Label Thumpers

Apr 5, 2016

Photo credit: Robyn Beck/Getty Images

By Daniel Engber

The fight over genetically modified ingredients is almost over. The industry is backing down. In the next few months, one way or another, packaged foods made with GMOs will be labeled at your supermarket.

The only question that remains is how, exactly, the labels will be regulated and to what extent. The first state law to require GMO disclosures, passed two years ago in Vermont, comes into force this July, and recent efforts to reverse it—in the courts and in Congress—have failed. Now the big players in the food industry are lining up to make concessions to widespread public sentiment and to stave off conflicting and confusing legislation. In January, the Campbell Soup Co. (which also manufactures Swanson broths, Pepperidge Farm cookies, and V8) promised it would label all its U.S. products to indicate which contain ingredients derived from GMOs. Last week, General Mills and Mars Food made a similar announcement, and then so did Kellogg and ConAgra.

For huge companies like these, the real-life facts about GMOs—I mean, the facts about their actual effects, or noneffects, on human health and the environment—are secondary. So what if advocates for labeling come off as anti-science zealots or denialists with no more respect for expert consensus than a bunch of climate skeptics? So what if study after study shows that GM foods are safe? The people want what they want. Transparency sells.

If you’re the kind of person who frets over Americans’ lack of scientific literacy, this accommodationist position may send you into a sputtering rage. A person’s right to know, you might contend, should be in balance with his or her right to avoid unnecessary panic. The mere presence of a label has dire implications. It tells consumers that there is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between GMO and non-GMO ingredients—a “material“ difference in the language of the Food and Drug Administration—and one that should be taken seriously. Yet “genetic modification” describes a process, not an end result, and there’s no evidence that this process leads to special risks. Some bioengineered options on the supermarket shelf could be better for your health than other products. Some could be better for independent farmers and their families. And some could be worse. The scarlet GMO blankets all this variation and replaces it with dread.


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45 comments on “Label Thumpers

  • I expect it will simply become like the label “Organic”, which commands a premium price compared to similar produce without that label. Non-GMO will become a premium label, bought at higher price by those who think its worth the difference, and can afford it. And every now and then in response to a scare, there’ll be a spike in Non-GMO and Organic sales, as consumers exercise their right to choose.

    Those who oppose mandatory labeling seem to have no good intent.



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  • @OP A person’s right to know, you might contend, should be in balance with his or her right to avoid unnecessary panic.

    The claims that an uneducated public may misinterpret labels is a very lame argument against proper labelling of ingredients and sources.

    The mere presence of a label has dire implications. It tells consumers that there is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between GMO and non-GMO ingredients

    In the case of “Round-up-Ready” resistant cereals, there are very real differences in potential contamination, and in potential environmental damage.

    —a “material“ difference in the language of the Food and Drug Administration—and one that should be taken seriously.

    There are indeed differences between intensive factory farming and sustainable systems maintaining biodiversity.

    Yet “genetic modification” describes a process, not an end result, and there’s no evidence that this process leads to special risks.

    That is simply a false claim! While most of the foods are generally as safe as those from other sources, there are considerable environmental risks from some forms of GMO, and there are also risks of further loss of genetic diversity in food-crops as corporations seek commercial monopolies in areas such as seed marketing.

    Some bioengineered options on the supermarket shelf could be better for your health than other products. Some could be better for independent farmers and their families. And some could be worse.

    Which is why proper labelling should enable people to make judgements on these issues, along with expert comments in reputable publications about any problems!

    The scarlet GMO blankets all this variation and replaces it with dread.

    I think the “dread” is in the corporations indulging in environmentally reckless experiments, and attempts to achieve gene patents and supply monopolies, dreading the public achieving the ability to track their products back to their activities!
    Hence the emotive language and the propaganda campaign!



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  • as consumers exercise their right to choose. Those who oppose mandatory labeling seem to have no good intent.

    Yes. Because expecting people to make mature intelligent decisions based upon factual evidence (aka: the right to choose) has worked out soooooooo well with the vaccination program hasn’t it?



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  • ANTIcarrot #3
    Apr 7, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Yes. Because expecting people to make mature intelligent decisions based upon factual evidence (aka: the right to choose) has worked out soooooooo well with the vaccination program hasn’t it?

