a large scale. Many GMOs are needed for resistance to diseases such as fungal infections that would otherwise devastate our crops or require application of harmful chemicals. That being said, there are also herbicide resistant GMOs that do allow farmers to use more herbicide, but nothing is perfect. What about the GMOs that only have increased nutritional value. No harm there. Also, think of the chemicals required for successful farming without using GMOs, overall that is much greater.

    As a scientist I cannot be against information, but I feel that labeling GMOs is misleading. Genes are not an ingredient; may as well put the soil type the plant was grown in on the package. Maybe put GMOs: scientifically tested and safe.

    And finally I would like to point out that food that is advertised as non-GMO is still technically genetically modified. A technique called mutagenesis is used to improve crops while still being able to market them as non-GMO. This is a lot ‘messier’ and more time consuming than just inserting your gene of interest but seems to be little to no public awareness of this method.

    In this monoculture agricultural system that we have, we simply need GMOs to be able to grow these plants; to stay a step ahead of the faster-evolving insects, bacteria and fungi that are destroying our crops. Even without monoculture, GMOs are still a useful technology.

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