There are few things in this world that annoy me more than religiously-based scientific ignorance. While creationists such as Ken Ham and William Lane Craig deserve our ridicule for their attempts to use science to prove science wrong, they might be — in a very minor capacity — forgiven because they speak from deep seated religious conviction. They speak from a dichotomy of eternal reward or eternal suffering. They use millennia-old institutionalized dogma and doctrine to which they must so desperately cling. While their willful ignorance about science has societal harm, we can understand from where they’re coming. “I have a book” — in this sense — is a thousand times more understandable than the absurd claims of the anti-GMO crowd. Their comparable cry is, “I’ve seen a documentary.”
Willful ignorance about the science behind genetically modified organisms (in this case food) cannot be forgiven by the insistence that they’ve seen Food, Inc. or Seeds of Death. These films are biased misrepresentations of the food industry that rely not on the scientific community.
Anti-GMOers often claim science on their side. At first glance they might appear correct. They cite the contentious study, “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize” (Food Chem. Toxicol. 50, 4221–4231, 2012) that found a correlation between certain kinds of cancer and a specific kind of genetically modified corn. Under even a single second’s worth of scrutiny, however, one finds a massively important word at the front of the study: RETRACTED. In other words, the study was yanked from academia because it was wrong. In the link I’ve provided, you can also find replies to the study where the scientific community guts this research.
The scientific community has produced a wealth of information regarding GMOs. The community is essentially universally in agreement: We have no evidence to suggest genetically modified organisms are harmful if consumed. Scientists from academia (great bib in link), private firms, governmental agencies, and non-governmental agencies all stand in agreement. GM foods are at least just as safe to eat as their non-GM counterparts.
Being a living thing, I have particular interest in eating. I too once looked at GMOs with skepticism, but — like any rational person — I looked to the scientific community and read through their findings and methodologies. I watched the aforementioned documentaries as well. In the end, however, I came out on the side of testable results. GMOs are beneficial.
If you read this and completely disagree with me, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The great thing about science is you can test it. You can personally recreate the scientific studies. You can even build one yourself and have it submitted to peer review. We are open to the possibility that we’ve been doing it wrong all this time, and I’d even change my mind if you could provide compelling evidence for why I should. What is a bad thing, however, is when people grow hysterical over GM foods without bothering to read what the scientific literature has to say about GM foods. They should know better!
In my daily life I have had more arguments about GM foods than I have about religion. While religious people cling to a book that — they believe — has mortal, eternal, and supernatural significance to back up their unscientific claims, anti-GMOers cling to documentaries and conspiracy theory websites to back up their unscientific claims. One of these is more egregiously intellectually dishonest than the other. I would much rather argue with a religious person and come to an impasse than an anti-GMOer and come to an impasse. We have thousands of scientific studies that debunk your documentaries!!
Most of us colour what we believe by our convictions as you rightly point out. So when science reveals something pleasant we are more prepared to accept it. I might say one of the most destructive inventions was the internal combustion engine since it polluted the whole planet. Then I climb into my car and go shopping. I might say we must keep carbon dioxide emissions as low as possible then I put a match to my evening open fire and throw on another log.
If you want to convince the majority that you are right make sure what you say fits in with what they want to hear.
Its the art of politics.
Don’t even get me started. Anti-GMO’ers drive me bonkers! Almost more than creationists…almost. Like you said, the beauty of science is it’s testable so if for some reason down the line they find GMOs are actually harmful (which they aren’t right now)–guess what scientists will do? Go back and test other ideas and adapt to their findings. *Sigh* Oh health hypes, they are almost always false (including those gluten-free nuts, too). Thank you for this!
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I agree there is no evidence to suggest that GMO are harmful, and while in due course this will probably be proved, it hasn’t been around long enough to prove conclusively that there will not be any long term harm. If it does prove that even a few GMO are harmful, it will be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. This is one reason why GMO are not permitted to grow “in the wild” in NZ for the time being. It’s also why I believe that for the meantime products containing GMO ingredients should have them listed on the label.