    Well yes! – Apart from in some backwaters where media promotion of anti-science quackery, or religious nuttery, is allowed to mislead the ignorant and gullible!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/04/unsurprisingly-the-children-of-anti-vaxxers-are-the-biggest-victims-of-measles-outbreaks/#li-comment-201352



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  • I will never understand why Skeptics and Athiest sites have taken on GMO’s, organic gardening/sustainable agriculture, and labeling food products. It’s about choice. Informed choice. I have good reasons why I want all the information I can get about what I put in my body.



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  • For huge companies like these, the real-life facts about GMOs—I mean, the facts about their actual effects, or noneffects, on human health and the environment—are secondary. So what if advocates for labeling come off as anti-science zealots or denialists with no more respect for expert consensus than a bunch of climate skeptics? So what if study after study shows that GM foods are safe? The people want what they want. Transparency sells.

    So what if the Richard Dawkins Foundation website has been invaded by populist, agenda-driven language? Most GMOs have no known ill-effects for humans as far as is known today, that might be true. But a secondary danger of GMOs is the use of ever more aggressive pesticides. The genocide of the bees has been triggered by a pesticide. There are endless reports about the dangers of the infamous Round-Up. And now companies want to genetically modify plants to be immune to potentially even more harmful pesticides? To me, that’s the main issue. And at the end of the day it comes down to trust. I do not trust the company that makes the most aggressive pesticides in the world to use GMO for good.



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  • Willi Kampmann #6
    Apr 9, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Willi,

    So what if the Richard Dawkins Foundation website has been invaded by populist, agenda-driven language?

    The posting of articles here, does not imply endorsement of the views in them.

    Articles are posted for critical analysis and evidence based commentary.

    Your comments raise relevant points, following on from similar issues I raise @#2.



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  • Willi,

    I have seen numerous papers dispelling the notion of “the genocide of the bees” and numerous endorsing it. Hive death is common and a part of nature. I remain skeptical on bees as it seems to be one of the science denial positions of the left, at the moment, along with vaccine efficacy and GMOs.



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  • Willi,

    Also, I don’t see how this is relevant.
    “I do not trust the company that makes the most aggressive pesticides in the world to use GMO for good.”
    Why? They want to kill pests, which reduce crop yield, and that means that they will use GMO tech for evil? I don’t understand that reasoning at all. Also, the “organic” pesticides are more dangerous and used in greater quantities than the synthetic ones used on conventional crops. Like Dow used to say “Better Living Through Science”.



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  • Prime8 #8
    Apr 19, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    I have seen numerous papers dispelling the notion of “the genocide of the bees” and numerous endorsing it.

    There are no credible papers “dispelling” the exceptionally high figures on hive death. The scientific arguments are about which of the many causes is responsible in particular cases.

    https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder

    Why It’s Happening

    There have been many theories about the cause of CCD, but the researchers who are leading the effort to find out why are now focused on these factors:

    Increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honey bees).

    New or emerging diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema.

    Pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control.

    Stress bees experience due to management practices such as transportation to multiple locations across the country for providing pollination services.

    Changes to the habitat where bees forage.

    Inadequate forage/poor nutrition.

    Potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors identified above.

    Hive death is common and a part of nature.

    Hive death at the current levels, is anything but a normal part of nature.

    I remain skeptical on bees as it seems to be one of the science denial

    There is certainly science denial in those who deny the drastic reductions in bee populations, levels of die off, or specific identified causes.

    science denial positions of the left,

    Sticking strawman political badges on particular viewpoints, shows the lack of a credible evidenced argument to challenge the views.



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  • As a science-loving advocate of GMO labeling, I resent that! Testing has shown that GMO products won’t kill people in the immediate future. There has been no testing that I know of to show that the proliferation of GMO products has nothing to do with the increased incidence of food allergy.

    I have Celiac disease and cannot eat wheat or anything containing gluten, so I’m very careful what I eat. Millions of parents struggle with providing food for children with food allergies which might kill them with anaphylactic shock.

    We have a right to know what is in our food, a right to know whether Roundup or other toxic substances went into the environment in growing it, and a right to know whether the strawberries we eat have been injected with salmon genes.

    Some people whine about the government restricting their choices, but they are just fine with Monsanto foisting products such as GMO’s on an unsuspecting public that many of us don’t want to eat.

    “Uneducated public?!?” How dare you?



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  • “So what if study after study shows that GM foods are safe?”

    So far! I’m sick of the pro-GMO crowd trying to take the scientific high ground on this by claiming some of us are rejecting GMO’s in a “religious fervor.” Good scientists know that ALL knowledge is just provisional until it is proven wrong. This is why experiments on new technologies are controlled in small, contained trials. Where is such a trial for GMO’s measuring the long-term health impacts on ecosystems and individuals? What’s that? You can’t really test and prove such a thing? Then maybe you shouldn’t tamper with it since it’s incredibly important. Doing so requires….a leap of faith on YOUR part.



