A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine throws down the gauntlet on GMO apologists. GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health
I otherwise have tremendous admiration for Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has promoted the cause of science in an accessible, assertive, effective way in his professional and media life -- particularly on the show Cosmos. I'm not singling him out on this, but mostly highlighting him in the title and here because I truly DO have so much respect for him on almost every other issue. But he is emblematic in so many ways regarding this unique, muddled, misleading debate.
NdGT's and other friends-of-science's dismissive rhetoric on the issue of GMOs has been troubling, naive and wrong. He and others have equated those who have doubts about the safety of GMO food as being equivalent to science illiterate vaccine deniers, and has a history of promoting the same ol' tired oversimplified tropes implying equivalence between hybrid, cross-bred, or similar crops like seedless watermelons or bananas, and genetically laboratory-manipulated crops like Monsanto's RoundUp Ready seeds. He has clarified some of his dismissive position about GMO critics, but again and again insisted (as though those who said otherwise were clearly ignorant) that there is no inherent, unique risk to laboratory manipulated GMOs compared to traditional agriculture.
"We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and the animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them," Tyson said, continuing to describe how different seedless watermelons, long stem roses, modern apples and other produce is compared to the original wild versions.He also completely misses the point that GMOs can cross-contaminate traditional crops and are causing massive superweed outbreaks necessitating more dangerous chemicals, just two of the reasons they are far riskier than many believe, which underscores the time-sensitive need for long-term, independent testing
In this case, Tyson was referring to traditional breeding and hybridization techniques, however, a common mistake many people make that is eerily similar to one of the Biotech industry go-to "talking points."
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Jeffrey Smith responded to Neil deGrasse Tyson in the video that can be seen below.
He also called people who question the safety of GMOs "complainers" while also admitting that the modern process of genetic modification of crops like corn, soy, canola and others is fundamentally different.
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He and others have also been dismissive of the impact of exploding pesticide-resistant weeds, the tremendous increase in Roundup and similar pesticides -- which have been listed as "probable carcinogens" by the World Health Organization and European scientific agencies.
He's not alone on this, of course. Bill Nye was a recent convert (after getting the propaganda pitch from none other than Monsanto!). And one of the science writers at Scientific American, Michael Shermer, has been outright disdainful.
Whereas conservatives obsess over the purity and sanctity of sex, the left's sacred values seem fixated on the environment, leading to an almost religious fervor over the purity and sanctity of air, water and especially food. Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs--genetically modified organisms--in which the words "Monsanto" and "profit" are not dropped like syllogistic bombs. Comedian Bill Maher, for example, on his HBO Real Time show on October 19, 2012, asked Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg if he would rate Monsanto as a 10 ("evil") or an 11 ("f--ing evil")? The fact is that we've been genetically modifying organisms for 10,000 years through breeding and selection. It's the only way to feed billions of people.This is wholesale bunk, and shows the limit of scientific literacy, in which an expert in one field, such as Shermer or Tyson, can be ignorant of other science fields. GMOs have serious issues, are NOT all created alike, and GMO foods grown with probable carcinogens like Monsanto's RoundUp are both health hazards and environmental hazards. This is now well articulated in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape. First, there have been sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops, and still further increases -- the largest in a generation -- are scheduled to occur in the next few years. Second, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate, the herbicide most widely used on GM crops, as a "probable human carcinogen"1 and classified a second herbicide, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as a "possible human carcinogen."
... But widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate.5 In the United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 -- from 0.4 million kg in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014. Global use has increased by a factor of more than 10. Not surprisingly, glyphosate-resistant weeds have emerged and are found today on nearly 100 million acres in 36 states. Fields must now be treated with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D, a component of the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.