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  • Miriam #12
    Apr 27, 2016 at 11:34 am

    “Uneducated public?!?” How dare you?

    Propagandists marketing dubious products and producing disingenuous arguments, love to pretend that their critics are “uneducated”! (ie. Have not uncritically swallowed their cherry-picked, biased, claims.)

    This is their ploy to seek support from the genuinely uneducated sections of the community, by posing as expert authorities, when they are simply propagandists for commercial interests!

    As you pointed out, their arguments are notable by the relevant subjects which are glossed over or totally omitted from their presentations. (allergies, environmental impacts, commercial monopolies etc.)



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  • Ed Gibney #13
    Apr 27, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Where is such a trial for GMO’s measuring the long-term health impacts on ecosystems and individuals? What’s that? You can’t really test and prove such a thing?

    Where there have been field trials of GMO crops, there has been plenty of evidence of leakage of GM genes into surrounding crops and related weed species!
    Agriculture really does not need the risk of herbicide resistant invasive grasses containing leaked Round-up-Resistant genes!

    In wind pollinated crops, the released pollen blows around for miles from the GM sites!
    (Some cereals only release their pollen under some occasional weather conditions – but it can be released!)



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  • This article claims that anti-GMO advocates are anti-science, but the jury is still out on whether there are negative health effects from introducing foreign DNA into plants and animals. The DNA to be introduced is from a bacteria that has acquired Roundup or other pesticide resistance. It is attached to some viral DNA, in order to infect the plant cells that are grown in tissue culture. In order to select for those plant cells that have taken up the bacterial/viral DNA, another gene is used that confers antibiotic resistance to the cell, which allows the scientist to select those cells that have the bacterial and viral DNA by killing the ones that have not taken it up.

    So, the GMO plants have pesticide resistance genes, antibiotic resistance genes, and other viral genes. How the proteins from these genes interact with other elements of the plant’s cells is unknown. Gene expression of other plant genes is sure to be affected, as DNA is not a linear structure of A, C, T, and Gs in real life, but is a three dimensional molecule. The structure can determine which RNAs are expressed or suppressed, affecting a myriad of proteins and other cellular functions.

    Most of the studies I have seen simply state that the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content are similar between GMO and normal foods. I think this should be looked at in more detail. For instance, it is known that organically grown tomatoes have a higher Vitamin C content than non-organic. Many of the health benefits of foods go beyond their utility as fuel.

    Roundup kills bacteria in the soil as well, modifying the environment in which the plant grows. It is unknown whether eating Roundup resistance and antibiotic resistance genes in our foods can transfer those capacities to the bacteria in our gut.

    To claim that these thoughts are religious hysteria is nothing more than a smear campaign. Remember, DDT was good for you too.



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  • I was shocked to see this post on the RDF site. It might be possible to show that a GMO soy bean is as nutritious as a non-GMO soy bean, but this does not begin to address the vast ecological ramifications of growing that GMO soy bean. If foods are labelled properly I will not purchase a product which contains GMOs, not because I doubt its nutritional value, but because I would be supporting companies, like Monsanto, which operate within a short-term profit seeking ideology which sees no harm in releasing technology, such as “terminator seeds”, into nature without adequate consideration of ecological consequences or sociological effects in poor nations. I welcome labelling which will allow me to make consuming a politically meaningful act.
    I am an atheist and a scientist.



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  • To @Alan4discussion

    In one of your comments [ #7 ] , you wrote :

    "The posting of articles here, does not imply endorsement of the views in them."

    What do you mean, ”does not imply endorsement of the views in them” ?

    OF COURSE IT DOES ! Fortunately, it does ! RDFRS is not a ”general informations” site, supposed to deliver a (so-called) ‘neutral’ point of view, but a very militant site (in the best meaning of the term), fighting tooth and nail to promote rational thinking in this world of irrational madness and religious obscurantism !

    As a (very staunch) subscriber of the newsletter ^ ^, I received today April 27th, the much-awaited e-mail announcing the contents of the current issue.

    Here is what I could read :

    ''Anti-GMO : 'Religion" wins / Reason loses"

    Hi x-bone,

    [...]

    Unfounded fear [emphases are mine] is changing the way the United States labels much of its food. Vermont’s law requiring labels on groceries that include GMOs takes effect soon, and many large food companies have decided to use this labeling on their products nationwide, not just in Vermont. Slate ridicules such labeling for singling out foods that are perfectly safe a victory for "theology rather than epidemiology.”

    And it is signed :

    Robyn Blumner
    President & CEO, Richard Dawkins Foundation
    CEO, Center for Inquiry

    So don’t tell me that the RDFRS doesn’t ‘endorse’ this very partial and one-sided stance. I’m pretty sure that Robyn knows pretty well what she’s doing when she affixes her name and qualifications to the introductory e-mails sent to subscribers… She’s a big girl, you know ? ;-D

    And that’s precisely what worries me.

    Not only has RDFRS repeatedly published dithyrambic articles in the past, presenting GMOs, again and again, in a very flattering way…. but they never uttered a word about the other aspects of the GMO’s global system —environmental catastrophe, unacceptable social consequences in Third World countries (as well as in developped ones), pure scandal with the Round-Up chemical poisoning, Monsanto quasi-monopoly and its economical aberration, etc.

    Each time, apparently, they have remained insensitive to the vivid contestation that ‘raged’ (!) in the great majority of FRS followers’ comments —let’s just have a look, again, at all the dissent posted around here.

    Even worse : these articles systematically scorn the opponents to this ubuesque political, commercial and technical policy, labelling these opponents ”religiously biased”, and ”anti-science” !

    Wow…. No less !

    I would like to address the managing team of our dear FST, and tell them :

    Most of your readers --if not all-- are dedicated atheists. Therefore, it is assumed that they use strong, healthy rationalism to make up their mind about current topics. Thus, telling them that they are ''religiously biased'' as soon as they don't get along with the propaganda of transnational companies who claim that ''GMOs will better our world''..... is really missing the point.

    Moreover, doing so, RDFRS typically SHUNS all the social, commercial and political aspects of the topic, which –as everyone can admit– are not part of the decision-making domain of science.

    Taking a public position on such a complex topic –and despising any other stance– based on an exclusive scientific point of view, as if it was the only one that should be taken into account.. is just mere scientism.

    We all contend that RDFRS knows better !



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  • x-bone #19
    Apr 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    To @Alan4discussion

    What do you mean, ”does not imply endorsement of the views in them” ?

    I mean that articles are posted for analysis and comment.
    This includes articles which are badly written, illogical, or biased.
    These are dissected, analysed, and where appropriate, debunked in the comments on them which follow.

    Views posted by individuals are personal opinions – hopefully reasoned and supported by evidence, but likewise, open for discussion.

    Surely you don’t think the site is endorsing Sarah Palin’s ideas by posting them here!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/04/sarah-palin-doesnt-think-bill-nye-is-a-real-scientist/



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  • “Not only has RDFRS repeatedly published dithyrambic articles in the past, presenting GMOs, again and again, in a very flattering way…. but they never uttered a word about the other aspects of the GMO’s global system —environmental catastrophe, unacceptable social consequences in Third World countries (as well as in developped ones), pure scandal with the Round-Up chemical poisoning, Monsanto quasi-monopoly and its economical aberration, etc.”

    This is the type of unscientific hysteria that just makes me sick here at RichardDawkins.net. We pay lip service to every other kind of science, but when it comes to GMOs, we just turn off our reason and resort to fear-mongering hyperbole. The scientific consensus on the safety of GMO foods is overwhelming. According to that recent PEW Research poll of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (over 125,000 scientists), that consensus is even STRONGER than the scientific consensus on man-made global warming! No, the Luddites resort to Argumentum ad Monsantum to throw the whole scientific field of gene engineering under the bus. No matter that many other companies use it, that universities and research outfits all over the world are also using it to find solutions to nutritional deficiencies and plant diseases. Any food derived through genetic engineering needs a big scarlet GMO on it! “We have the right to know ingredients and sources.” Genetic engineering is not an ingredient!!!! You need to know the source of perfectly healthy food? I’m sure some White supremacist would love to know if food was made by Jews and African-Americans. Well, they have a right to know the source, don’t they? If we have to pander to your prejudice, why not theirs??? I stand with American farmers, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins and the entire scientific consensus: GMO foods are safe. They have been grown for almost 30 years now. Not a single dire consequence predicted by the anti-science crowd has ever occurred. It’s time for us at the Richard Dawkins Net to completely embrace science, and not be so backward in this one area.



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  • prietenul #21
    Apr 27, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I’m sure some White supremacist would love to know if food was made by Jews

    Actually, they don’t need the ad-hom of “white supremacist” where dubious production methods are identified on labels.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34786607

    The European Commission has issued new guidelines for the labelling of some products made in Israeli settlements on occupied land.

    Agricultural produce and cosmetics sold in EU member states must now have clear labels showing their place of origin.

    Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said the EU “should be ashamed of itself”.

    .. . Indulging in projection, while speaking as a bigot with no shame!

    The EU considers settlements built on territories occupied by Israel in 1967 to be illegal under international law, but Israel disputes this position.

    The EU says settlements constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.

    For products from West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, the expression “Israeli settlement” or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. So, “product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)” or “product from West Bank (Israeli settlement)” could be used.

    Products from the West Bank not originating from settlements could be labelled “product from Palestine” or “product from West Bank (Palestinian product)”.



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  • prietenul #21
    Apr 27, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    This is the type of unscientific hysteria that just makes me sick here at RichardDawkins.net.

    Of course there is nothing “unscientific” about looking at environmental impacts or commercial abuses, so it really is a strawman argument to pretend that food safety is the exclusive issue. There is more to managing the planet and food production, than maximising this year’s production and profit from individual fields!
    (and some GMO crops have even failed to do that when in trials.)

    We pay lip service to every other kind of science,

    Some of us actually understand and promote science and scientific thinking.

    but when it comes to GMOs, we just turn off our reason and resort to fear-mongering hyperbole.

    Unfortunately GMO cheerleaders do just that! – Even when key issues have been pointed out to them in earlier discussions!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/07/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked/#li-comment-147776

    The scientific consensus on the safety of GMO foods is overwhelming.

    . . . . On selected products, … . While most of the other key issues remain unaddressed.



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  • Science is not the issue. This is about US agribusiness and the appropriate use of technology.

    US agribusiness would be having an easier time of it if they hadn’t screwed our health prospects over with antibiotics for a more profitable meat trade.

    Underwrite bio-diversity and they’ll have a better reception. Guard against the loss of the manifold smaller scale breeding operations that meet the problems of local and particular environments, that ensure folk aren’t pressured by the new monopolies, and they could fix some more of their image problem. Do the research on “Nightmare Scenarios” with an independent academic institution to prove the emptiness of the concerns (like klebsiella planticola cranked up to create 10 or twenty times as much alcohol.) Stop buying politicians and creating bogus centres of independent advice, confirming to folk that monopoly is exactly within your capacity and buying power. Treat the opposition with open handed honesty. Stop actually looking like the bad old industry of the previous decade and the one before that. Just for once accept that it is not simply about the science…



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  • Robin #27
    Apr 28, 2016 at 2:42 am

    How to label for GMO:

    PROUDLY GMO!
    Feeding the World
    Saving Lives

    Sounds like prime advertising hype marketing executives would be proud of!

    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/failure-to-yield.html#.VyHgMiFHpVk

    For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields.

    That promise has proven to be empty, according to Failure to Yield, a report by UCS expert Doug Gurian-Sherman released in March 2009. Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.



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  • phil rimmer #26
    Apr 27, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Science is not the issue.
    This is about US agribusiness and the appropriate use of technology.

    Yep!

    http://12.000.scripts.mit.edu/mission2017/genetically-modified-crops/

    Mission 2017 recognizes that genetically modified crops can have repercussions for ecosystems and biodiversity and that Monsanto and other multinationals likely do not have the best interests of humankind at the core of their mission. Genetically modified crops threaten to cross-contaminate surrounding farmlands and natural habitats, leading to monoculture and low biodiversity among food crops. Because the genetically modified crops are often better adapted to the environments that they were engineered for, they outcompete naturally occurring plants. We do not want to contribute to net loss of biodiversity in wheat, maize, and rice, and for this reason supports careful analysis of land and climate to ensure that the genetically modified crop being used is well matched for each location. Cross contamination may be prevented with buffer zones between different fields, and investigation of different factors, such as wind and animal life, which could be transferring seed beyond the planted area. Even with these measures, cross contamination is very difficult to avoid because there are so many ways in which the seed can spread. Educating farmers on what genetically modified crops look like, and teaching them measures with which they can prevent their land from being contaminated by unwanted genetically modified crops can also be an important tool in lessening cross contamination.

    Another issue in the realm of genetically engineered crops pertains to seed patenting. When a particular genetic formula is found for a crop, biotechnology companies like Monsanto patent and commercialize it. For instance, Monsanto’s patented strain of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton has led to the company controlling over 95 percent of India’s cotton market [12]. This monopoly has led to a rise in prices which has left many of India’s cotton farmers in debt and unable to sustain themselves and their families through their traditional farming lifestyle.

    Such patenting and commercialization, along with cross contamination, can create problems when it comes to selling seed to farmers. If a farmer has not planted a particular GM crop, but through cross contamination has the crop growing on their fields, they can be subject to a lawsuit at the hands of the people who have a patent on said GM crop. This could be prevented through laws stating that a farmer can only be sued for this kind of behavior if there is physical evidence of direct, intentional theft of the patented crop. Also, education for farmers to help them identify unwanted GM crops on their land, and effectively eliminate them, would be helpful in preventing cross contamination. Also, the company that owns the patent makes it illegal for the farmer to save the seed from the previous year, making it easy for farmers to go into debt because they constantly need to find the money to afford new seed, and thus need to keep increasing their yield. In India, for instance, farmers find themselves needing to take out loans each year in order to be able to afford the seed. This leads to farmers finding themselves constantly in debt, and in many parts of the world, an increased rate of farmer bankruptcies. Protection laws could allow farmers to legally keep the seed of the previous year without being at risk of a lawsuit by the company owning the patent. The issue of seed patenting and commercialization also poses significant problems in developing areas, where GM seeds, through competition and contamination, are slowly destroying the diversity of seed that once existed. If an entire agricultural sector is based on one type of crop with one specific genetic makeup, when the crop fails or does not have profitable yields on any given years, it puts the livelihoods of poorer farmers in danger.

    The issues with genetically engineered crops outlined above are heavily linked to the political and economic structure in which genetically modified crops are created, produced, and distributed. As of now, it is true that genetically modified crops are not beneficial to small farms, and pressure from biotech companies and agribusinesses is forcing small farms to disappear. Not only are small farms more productive in producing food than large farms, but also they are better at introducing sustainable practices than large industrial farms. For this reason, Mission 2017 will support a downscaling of the biotech and agricultural sector, in order to encourage the production and distribution of a variety GM crops that align with the specific needs of farmers in different areas. In order to have a healthy agriculture sector that incorporates GM crops, there needs to be careful governmental regulation of biotechnology companies. Such regulations should prevent such companies from creating monopolies and abusing farmers not at fault for the cross contamination of patented crops. Another important factor in need of change is legislation that encourages industrial farming.



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  • Bonnie #30

    Particular good quote from Bernie Sanders dis-invited from a show by CBS after Monsanto threatened to sue if he appeared.

    (I invite others to shun as any immediate marker of merit terms like organic or natural seen here, though.)



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  • phil rimmer #31
    Apr 28, 2016 at 8:19 am

    (I invite others to shun as any immediate marker of merit terms like organic or natural seen here, though.)

    GMO salesmen love to quote silly hippy “tree-hugger” claims, as part of a strawman pretence that critics are “anti-science”! (A point I made in a linked earlier discussion.)



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  • Calm down, ‘Prietenul’ ! (#21)

    Who’s talking about hysteria ? YOU !

    Quote : ”This is the type of unscientific hysteria that just makes me sick here at RichardDawkins.net.”

    Then, like each and every ‘hysterical’ (lol) GMO supporter does again and again, you built…. a magnificent strawman.

    And indeed….. where did you see that I uttered such thing as ”GMOs are bad for people’s health” ??? I am as ‘scientifically-minded’ as you can be, believe me.

    So please stop trying to disparage and bellitle any person who brings up outside-of-science argumentation against the intensive industrial use of GMOs, shouting at them and claiming that they are ”anti-scientific” as soon as they DARE bringing up FACTS that are embarrassing to the agro-industry. It’s unbearable (and besides, in this case, completely off-topic). Thank you.

    As I carefully stated in my comment, there are aspects to that topic that are not –I repeat : that are notpart of the decision-making domain of science : political, economical, environmental, cultural and social premisses or consequences, for example. Can you get that ?

    I’ll not bring back, here, all the (brilliant and well-structured) arguments laid out up-above in response to your post >>>by Phil Rimmer [ ”Science is not the issue”] and >>>Alan4 [”Mission2017”].

    I’ll just, again, refer you to it.

    If you have thoroughly rational arguments to oppose to what they both state, don’t hesitate to post them here….. ^ ^ Thanks for your comprehension.



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  • For the record, like many thinking people the world over, I am at war with Monsanto and the pro GMO lobby. As many have said here, there have been no long term studies of the effects that GMO products may, or may not have on the health of any living creature or environment. But one thing, I feel instinctively, is that science sometimes over steps the mark, especially in what it claims… Take AGW for instance… On the one side we have those of us who, along with 90% of climate academics. believe that AGW is underway… And on the other side, we have the deniers… Of which, a percentage maintain that science will prevail and bring us miraculously through not only AGW, but also the attendant 6th MEE. We call these ‘hopium addicts’.
    .
    Let us not forget the issue of Fukushima. It was science and engineering that thought it was a good idea to site nuclear power stations on one of the planet’s most active tectonic margins… In fact, most nuclear complexes are sited near large bodies of water, mostly coastal regions, where it so happens, many geological faults are situated. If one cares to think about it, that is just one example of the ‘power of science’….
    .
    I subscribe to this site and follow Richard Dawkins.net because I am a secular atheist. I am a rational thinker and an anarchist (…meaning I seek the truth). And yes, I have studied at HE level in subjects pertaining to the study of our planet, so I do regard myself as one with a ‘scientific mind’. But that does not mean that I trust all that science accomplishes or claims… And I certainly do not trust the governments to act in our best interest.
    .
    When AGW finally ramps up, driven by countless positive feedback vectors (of which mono-agriculture is a player…). It will be global agriculture that will suffer first. No amount of GM crops will stave that off. The worlds aquifers are diminishing, weather patterns are becoming more chaotic… Bill Gates and his mass CO2 scrubbers are a complete joke, making a mockery of good science. We are certainly on the countdown to extinction, along with the bees and probably 90% of all other life forms. Tis time we addressed that as a matter of expediency and priority, or at least come to terms with the likelihood…
    .
    Perhaps some life may survive… If the Yellowstone Caldera blows its top in the next few years…



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  • I have seen the devastation first hand no science needed! My father-in-law started growing GE soy 15 years ago. Over that time he used monsanto’s Roundup with almost a yearly increase in the amount sprayed to combat the weeds that have grown a resistance to the herbicide. A pond that lie just below one of the fields used to contain amphibians and small fish. There has being a complete eradication of anything living in that pond at this point in time. The pond water has been tested and contains toxic levels of glyphosate!! Unfortunately he was convinced why all the big agribusiness scum that everything was fine and safe! Now unfortunately he cannot go back in time and start growing organic because his property is now a complete mess and can only grow GE crops. A side note to that is his bad decision making he has unknowingly pollinated his dear friends organic farm who is now suing him!!!



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  • I’d like to know how RDFRS people running that site respond to real-life testimonies — such as the one given by #35 (‘Steve73’)…. and the many others above it.

    Dear Richard Dawkins…. do you read your own site —and the comments which flourish around here and enrich the debates so much ?

    How is it that you have ceaselessly based your public statements on GMOs.. exclusively on ‘hard science’, willfully disparaging and scoffing at anyone who criticizes this practice, and yet, never addressed any of the other dimensions that are intrinsically part of this issue ?

    If Richard is too busy to write a few lines about his personal position, is there anyone over there in RDFRS, who actually reads the contributions to this article, and who can drop by in this comment zone to explain why they shun all these other aspects of the GMO topic?

    Thanks.



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  • x-bone #33
    Apr 28, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Quote : (#21) ”This is the type of unscientific hysteria that just makes me sick here at RichardDawkins.net.”

    Then, like each and every ‘hysterical’ (lol) GMO supporter does again and again, you built…. a magnificent strawman.

    x-bone #36 – Apr 30, 2016 at 1:15 pm
    See links at #24 and #25!

    BTW: I think there are posters here who take apart and debunk any disingenuous claims, with or without additional comments from the RDFS leadership!



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  • Alan

    I think there are posters here who take apart and debunk any disingenuous claims,

    Yep!

    If it ain’t true, its not helpful.

    If it ain’t true and it is supported with a misplaced fervour wishing it to be, it becomes quite unusually toxic.



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  • It is so easy for people to develop a belief about something for which there is no evidence. They do it with such passion and reverence. Look at all those who believe the immunizations cause autism. And yet in Africa they give immunizations to young children and autism is rare! Where is the evidence that GMO’s cause problems, if so what problems? What about ghosts, hobgoblins, and demons??



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  • I also posted this comment in relation to the introduction of GM crops in Hawaii.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/01/a-lonely-quest-for-facts-on-genetically-modified-crops/#li-comment-113367

    This comment and further link covers some serious aspects of introducing new foreign or created species into new environments devoid of natural restraints which would keep them in ecological balance.

    Invasive species is a major problem throughout the USA.

    Overall, it is estimated that 50,000 non-native species have been introduced to the United States, including livestock, crops, pets, and other non-invasive species. Economic damages associated with invasive species’ effects and control costs are estimated at $120 billion per year.



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  • To ‘CBROWN’ #39 :
    “Where is the evidence that GMO’s cause problems, if so what problems?”….

    Do you read the previous comments before writing your remarks ?? This thread is filled with detailed explanations about several embarrassing problems related to GMOs. There’s no worse blindman than the one who doesn’t want to see…..

    In case you forgot, commenters on this site are about 99.99% atheists. Therefore, ”reminding” them (!) that… it’s so easy for people to develop a belief about something for which there is no evidence is just unconscious —and/or naïve— given that the mere definition of atheism is precisely…. NOT believing about something for which there is no evidence.

    So.. when people in this forum develop an argumentation based on facts, the best way to address it is to reply to the arguments one by one –not to state platitudes whom everybody is familiar with for aeons already. And no laughable sentences like : “What about ghosts, hobgoblins, and demons??” when we talk about down-to-earth facts like, for example, millions of acres oversaturated with very harmful chemicals, or pests developing resistance to these chemicals, or, as a result, very worrisome ecological unbalance….



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  • Alan4discussion #2
    Apr 6, 2016 at 6:13 am

    @OP A person’s right to know, you might contend, should be in balance with his or her right to avoid unnecessary panic.

    The claims that an uneducated public may misinterpret labels is a very lame argument against proper labelling of ingredients and sources.

    The mere presence of a label has dire implications. It tells consumers that there is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between GMO and non-GMO ingredients

    In the case of “Round-up-Ready” resistant cereals, there are very real differences in potential contamination, and in potential environmental damage.

    The notion that genetically modified herbicide resistant cereals, regularly sprayed with toxic herbicide, should not be labelled because this may cause people “to panic into avoiding them”, is a VERY lame piece of propaganda!

    It should be obvious to the scientifically educated, that experimental modifications or organisms, should be properly regulated, to avoid contamination of human food, contamination of the environment, and the introduction of invasive species which will cause costly damage to ecosystems and farming!

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45152546

    Chemical giant Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289m (£226m) damages to a man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.

    In a landmark case, a Californian jury found that Monsanto knew its Roundup and RangerPro weedkillers were dangerous and failed to warn consumers.

    The claimant in the case, groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, is among more than 5,000 similar plaintiffs across the US.

    Correspondents say the California ruling is likely to lead to hundreds of other claims against Monsanto, which was recently bought by the German conglomerate Bayer AG.

    Mr Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. His lawyers said he regularly used a form of RangerPro while working at a school in Benicia, California.

    In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, concluded that it was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. but the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to insist that glyphosate is safe when used carefully.



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  • Continuing from #44:-

    Bayer claims the product is safe and that they will appeal the court judgement!

    While Bayer executives (who would have much egg on their faces after the recent take-over of Monsanto), deny there is a problem, shareholders seem to think there is substance to the liability claims!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45167906

    Shares in German pharmaceutical group Bayer have dropped sharply following a US verdict linking a product to cancer.

    By mid-morning on Monday, Bayer’s shares had lost 10.4% of their value.

    Bayer owns agriculture giant Monsanto – which was ordered by a California judge on Friday to pay $289m (£226m) damages to a man who said ingredients used in a weedkiller had caused his cancer.

    Bayer says the product – glyphosate – is safe.
    It completed its $66bn takeover of Monsanto in June.

    The landmark lawsuit was the first to go to trial alleging a glyphosate link to cancer.

    The Californian jury said Monsanto should have warned users about the dangers of its Roundup and RangerPro weedkillers.

    Jurors found on Friday that Monsanto had acted with “malice” and that its weed killers contributed “substantially” to Mr Johnson’s terminal illness.

    Meanwhile Bayer is being sued on another safety issue where they make similar denials of a problem!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35120035

    A German woman is suing pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, claiming its contraceptive pill Yasminelle caused her to suffer a pulmonary embolism.

    Felicitas Rohrer, is seeking €200,000 (£145,000; $220,000) in damages following the life-threatening illness.

    The case is the first of its kind in Germany, Bayer’s home country. The firm has already faced a series of law suits in the US and elsewhere.

    Bayer insists that its contraceptive pills are safe when taken correctly.

    Ms Rohrer, 31, says she would never have taken Yasminelle if the increased risks of blood clots had been made clearer by Bayer.



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